By Jordan Zuniga
When All-Star week began, the Chicago Cubs had played poorly enough to languish 5.5 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers.
Their starting pitching had taken a huge step back from last season; Cub starters had posted an ERA of 4.42
Even their hitting, one of last season’s biggest weapons, had regressed.
Other than Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, none of the Cubs hitters had been able to live up to the hype.
Kyle Schwarber, once thought to be the next great power hitter, was sent back down to the minors after starting the season with a dreadful .178 average.
What made their bad start even more disappointing was that they play in one of the weakest divisions in the majors.
After throwing the biggest party Chicago has ever seen last fall, it seemed as if the Cubs would need a whole season to recover.
But no one informed Cub President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who is no stranger to making big-time trades at the deadline.
Epstein picked up the phone and was able to find a solution to the Cubs’ pitching problem; fortunately for him, he didn’t have to look far.
The day before regular-season play resumed, Epstein and the Cubs welcomed in the one-time ace of their crosstown rivals, Jose Quintana.
Through five and a half seasons, Quintana has been one of baseball’s most consistent pitchers, with a career ERA of 3.50.
Quintana has not missed a beat since his move uptown; in his first two starts with the lovable winners, he has gone 13 innings giving up just 3 runs on 8 hits, earning victories in both.
The Cubs may not be done adding to their starting pitching; they have been rumored to be in talks with the Detroit Tigers about acquiring ace Justin Verlander.
Whether it was due to the acquisition of Quintana, or the break of All-Star week, Cub hitters have found new life.
Since the break, Addison Russel has hit .344, Jason Heyward has hit .364, and Javier Baez has been on a tear, swatting .407.
But no one has been hotter than Wilson Contreras, who has knocked the ball at a high clip all through the month of July, .339 with 6 homers and 14 RBIs.
After winning eight of 10 since the break, the Cubs have climber right next to the Brewers in the NL Central race.
They hope to continue the run, which may be easy, because their next three games are against their crosstown rival White Sox, who have won just once since the break.
The Cubs may not have jumped off to anything like a jackrabbit start, but there is no question that they have found their groove, and they hope to continue grooving into late October.
Right now, the Cubs are learning the true meaning of the phrase it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish.