PHILADELPHIA — Wins always lighten the mood in the clubhouse.
Chicago Cubs manager David Ross joked that catcher Yan Gomes would get all of the day’s starts after hitting two homers in a 4-3 win Sunday afternoon over the Philadelphia Phillies. The circuits were Gomes’ first since June 13.
“If the performances keep going like this, I’ll take them all day,” Gomes said with a smile of Ross’ statement.
The Cubs (38-57) earned their first series sweep of the season. It was also their first three-game sweep against the Phillies in Philadelphia since July 25-27, 2000 at Veterans Stadium.
Before the Cubs play seven of their next nine road games, here are three thoughts on the team.
A pulled right shoulder landed Hendricks on the disabled list on July 6 with the expectation that it would be weeks before he resumed throwing.
The Cubs initially provided a murky timeline, relying on right-handed shoulder feel going forward. Hendricks will be reviewed Monday when the team returns to Chicago to see how his shoulder is progressing, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy told the Tribune.
Hendricks told the Tribune on Sunday that he was not yet completely asymptomatic and was still experiencing some sharpness on two positional moves. However, Hendricks said his shoulder felt much better than it felt when he went to IL. He has started a strength program and is “absolutely” optimistic he intends to pitch again this season.
“You know your arm, how it has to feel to throw a baseball and be able to do it,” Hendricks said. “So when I wake up in the morning, you kind of know where you are. But at least there is always progress. There were no setbacks so that’s a positive point for me. I just have to focus on simplicity, focus on the work I’m doing right now, and not try to get ahead of myself.
Following the Cubs’ brief two-game home streak against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hendricks will travel with the team for their seven-game trip to San Francisco and St. Louis. The hope is that he can do some form of throwing on this trip.
“Once I’m symptom free, I can really start increasing weights and things like that – and it shouldn’t take too long in that phase – and then consider picking up a baseball,” Hendricks said. “But at least we’re on the way right now and out of the bad part.”
Hottovy thinks Hendricks will return before the end of the season, whether it’s one start or five.
“There’s a peace of mind knowing you’re healthy at the end of the year than not pitching and saying, ‘OK, I think I’m going to be good’ and then you start going up. in power and it’s just not the same,” Hottovy said. “So I think it’s important to get to a point where at the end of the year he’s competing and he’s can prove itself.”
Even veterans like Hendricks want to boost their confidence heading into the offseason. With more than two months remaining in the regular season, there’s still time for Hendricks to get his shoulder back in shape.
Smyly isn’t wondering if he’s making his last starts as a Cub despite the trade deadline approaching.
The southpaw pitched well on Sunday in his third IL start. He had a perfect game until Bryson Stott’s brace in the fifth which center fielder Christopher Morel nearly made up for with a stellar diving effort. Smyly rounded Gomes’ error on a faulty pop-up and David Bote lost a pop-up to the sun for a hit. Smyly held the Phillies to one earned run in six scoreless innings and four strikeouts.
Smyly relied on a two-pitch mix of pellets and curveballs because of an ineffective cutter. That might not fly for some starters, let alone go six innings while keeping the opposing formation in check, but that’s what can make Smyly so effective.
“The big problem with him is that he moves pitches quite well,” Gomes said. “He’ll go in and out on guys and he’ll go for his curveball anytime. … He’s got one of the funkiest curve balls in the game, and he can throw it at any time.
Starting pitchers are coveted at the trade deadline, and Smyly’s veteran experience and reliability when healthy (3.93 ERA in 12 starts) make him attractive to suitors. The 33-year-old has been traded three times in nine years and enjoys a Cubs clubhouse that features a good mix of veterans and young players.
“I love it here, I love being a Cub,” Smyly said. “It’s a really fun organization to be part of. Home games are amazing. The clubhouse is awesome. I mean, we didn’t have the best start, obviously our record is not where we want to be. But showing up every day everyone has a smile on their face and being at a lot of different clubs you really soak up that as a player knowing you can’t wait to get on the pitch every day.
“There are winning teams where it’s not that vibe, so the Cubs have that going for them. … I’ve been on a lot of teams and it’s not always (like that). It helps when you win. It’s fun when you win, but it’s also important to know who’s in the clubhouse and what personalities are together. It matters a lot.
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Velázquez started only once in the Cubs’ three-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park, but the 23-year-old outfielder left the field with more career homers than when he arrived in Philadelphia.
Velázquez hit two homers from the bench in Friday’s blowout win, then hit a solo homer Sunday in the fourth inning against Phillies left-hander Bailey Falter that was the winning run. He’s the only Cubs player this season to hit three homers in a three-game or less series.
Velázquez is preparing a case to get more playing time after the Aug. 2 trade deadline, when the Cubs potentially have more bats available.
Velázquez didn’t seem fazed by the erratic playing time and credits his ability to stay mentally strong, have fun and not stress about things beyond his control.
Since his recall on June 20, Velázquez has started just 14 games. While his average (.246) and on-base percentage (.307) could use a boost, he has shown he can hit for power (.536 slugging percentage). Of his 15 hits since his recall, nine have gone for extra bases.
Velázquez can play center field and his speed adds another dynamic element to his game. Ross said this weekend that Velázquez and Seiya Suzuki were the Cubs’ fastest runners.
“I can see the ball really well,” Velázquez told the Tribune. “I try to stay more on my approach to where I can do damage and lock myself in. I really want the chance to move on and I really feel a lot better than there. a few weeks old. It’s something I’m really proud of.”