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Cubs finish first quarter of season with best record in baseball

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks delivers in the first inning in a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Cleveland.
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks delivers in the first inning in a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Cleveland.

A quarter of the way through their season and the Cubs have the best record in the major leagues.

They have played just 15 games, of course, in this abbreviated, 60-game season. Even after having the weekend off because of a COVID-19 outbreak among the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs came right back and won twice in Cleveland.

On Wednesday night the Cubs defeated host Cleveland 7-2. They are 12-3, a winning percentage of .800, and have a 5-game lead in the NL Central.

One reason is first-year manager David Ross. He has kept the team loose, focused and ready to play while making good moves on the field.

“I’ve got a good team, is what it is,” Ross said. “We’ve got good players. It’s what we have. There is nothing to complain about. The talent’s there. The character’s there. The commitment, the focus, the energy, the work. All those things that seem easy to bring every day. It’s not. It’s not easy, especially in the environment we’re dealing with now.

“Yeah, it’s all about the players, man.”

The players like playing for Ross, too.

“He knows the way we feel, the way we want to do things,” shortstop Javier Baez said. “Since we started in spring training, everything was running great, everything was running good. But after it’s been a little different, but he’s been the same. He’s been really positive about everything and motivating all the guys.

“And obviously we’re winning.”

The starting pitchers have received plenty of credit, all of it deserved. Kyle Hendricks (3-1) came through again, going 6 innings Wednesday and allowing just 1 run. He struck out five and didn’t walk anybody.

Not bad for a group that has been without Jose Quintana. He continues to work his way back from a hand injury, currently trying to build up his strength now that the hand has healed.

“He’s still not on a timeline I don’t think quite yet, but things went well,” Ross said of Quintana’s latest throwing session.

The Cubs also have played well defensively. It’s a part of the game Ross says never gets enough credit, but it has won the Cubs games already this season, he said.

Baez is one of those players emphasizing defense. He plays with a Gold Glove in mind.

“Yeah, for sure. I always want to work on my defense and get better and get consistent,” Baez said. “... I’m working on my defense much of the time, so hopefully I can get at least one.”

And, of course, the Cubs are producing offensively throughout the lineup, with the bottom earning special praise. David Bote, Victor Caratini and Jason Kipnis, the 7-8-9 hitters Wednesday, combined to drive in 3 runs.

“Here in this organization it’s hard,” Baez said. “Even the guys on the bench are really good. Most of the time, like I said before, the pitchers got to pick who they’re going to pitch to. When the guys deep in the lineup respond like that, you make it even harder for them.”

Added Kris Bryant: “Our whole lineup has been great. I mean, one through nine, it seems like there’s not really a letdown in our lineup. I can’t really remember a time playing for this team when it was really like that, where one through nine there was damage all through the order.”

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