After totally unloading veteran talent in front of the trade deadline, the Cubs looked like possibly the worst team in baseball through the middle of August. They had lost 12 in a row and were 54-72. Starting Aug. 17, however, they've been pretty good (11-6) and Monday's win over the Reds (4-3, box score here) was their seventh straight.
It's not all a group of "no-name" players, because All-Star catcher Willson Contreras is now back off the injured list and names like Ian Happ and Jason Heyward are known -- even if they've been bad offensively most of the year (though Happ is currently on fire). But the offense right now is being powered mostly by lesser-known names.
In their last 12 games before Monday, the Cubs were collectively hitting .274/.337/.507 as a team while averaging 6.5 runs per game.
On Monday, Frank Schwindel came through with the game-winning hit against Cincinnati in the eighth inning.
Schwindel hit a go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning on Sunday. He hit a walk-off single on Saturday. He hit a go-ahead home run on Friday. This makes him the first player to have a go-ahead hit in the sixth inning or later in four consecutive games in the last 40 years, per ESPN Stats and Info.
Schwindel is a 29-year-old first baseman who has spent parts of eight seasons in the minors. When the Cubs picked him up off waivers July 18 from the A's, he had just 35 career MLB plate appearances. Now with 133 under his belt with the Cubs -- with the unenviable task of replacing franchise icon Anthony Rizzo, mind you -- Schwindel is hitting .312/.353/.592 with 10 homers and 30 RBI in 33 games.
He isn't alone in possibly being an unearthed gem from the scrap heap for these Cubs.
Rafael Ortega has been a "quadruple-A" journeyman for years, with 13 years of experience in the minors and 447 career MLB plate appearances between four different seasons -- not including 2020 -- before signing with the Cubs. In 81 games this season, he's hitting .290/.349/.471 with 11 doubles, nine homers, 30 RBI, 32 runs, eight steals and 1.4 WAR. He's 30 years old. He had a three-homer game earlier this season and recently hit a walk-off homer.
Patrick Wisdom, 30, had 88 career MLB plate appearances before this season compared to almost 3,500 in the minors. He had back-to-back two-homer games recently. He's hit 25 homers and is slugging .539 while playing excellent defense at third base.
What all this means in the big picture is a huge unknown. It's entirely possible that it's simply a fluke, but late bloomers happen and sometimes a player sticks. If any of the three are truly keepers, it makes the rebuilding project for Jed Hoyer so much easier. There's just under a month left to give them everyday at-bats and see how it goes. From there, every one of them will have played a decent sample -- Wisdom a large one -- from which to evaluate.
For now, though, the Cubs have won seven in a row behind the clutch offense of Frank Schwindel, just like everyone predicted coming into the year, right?