By Matt Abbatacola-

CHICAGO (WSCR) The Cubs entered Thursday afternoon’s game with the Braves playing the type of baseball that Mike Quade envisioned for his team when they left spring training in March. The Cubs are 20-18 since the All-Star Break and 14-8 in the month of August. They have won six of the 11 series they’ve played in the second half of the season and are 5-1 in the six series that they have played in August.

Why is his team playing better baseball?

“A little bit of progress … everywhere,” Quade said. “We’ve hit the ball out of the ballpark more than we were. We’ve gotten more quality starts than we were getting. The bullpen has been maybe the one constant, but (Marmol’s) little two-week issue where he needed to get straightened out – he’s recovered from that and has been very good. I think we’ve played much better defense. When you do these things – things get better. We’re healthy.”

The Cubs went 9-17 in July when they hit .270 as a team with runners in scoring position. In August, they are hitting just .179 with runners in scoring position. During their current series with Atlanta, the Cubs are 4-for-35 (.114) with runners in scoring position. Those numbers make no sense when you compare the monthly records, but that’s baseball.

Chicago has scored 102 runs in August (tied for 11th in MLB) and have belted 31 home runs, which is just three behind the Yankees for the MLB lead in the month.

Cubs’ starters in August have gone 11-6. Of the 22 games played, the rotation has recorded only 11 quality starts.

Overall, the Cubs are playing better baseball – there really isn’t one aspect that has dominated for this team in the month. All phases of the game are being performed at a higher level and with more consistency.

It doesn’t hurt that Aramis Ramirez is on one of the best hitting streaks of his career – .560 with 14 RBI in his last 13 games.

Starlin Castro has been excellent at the lead-off spot – the spot that I’ve been calling for him to bat in the entire year. In 21 games, he’s batting .341 with an OBP of .364 while slugging .490 with an OPS of .853. He has 47 total bases that includes four home runs and two doubles. He has 11 RBI and five stolen bases. He’s doing all of that with 24 strike outs and only three walks, but he still has to develop a better feel for the strike zone and learn to take more walks.

The bullpen has an ERA of .081 in the club’s last seven games. Opponents are batting .137 with five walks and 22 strikeouts against Cubs’ relievers.

Whatever the reason is, the Cubs are playing better baseball. Unfortunately, the season began April 1 and not August 1.

On a side note, why is Ramon Ortiz still on the roster? He’s pitched eight total innings in the month of August. Someone get Randy Bush the phone number to the Iowa Cubs.

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