The Chicago Cubs made a big trade, and then opened the second half with a sweep of the Orioles to pick up ground in the NL Wild Card standings.

There’s a new star in town. Or, rather, there’s a new star on this side of town.

After posting a losing record before the All-Star break, the Chicago Cubs acted quickly to begin the second half on the right foot. The Cubs took the baseball world by surprise by acquiring Jose Quintana from the crosstown White Sox Thursday in exchange for four prospects.

Quintana made his presence known quickly. The 28-year-old lefty allowed just three hits and struck out 12 in seven shutout innings Sunday against the Orioles, which helped the Cubs finish a three-game sweep in Baltimore with a dominant 8-0 victory. It was the latest in a sting of good starts for Quintana, who has a 2.30 ERA in eight starts since June 1, and has struck out 57 hitters in 47 innings over that span.

The Cubs also got a strong start from Jake Arrieta Saturday, who allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks. Arrieta, like Quintana, has been pitching better recently after a slow start to the season. He has a 1.86 ERA in three starts in July.

Improved starting pitching – the biggest key for the Cubs in the second half – is only part of the story, however. Willson Contreras led all of baseball with eight hits over the weekend, Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward added six hits, and Heyward knocked in six runs in three games. Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo each homered twice, making it a well-rounded team effort.

The bounce back performance helped the Cubs shave one game off their deficit in the National League Central, but when paired with the Diamondbacks and Rockies struggles over the weekend, Chicago has tightened the Wild Card standings even more. Entering Monday, the Cubs are now just 4.5 games out of a playoff spot and 5.5 games back in the Wild Card race.

American League Division Leaders

AL East

Boston Red Sox (52-41, .559)

The Red Sox opened the second half with a hard-fought four-game series against the rival Yankees at Fenway Park over the weekend, which included a Sunday doubleheader. The two teams split the series, which included four close pitching duels each decided by three runs or fewer.

David Price continued his strong July performance with eight shutout innings in Sunday’s 3-0 victory. Price allowed seven hits and struck out seven to secure his fifth win of the season, and the lefty has a 3.39 ERA in 10 starts this year.

AL Central

Cleveland Indians (47-43, .522)

The division leader that could least afford a slow start in the second half, the Cleveland Indians were swept in three games in Oakland over the weekend, pushing the team’s losing streak to four overall. Cleveland now holds just a 1.5-game lead over the Twins in the Central, with the Kansas City Royals just two games back.

Lack of offense was the biggest issue against the A’s. The Tribe scored just six runs combined over the three games. Francisco Lindor, who was 5-for-12 with three doubles in Oakland, was the only player in the lineup to get more than two hits in the series.

AL West

Houston Astros (62-30, .674)

Things could have been worse for the Indians, but thanks to the Astros, Cleveland lost only a single game in the Central standings. The potent Houston lineup featured five players with three or more hits during the Astros three-game series with the Twins, during which the ‘Stros won two of three. Jose Altuve had five hits including a home run, and scored three runs.

Mike Fiers led the starting staff, and struck out 11 in seven innings Saturday. The Houston bullpen continued its great work, and surrendered one run in 10 combined innings.



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