Organizational Recap – Two in a Row.
The full headline I wanted to use was “Two in a Row. Win again Friday and It’s Called a Winning Streak, it Has Happened Before.”, but it was a little long.
The headline comes from one of my favorite parts of Major League. Who says that managing is hard?
As I was watching the game and taking notes I was noticing a depressing recap developing. I’m certainly not on a ledge about the season and still believe the Cubs will win the division by at least ten games (with a tip of the cap to Starling Marte and his “neglect and lack of knowledge”). However, the urgency and passion seemed to be missing.
However, as Kyle Hendricks exited from another uninspiring start, the feeling that the game was over because of a three run deficit was never there like it was just three short years ago. The ability of the Cubs of the past couple years to fight back and chip away at leads means that there is always a chance.
We’ll get to the exciting part of the recap in a bit but let’s start at the beginning. On getaway day, against a crafty lefthander, the Cubs started an outfield of Jon Jay, Albert Almora, and Matt Szczur. I would love to replace Jason Heyward for Szczur one game just to see if a ball would ever touch the ground.
The first pitch from Hendricks was over the middle of the plate and lined out hard to right. The next pitch was low and on the corner, looking like 2016 Hendricks, but the rest of the at-bat to Eric Thames wasn’t impressive and Thames walked to bring up the imposing, but thus far unsuccessful, Travis Shaw. Boom, two-run homer. Another homer given up in the second inning to catcher Jett Bandy and the Cubs were chasing three early runs.
Hendricks finished the day after five innings giving up four hits, four runs, four walks, and striking out four. I still believe that the real Hendricks isn’t far off from his success of last year. Hopefully the early struggles are due to the ever-changing Chicago weather.
Picking up the game in the sixth, the Cubs mount a little two-out rally after starter Tommy Milone came out of the game. Only one run was scored but any two-out rallies build future confidence in my opinion.
The eighth inning was both good and bad. The good included a Kris Bryant lead-off walk followed by singles from Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell. With nobody out and the tying run at second, the bad quickly started in the form of strikeouts. Willson Contreras was called out on strikes. Rizzo and Russell successfully completed a double steal after Contreras struck out. While successful, I thought the attempt was bad baseball from Rizzo. Never the less, the tying run was now on third with only one out. Unfortunately Almora was also called out on strikes followed by Javier Baez going down swinging as the Brewers brought in closer Neftali Perez to get four outs.
Honestly, my confidence for the comeback was now pretty low. Failing to get the tying run in had to be a team downer that would be hard to come back from. If Kyle Schwarber didn’t hit a lead-off homer in the ninth, there was probably little hope. Schwarber didn’t hit that homer, he didn’t even get it out of the infield. Hopes were fading. Jay worked an impressive ten pitch walk to bring up pinch hitter Miguel Montero. I completely expected a game ending double play. I am very excited to see that I was wrong. Montero continued his strong recent play with a single. Bryant tied the game with his only hit of the game and after a ground out from Rizzo, we know that Russell walked off the win with a three run bomb.
Tremendous come back win and I could see that the passion and excitement is still there for the team as they celebrated Russell’s heroics. I think that it’s just going to be that type of a year where the Cubs see the best that a team has to offer each and every night. Bring on that challenge.
In honor of the hockey playoffs, let’s do three stars for the game.
3rd Star – Miguel Montero: As I mentioned, I completely expected Miggy to end the game with a ground out. Over the past three days, Montero is 6-8 with a couple of huge hits. Look for him to get a bit more playing time.
2nd Star – Addison Russell: A game-ending three run homer guarantees you at least one of the top three spots. Today he gets the second star and the hero’s welcome at home plate. If Joe Maddon insists on keeping Schwarber and Bryant as the top two in the order (which I don’t believe is the best), I like Addy batting clean-up.
1st Star – Cubs bullpen: The bullpen was much maligned early in the year (like just a couple days ago), and deservedly so, but the past two days have shown how fickle the fate of the pen can be. While Mike Montgomery didn’t exactly sail through his 1 2/3 innings, he got the job done. After that, Pedro Strop, Koji Uehara, and Wade Davis held the Brewers scoreless so that the Cubs could mount the comeback. Even Carl Edwards Jr. got into the act as he ran for Montero in the ninth. Great job guys, keep up the stellar work.
Writer’s note: Does anyone play “Beat the Streak” from mlb.com? Bryant extended my streak with his ninth inning single so that was pretty exciting. If you don’t play, start today. Beat Joe DiMaggio and win millions. If you play, what has been your longest streak?
AAA – Iowa beat the Baby Cakes 8-3 to even their record up at 7-7 on the year. Outfielder John Andreoli hit two solo homers and catcher Taylor Davis hit a grand slam to pace the offense while Miguel Majia swooped in for the win with two scoreless innings.
AA – Tennessee also evened up their record (6-6) as they shut out Birmingham 3-0. Jen-Ho Tseng gave up only one hit over six innings to earn the win. Tseng only recorded two strikeouts so he kept the defense on their toes. Reliever James Pugliese struck out the side in the ninth to get his first save of the year. The offense was paced by DH David Bote who went 3-3 with a double. Bote is hitting .364 on the young season.
High A – Myrtle Beach was the only team that came up short on Wednesday dropping the game 3-4 to Buies Creek. Like Hendricks, Oscar De La Cruz started the game and had an uninspiring outing. Offensively, second baseman Bryant Flete hit a two-run homer.
Low A – If you’re a South Bend fan, you better catch Dylan Cease while you still can. Cease started the game and through a no-hitter through six innings , striking out seven Great Lakes batters. Cease threw just over 90 pitches and came out as reliever Matt Swarm pitched the last three innings (giving up only one hit) to get the win as South Bend prevailed 3-0 as they scored three in the seventh inning from a bases clearing double from shortstop Vimael Machin.