Just as the Cubs are this year, the San Diego Padres are celebrating a significant anniversary in their team's history. This isn't something Cubs fans will want to remember, and you all know the reasons why, but the Padres are shoving it down the Cubs' throats by wearing throwback uniforms from 1984 for three of the four games this weekend.
The Cubs aren't participating in the Padres throwback-jersey event -- thanks, Cubs, for that! -- but I wish they'd wear road grays this weekend, because the blue alts they wore Thursday night somewhat resemble the 1984 road uniform.
Beyond that, the Cubs didn't do very well in San Diego in 1984. They played six games there -- three in the regular season and three in the playoffs -- and won just one of them.
No matter to the 2014 Cubs. They defeated the Padres 5-1 and decisively so, too.
Jake Arrieta gave up a home run to Seth Smith in the first inning. This might have even been predicted -- Smith is off to a hot start, hitting better than he has at any time in his career, surprising for someone who played several years for the Rockies. And Padres starter Eric Stults set down nine of the first 10 Cubs to face him; the only baserunner in that span was Anthony Rizzo, who Stults hit with a pitch with two out in the first inning.
With Petco Park being death on hitters, one began to worry about a 1-0 loss.
The worry ended when Junior Lake laid down a sweet-looking bunt that hugged the third-base line but stayed fair for a hit, and Rizzo followed with a colossal blast to right-center field, into the "sandbox" where San Diego fans can ignore the game. It was his eighth home run of the year, and, interestingly enough, just the second he had ever hit at Petco, a park he used to call home.
Lake also doubled in a run during the Cubs' three-run fifth. Over his last nine games Lake is hitting .378/.385/.649 -- 14-for-37 with four doubles, two home runs, and more importantly, only five strikeouts over that span.
With Arrieta on the mound, worries continued, but only for a short time. The fourth start of Arrieta's season was by far his best; as Len and JD mentioned during the game telecast, he was in a very good rhythm. He allowed just three hits after Smith's home run, all singles, and struck out seven. Now this is the guy the Cubs hoped they'd be getting when they traded for him nearly a year ago. Let's hope this Arrieta sticks around for a while.
Carlos Villanueva, whose 2014 had been for the most part horrific until last night, threw three scoreless innings, allowing three harmless singles, and in so doing gave the rest of the somewhat-overworked bullpen the night off. He posted his first save since 2010, and getting a three-inning save is rarer than you might think.
Before Thursday, the last Cubs pitcher to record a save while pitching three or more innings was Sean Gallagher, who threw the last four innings of a 12-1 win over the Giants July 18, 2007. Since that date it's been done just 81 times by anyone -- about 11 times a year, and this is just the fourth such save this year. When a team's pen is overworked (and that isn't easy to do when you have eight relievers), doing something like this is something a thoughtful manager does. Good on Rick Renteria for letting Villanueva bat in the ninth inning (he's just the second Cubs relief pitcher to bat this year; the other was Chris Rusin in this game) and to give Villanueva time to perhaps get some confidence back and to improve his to-date horrific pitching numbers.
Impressive, guys. Keep up the good work.