Well, that was unexpected.
The Cubs beat the Reds 8-4 Saturday afternoon, snapping a five-game losing streak in which they had scored just one more run combined in all the losses, as they did in winning Saturday's game.
Edwin Jackson... well, was pretty good. He still struggled with command at times, but also induced several key ground-ball outs (including a couple of comebackers) and struck out five before he had to be pulled one out short of a quality start, which actually did have pretty good quality. He'd allowed two runs on a Devin Mesoraco double (that just eluded Mike Olt at third base) and a groundout, and with the score 3-2 at the time and Jackson pushing 90 pitches, Rick(y) Renteria decided to call on Wesley Wright to face lefthanded pinch-hitter Brayan Pena. (Odd, too, that Reds manager Bryan Price would use his only backup catcher as a PH in the sixth inning. Most managers won't do that.) Wright got out of the inning and the Cubs never trailed.
The offense did a fine job Saturday afternoon, scoring in each of the first three innings for just the second time in 2014. Walks drawn were a big part of this; the Cubs drew five walks in all in this game, and also smacked three home runs. Olt hit his third of the year, just inside the left-field foul pole. Darwin Barney hit his first -- a two-run shot that also provided his first RBI of the season. And Welington Castillo put the game out of reach in the seventh, after the Reds had trimmed the lead to 6-4, with a two-run blast, also his third.
The wind wasn't blowing in as it was Friday, but it was still a bit surprising to see the powerless Cubs, tied for 26th in MLB with 10 home runs entering the day, to smack three of them.
Hector Rondon, who allowed the two seventh-inning runs that let the Reds cut the lead to 6-4, was allowed to throw a second inning of relief and put Cincinnati down 1-2-3. Pedro Strop -- is he the closer now? It's still unclear -- retired the Reds 1-2-3 in the ninth in a non-save situation. The only quibble I might have had with that is that Jose Veras, who's going to have to get into games eventually, and who hasn't pitched since April 11, might have taken that ninth inning, as that would have been a good opportunity for him to put in a good outing, with a four-run lead.
But that's a quibble. About the only other minor issue was the departure of Anthony Rizzo after the seventh with Olt moving to first base; that seemed odd until we learned:
#Cubs Rizzo ok. Had back spasms— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) April 19, 2014
#Cubs Renteria says will see re Rizzo on Sunday— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) April 19, 2014
Here's hoping this is nothing major for Rizzo, who is off to a very good start; he was 0-for-2 Saturday but had a pair of walks.
Emilio Bonifacio had three more hits and scored a pair of runs; it's the fourth time this year that Bonifacio has had at least three hits in a game.
A decent-sized crowd showed up on a sunny afternoon; the bleachers were nearly full, but the main stands had quite a number of empty seats and they got even emptier after the seventh-inning stretch. Reports were that it felt "30 degrees colder over there!" I can imagine, in the shade.
Now let's talk about Olt playing every day. He did commit an error, which is a bit worrisome, but the man can hit. I'd like to see him play every day, or nearly so, for a few weeks, just to see what he can do when actually in the everyday lineup. We know what Luis Valbuena can do playing (mostly) every day. Now let's see what a player who might be part of this team's future can do.
This game reminded me of why I love baseball so much. Because no matter what you think you're going to see when you go to the ballpark, each and every day you can see something... unexpected.
The Cubs have yet another chance to win a series in Sunday's finale, when Carlos Villanueva will face Homer Bailey.