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Cubs 17, Cardinals 5: Historic

The Cubs did some things Monday that no Cubs team had done in quite some time. And they were all good!

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

What is the next number in this sequence?

3, 4, 1, 1, 1, 12, 2, 0, 2, 17

If you know what comes after this, let everyone here know before 7:15 p.m. CT Tuesday, because if you can predict the Cubs' run total for tonight, you've figured out this year's team. (Those are the run totals for the Cubs' last 10 games, in case you didn't recognize them.)

I certainly can't, not after an amazing 17-5 Cubs win over the Cardinals which posted quite a number of "last time since"s. Let's begin!

  • The last time a Cubs team scored this many runs was August 14, 2009, when they defeated the Pirates 17-2 at Wrigley Field. (That one had the potential of being an even bigger blowout -- the Cubs led that game 14-0 after two innings.)
  • In fact, in the expansion era (since 1961), the Cubs have scored 17 or more runs in a game just 18 times -- that's averaging about once every three years. It's happened just nine times since 1980.
  • The five runs scored by Emilio Bonifacio ties the club record for such things; that's been done only eleven times since 1914. The last Cub to do that was Jody Davis, in a 22-7 win over the Astros June 3, 1987.
  • Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso got Mike Olt to fly to left for the final out after the Cubs had put up six runs in the ninth inning off Randy Choate. The last position player to pitch against the Cubs before Monday night was Pirates infielder Abraham Nunez, who threw the last out of a 12-1 Cubs win over the Pirates May 30, 2004 in Pittsburgh.

I can't figure out this team. For the last week, the pattern has been: struggle to score runs for three games, then put up double figures. Everyone hit Monday night -- every player in the starting lineup, including pitcher Travis Wood, had at least one hit, everyone scored at least one run except Nate Schierholtz (who drove one in) and everyone drove one in except Wood (who scored twice) and Bonifacio, who was productive enough with four hits and five runs scored. Darwin Barney had three hits, something he hadn't done since last August.

So it didn't matter, really, that Wood gave up bunches of runs himself; he was staked to a 4-0 lead before he threw a pitch, capped by a two-run homer by Mike Olt, and a 7-0 lead before the bottom of the second inning, thanks to a three-run homer from Junior Lake.

Lake and Olt. This is a very, very good thing. Lake still has work to do on his game, but he certainly can hit baseballs a long way. He drove in six runs, a career high.

Olt's batting average is still below .200 (.187), and he strikes out a lot (32 times in 91 at-bats), but his .462 slugging percentage puts him in the range of "useful everyday player." It's been noted here that Olt's hitting characteristics are similar to Mark Reynolds, who also strikes out a ton, but had four straight seasons of 28 or more home runs (and ore of 44). Going back farther in time, Brewers slugger Gorman Thomas was noted as a comp, though Thomas wasn't a third baseman. I'd suggest one other comp: Graig Nettles, who was a third baseman, and a good one. Nettles also posted fairly low batting averages while slugging home runs -- 390 of them. 11 times Nettles posted 20 or more home runs in a season. Nettles didn't strike out that much, but that was in an era where sluggers didn't necessarily do that. His lifetime BA was .248.

The top comp on Nettles' bb-ref page is Darrell Evans, another low-average slugger who played third base (also with a .248 lifetime BA) who hit 414 career homers and hit 40 or more twice.

Nettles or Evans would represent Olt's ceiling, I think. We'd all be quite happy, I believe, if he could hit .248. Right now, that would take quite a bit of doing, but it would appear that Olt's recent power surge -- and I would have to attribute that at least partly to playing every day -- will keep him in the lineup. This month Olt is hitting .233/.343/.633 (7-for-30, four home runs, four walks, nine strikeouts). That sort of production would be just fine.

He does need to work on his defense; he's made errors that he shouldn't, and has failed to cover bases when he should, something Len and JD called him out for in the middle innings Monday night while the game was still fairly close at 9-5. Hopefully, the coaching staff can help him with this. If the Cubs have found a third baseman who can hit at least as well as Mark Reynolds, if not as well as Graig Nettles or Darrell Evans, they can possibly move Kris Bryant to the outfield to put some punch where there is none now.

Savor this win. It came out of nowhere. And it's not likely to be repeated any time soon.

The Cubs and Cardinals will go at it again Tuesday night, with Jake Arrieta facing Adam Wainwright.