After Edwin Jackson labored through a 33-pitch first inning during which he allowed two hits (including a two-RBI double by Lucas Duda), a walk and an error by Starlin Castro that made all the runs unearned, you could have been forgiven if you thought (as we did): "Here we go again."
But Castro redeemed himself. He had three hits, got one of the runs back in the bottom of the first with an RBI single, then drove in a pair, tying the game in the fifth inning. Two batters later, Anthony Rizzo scored on a wild pitch and the Cubs held on to beat the Mets 5-4.
Know how rare that one was? This marks the first time a Cubs team has won back-to-back games at home by one run since April 23, 2012 and April 24, 2012, both one-run walkoffs against the Cardinals.
These might not have been quite as satisfying as those, but after that disastrous first inning, the game was well-played by the guys in home pinstripes, though... a... bit... long.
Let me say a few words about that. You all know how I feel about poorly-paced games. Edwin Jackson is often the culprit, and he was again Wednesday night. Jackson threw 110 pitches. That's one hundred ten pitches in five innings, just 63 of them for strikes. He walked five, gave up five hits and four runs, three of them unearned due to Castro's error. That means this mediocre pitching performance helped his ERA go down from 4.81 to 4.59.
It wasn't just Jackson, either. Mets starter Daisuke Matsuzaka walked five before Terry Collins had had enough of him and pulled him after 4⅓ innings and 88 pitches. In all, Mets and Cubs pitchers combined for 15 walks and 18 strikeouts. That means that of the 79 batters who stepped to the plate in this three-hour, 40-minute game, 33 of them never put the ball in play. There was a lot of walking, both by hitters to first base and by other hitters back to the dugout. Rick Renteria apparently decided he had seen enough of this, because he got himself tossed in the third inning, the fourth time he's been ejected this year, leading all big-league managers in a year when it's become much more difficult to be thrown out of a game due to the replay-review system.
The game didn't pick up pace until Cubs relievers decided to stop walking hitters. Carlis Villanueva continued the walk-fest in the sixth (though one was intentional, to David Wright), but then Wesley Wright, James Russell, Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon (seventh save) combined for 3⅓ innings of scoreless relief, allowing just a two-out, ninth-inning single by Curtis Granderson off Rondon. The bullpen has been quite good over the last few games, and is now on an 11⅓-inning scoreless streak. Bullpen woes have led to a lot of Cub defeats over the last couple of years. You can see how solid bullpen work can lead to victories, even in games that appear lost early on.
Far fewer people showed up at Wrigley Wednesday than Tuesday; the announced tickets-sold number was more than 7,000 less. Why? Who knows? By the sixth inning -- at which time nearly three hours had passed -- fans were streaming out of Wrigley Field on a coolish (though not cold) night which began with menacing-looking fog hanging over Lake Michigan, presenting an interesting TV picture. The fog never did blow over Wrigley and dissipated by sundown. Only about 3,000 or so were present when Rondon got Bobby Abreu to ground out to... well, Emilio Bonifacio, who was playing second base in short right field in an exaggerated shift.
So the Cubs have a chance to sweep this series Thursday night. They haven't swept a home series of three games or more since July 13-14-15, 2012, when they swept the Diamondbacks. Travis Wood will face Mets rookie Jacob deGrom in a game that will begin an hour earlier than usual, 6:05 p.m. CT. Don't forget that the MLB Draft begins at that time as well, and we'll have threads posted here for both.