Mendy did it again!
Let me begin, though, a bit before the Cubs' walkoff heroics. Closer Hector Rondon blew a 4-3 lead with two out in the ninth inning. Jason Heyward had led off the inning with a double between Chris Coghlan and Junior Lake. Neither outfielder seemed to have a good shot at it. After Starlin Castro made a nice grab of a Chris Johnson line drive for the first out and Tommy LaStella grounded out, rookie catcher Christian Bethancourt singled in Heyward to tie the game.
But after the first two Cubs were easy outs in the bottom of the ninth, Arismendy Alcantara singled just past a diving LaStella into right field, and then Justin Ruggiano nearly won it with a drive down the left-field line that landed just foul. Ruggiano then bounced the next pitch on the ground. It was defliected by Andrelton Simmons into left, scoring Alcantara with the game-winner in for a 5-4 win over the Braves.
I said it earlier in the week and I really do feel this: The trade made a week ago seemed to really draw a line between "before" and "after" for this team, and despite the six-game losing streak, the Cubs seem energized since guys began to come up from Triple-A Iowa, particularly Alcantara, who's starting to make a real case for himself to stick around after the All-Star break. Manager Rick Renteria said Mendy will likely start in center field Saturday. That's a good thing, and personally, I'd send two relievers down when the two starters return for the Padres series so that the Cubs go back to a seven-man pen and five bench position players.
An annoying little rain -- well, at times more than "little" -- fell at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon, finally chasing away a lot of the biggest announced crowd of the year (39,544, probably about 36,000 of whom actually showed up) by the late innings. Those who left missed the team's second win in a row, after a six-game losing streak, following a four-game winning streak. Call them the "Streaky Cubs" now if you will, but they have a chance to finish the season's first half on an up note.
Jake Arrieta wasn't quite as sharp as he had been in his last couple of starts, including his near-no-hitter at Boston, but he was good enough to give up just four hits over 7⅔ innings. One of those hits was a double by Freddie Freeman that gave the Braves a 3-2 lead in the sixth. The hit drove in Braves pitcher Alex Wood, who had reached base when a throw on his infield ground ball appeared to hit him in the butt. Such is the way Wood registered his first major-league hit after starting his career 0-for-38.
But the Cubs came right back in the bottom of that inning, loading the bases and scoring first on an RBI single by Coghlan and then the lead run on a pinch-walk to Luis Valbuena while the bases were still loaded. Even without his best stuff, Arrieta was able to keep his team in the game until they could get the lead back. His ERA "jumped" a bit, but remains below 2.00 at 1.95. He's now thrown 78⅓ innings on the season, 13⅔ short of qualifying for the league ERA lead at this time.
The Cubs had taken a 2-0 lead earlier when Arrieta executed a perfectly placed squeeze bunt, followed by Ruggiano singling in a run. The Braves tied the game 2-2 in the fourth on a walk, a Simmons double and two infield outs.
A few words about Coghlan, whose signing I dismissed when it was made. He's been hot lately and has his BA up to .261. He's having his best year since he won the Rookie of the Year award in 2009 (and seriously, that award could have and probably should have gone to any of the guys who finished second, third or fourth: J.A. Happ, Tommy Hanson and Andrew McCutchen). At age 29, maybe Coghlan has some sort of future as a bench player for this team. I should point out that Coghlan played just one game in the outfield before he was called up to the Marlins. He was an infielder (mostly a second baseman) in the minors and IIRC, he was put in the outfield not because he was a bad infielder, but because the Marlins already had Dan Uggla 's bat at second and wanted an outfield bat.
Do you think it would be possible for Coghlan to work out in the infield again in the offseason and become a super-sub kind of guy? Someone who could play outfield, second base and third base (he played a bit there in the minors, too)? That would be a very valuable guy to have around. As Alcantara appears to be, from the performance he's given in his first three big-league games.
The Cubs and Braves will meet again Saturday afternoon, with Edwin Jackson taking on Mike Minor. Weather permitting, of course.