The left- and center-field bleachers reopened on May 11, and Kris Bryant hit his first Wrigley Field home run.
That made this quite the festive day at Wrigley. The Cubs had just lost two of three to the Brewers in Milwaukee, and eight of their last 11 overall, so this win was welcome. It put the Cubs over .500 at 16-15 -- they would not see .500 again, they had a winning mark every day for the rest of 2015. They were still in second place, six games behind the Cardinals.
This recap has been edited to remove references to articles on the bleacher expansion which posted later in the day on May 12 -- otherwise it's exactly as originally posted.
It was as if Kris Bryant had been just waiting for the bleachers to reopen.
Dexter Fowler was hit by Jacob deGrom's fifth pitch of the game and four pitches later, Bryant gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead by depositing a deGrom fastball into the midst of the first cheering crowd in the Wrigley Field bleachers this season.
Bryant's first Wrigley Field homer (duly retrieved for him by Wrigley security and I can only assume the fan who caught it got some swag in return) set the tone for the Cubs' 4-3 win over the Mets.
Anthony Rizzo followed Bryant's blast with one of his own. Rizzo took deGrom's next pitch into the still-under-construction right-field bleachers and the Cubs had back-to-back jacks and a 3-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Jon Lester was busy mowing down Mets hitters. He didn't allow a bit until the fourth inning, when the Mets touched him up for a run on a walk and two singles. Lester's "uh-oh" moment happened in the sixth, by which time the Cubs had scored a fourth run on a single by Addison Russell after Joe Maddon had lost a challenge on a sacrifice bunt by David Ross (replays showed he shouldn't have bothered; Ross was out by a lot).
Lester gave up back-to-back solo homers to Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores, both after he'd crossed the 100-pitch mark on an evening that started out windy and mild and ended windy and chilly. The wind was mostly blowing out to right field all evening, but none of the four homers hit needed any help at all. The Mets blasts cut the Cubs' lead to 4-3 because deGrom had settled down after his rough first inning.
This turned things over to the Cubs' bullpen and you could be forgiven if you were nervous about this. We all were in the bleachers (and the rest of the park, too, though the main part of the park had begun to empty out by then in the evening chill, even while most bleacherites stayed put all evening).
Justin Grimm, making his third appearance since returning from the disabled list, had an uneventful seventh inning. But the Cubs couldn't do anything off four Mets relievers, three of whom I'd never heard of before Monday night. For a time, we even had the spectacle of Hansel Robles facing Grimm. Gretel was nowhere to be seen. A pair of seventh-inning walks led nowhere. Chris Coghlan led off the eighth with a single (nice to see him with a two-hit night) and stole second, but was stranded.
Zac Rosscup came in to throw the eighth inning and allowed a leadoff single to Michael Cuddyer. Duda laced a line drive right to Rizzo, who snagged it and doubled Cuddyer off first base. A medium-deep fly to Fowler ended that threat.
So it was up to Hector Rondon, who began the ninth inning with 97 mile-per-hour heat, a good thing to see. Not such a good thing to see was him walking to lead off the inning. Dilson Herrera then laced a line drive that looked headed to center field, but Starlin Castro made a spectacular diving catch. I put an ! on my scorecard for particularly great plays. That one was my first ! of 2015.
The Mets, like the Cubs, are carrying three catchers at the moment, so they sent up one of them, Johnny Monell, a 30th-round draft pick who's bounced around the minor leagues with four organizations since 2007, to bat for the pitcher. Rondon got him to foul off a slider and then threw ball one. The next pitch was hit right to Russell, who fed Castro, who relayed to Rizzo for a game-ending double play.
It was a satisfying night all the way around. The Cubs did nice work in the new bleachers and the team did excellent work on the field. I did want to mention this scene, which many of you likely saw (and I didn't realize it was all televised until I started getting texts from quite a number of people):
It was very nice of Tom Ricketts to stop by. He wanted to know how our group felt about the new bleachers, and he gave us baseballs. These are balls that he has specially made each day and hands out in the stands. They look like this:
These are official MLB baseballs (they have the logo and Commissioner Rob Manfred's signature on the other side) and then are printed with the Cubs logo and the date and opponent, a very nice souvenir. Thanks much to Tom Ricketts for the baseballs, thanks to Cubs management for enhancing the bleacher experience, and thanks to the Cubs players for returning to Wrigley with a well-played win.
Besides all the bleacher hoopla, there are more games to be played. The Cubs and Mets will go at it again tonight, with Jake Arrieta facing a Mets prospect many of us here have discussed (and wanted the Cubs to acquire!), Noah Syndergaard, who will be making his major-league debut.