The Cubs trailed 5-1 in this game, but came back and won. Sigh. If they could have done this sort of thing in October instead of May, we might have really been celebrating. Next year, right?
This win, which gave the Cubs a four-game sweep over the Mets, improved their record to 19-15. They remained five games behind the Cardinals in second place in the N.L. Central.
The Cubs teams of the last few years would not have won this game after trailing 5-1. On that, I think we can all agree.
But this year's Cubs are different. More talented and led by a manager not afraid to take chances in games that might head to extra innings, these Cubs came from four runs down and defeated the Mets 6-5. The four-game sweep was the first by the Cubs over the Mets at Wrigley since 1992 (and the Cubs' seventh straight win overall at home against New York) and the first four-game sweep of any kind at Wrigley Field for a Cubs team since they swept the Rockies in a four-game set May 29-June 1, 2008.
2008. That year has a good ring to it, doesn't it? (At least if you forget the part after October 1.)
When John Mayberry Jr. singled in a pair of runs that were charged to Travis Wood, the Cubs trailed by four in the fifth inning and, having had just one hit (Dexter Fowler's leadoff homer in the fourth) to that time, things looked pretty bleak.
But Jon Niese, who'd looked pretty dominant up to that point, started getting hit hard in the bottom of the fifth. A single by Jorge Soler and double by Matt Szczur made it 5-2, and Szczur went to third on an infield out and scored when Wilmer Flores' throw on Addison Russell's grounder was too high to first base. Russell was safe and that turned out to be a key play in the inning. If the play is made on Russell's ball, there are two out with nobody on and the Cubs are still down by two.
Instead, with one out and a runner on, Fowler walked and Anthony Rizzo singled in Russell to make it 5-4. Kris Bryant followed with a bloop single to right, scoring Fowler to tie the game.
Those are the kinds of long-sequence rallies we rarely saw from Cubs teams over the last few years. Apart from Szczur's double, none of the hits in the inning were really hard-hit, and Niese, who had been quite efficient with his pitches through four innings, threw 30 in the fifth. Somehow, Mets manager Terry Collins decided it would be a good idea to let Niese stick around into the seventh, and that's when the Cubs produced the rally that would hold up for the win.
With one out, Fowler singled and Rizzo was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game, raising his major-league-leading total to 11. Even though it seems as if Rizzo wants to be hit this year, helping his on-base totals, here's what he said after the game:
#Cubs single season record for HBP is 17. Rizzo: "Hopefully, it stops at 11."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 14, 2015
At the rate Rizzo's going, that team record (set by Frank Chance in 1905, tied by Marlon Byrd in 2010) could fall by the end of the month.
Anyway, with Bryant at bat, reliever Hansel Robles unleashed a pitch that catcher Anthony Recker couldn't handle. It went for a passed ball and Fowler scored.
The Cubs' bullpen, who had such a rough road trip last week, has stepped up in this homestand. Jason Motte, Justin Grimm, James Russell, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon combined for 4⅔ innings and allowed just three singles. Only one runner got past second base against the pen. The relievers struck out 10, and overall Cubs pitchers struck out 15 Mets on a cloudy, breezy afternoon that was, at least, a bit warmer than the frigid nights we had earlier in the week. Rondon finished up for his eighth save.
Joe Maddon pushes different buttons than I would have, but the results were good, so who am I to argue? Grimm threw 16 pitches in his scoreless inning and his batting-order slot wasn't coming up. I might have let him throw another inning, to try to save the somewhat-overworked pen. But Russell did fine, and Strop recorded four outs on only 10 pitches, all strikes. Compare that to Wood, who threw 97 pitches and didn't finish the fifth inning.
There is one potential injury issue, as detailed here:
Montero stays in to catch. Ross seemed to have problem with his side in last at-bat. Rondon in to pitch. #Cubs lead 6-5 ...— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 14, 2015
#Cubs David Ross has abdominal tightness. Will be re-evaluated on Friday— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 14, 2015
I would think if Ross has to go to the disabled list, the Cubs will go with two catchers for however long it takes and add another position player to give the team more flexibility. Junior Lake, who has posted a .351 OBP in 74 plate appearances at Iowa, could be recalled.
And then there's Wood. I've been a big Travis Wood fan since he got here, but he's not looked good for over a year and the team moved Tsuyoshi Wada's rehab start to today from Wednesday. A logical conclusion could be drawn that Theo & Co. want him to be available to possibly take Wood's place for his next outing. Wood isn't going to be let go; I would assume that if Wada takes Wood's place, that might finally be the end of the line for Edwin Jackson. Jackson was warming up in the fifth with the Cubs down four runs, but after they rallied, he sat down and Grimm got up. That ought to tell you about all you need to know about Maddon's current faith in Jackson to pitch in high-leverage situations.
The Cubs kept pace with the Cardinals, who also won Thursday afternoon. At 19-15 the Cubs have the fourth-best record in the National League, right behind the three division leaders. That's a really good place to be heading into a weekend set with the Pirates at Wrigley, with Kyle Hendricks facing Jeff Locke in a 1:20 p.m. CT affair.