The day before this win, Jon Lester had been pounded by Tigers bats and the Cubs needed this victory to have a winning road trip. They got it, and in a big way. After quite a few tense close games, it was fun to have a laugher. The Cubs took the road trip five games to four and were 31-26 after this win. They were in a virtual tie for second place with the 32-27 Pirates (a few percentage points ahead), 6½ games behind the first-place Cardinals.
At last, a game that didn't keep all of us on the edges of our collective seats all night.
The Cubs set all kinds of season highs in their 12-3 win over the Tigers Wednesday night in Detroit. The 12 runs was the most this season, the 15 hits equaled 2015's best and the nine-run margin of victory was the biggest of the year... by four. That's right, the Cubs' biggest win margin this year was five runs, done just twice, and the team has played more one-run games than anyone in the major leagues. You knew this just by feel, right? Pretty much every game has been close, many could have gone either way.
That's why this one was so much fun. The Cubs wasted a leadoff triple by Dexter Fowler in the first inning, but got right on to the business of scoring in the second, on a single by Chris Coghlan and a walk drawn by Mike Baxter, sandwiched around a couple of groundouts. Addison Russell singled sharply up the middle to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. They got more serious about things in the third, scoring four times, three of them on a home run by Coghlan, his eighth. That would have been enough right there, because Jake Arrieta was breezing through the Detroit lineup. He didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning, and the only real mistake he made was a slider that missed location to Yoenis Cespedes with two runners on in the sixth. Cespedes' three-run homer briefly made it a game again at 6-3 and with Arrieta at 93 pitches, Joe Maddon turned things over to a well-rested bullpen.
The Cubs offense then let loose with a six-run barrage off three Detroit relievers, including former Cub Tom Gorzelanny and former Cub farmhand Al Alburquerque. The big blow was a three-run homer by Miguel Montero, his seventh, but every starting player except Kris Bryant had a hit in the 15-hit attack, and Bryant walked and scored. Six Cubs had at least two hits: Montero (three), Fowler, Coghlan, Mike Baxter, Anthony Rizzo and Chris Denorfia.
Baxter? The guy who I've been maligning much of the time he's been with the team? Installed at DH for only the second time in his career, he had two hits, walked twice and scored three runs. Good for him. Given the opportunity to play, he produced.
After Arrieta was lifted, the Cubs' bullpen gave up just a couple of singles to the Tigers, who had begun to pull their regulars by then. Justin Grimm, Zac Rosscup and Travis Wood combined for three strikeouts, and the latter two needed their outings, I think, as both have struggled recently. Wood, again, as he had in previous relief outings, showed better velocity (hitting 92 on the CSN speed meter) than he usually has as a starter.
Starlin Castro singled, and helped turn a couple of nice double plays.
Since this was such a laugher, let's talk about something that Len and JD were discussing about the name of Detroit's relief pitcher Alburquerque. They wondered why he has an extra "r" in his name, compared to the city in New Mexico. The original name of the city did have that extra "r," named after a Spanish duke. This link explains what happened to it.
The win gave the Cubs a 5-4 road trip, which I think is a success given the level of the competition. They come home 16-15 overall on the road, one of only four National League teams with a winning record away from their home park. And, when the Cubs departed on this trip, they trailed the Cardinals by six games. They begin a homestand tonight trailing by 6½ games, so they have at least kept pace. The big margin of victory completely wiped out the Cubs' negative run differential. They went from -7 to +2 in one day.
The Cubs return home Thursday night to begin a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds. The right-field bleachers will be open for the first time, and if you think that's not important to the players, read this article, which includes quotes from several players, including David Ross:
"That’s our home field advantage," Ross said. "That’s what drives us. It’s a lot of fun to hear the fans screaming and yelling. And I know as a visitor they get on you a little bit. It will be a great atmosphere, and I’m looking forward to it." The Cubs noticed a significant difference after the renovated bleachers opened in left and center field on May 11. The Cubs embarked on a six-game winning streak – all at home. "The left field (bleachers) made up for (the right field bleachers under construction) because the fans were super loud and intense, and it really stood out when nobody was there," Ross said. "When the left field bleachers opened, it was ‘woah, this is going to be very awesome when right field opens.’ "
Tsuyoshi Wada gets the call Thursday night; he'll face Reds rookie Michael Lorenzen.