Friday's first game at Philadelphia, a 5-1 Cubs win over the Phillies, raised the old Zen question: if something happens and no one is there to see it, did it really occur?
Despite the fact that only a few hundred fans were in the stands at Citizens Bank Park for this Cubs victory and the "crowd" increased to perhaps 5,000 or so by game's end, yes, it did happen.
Jake Arrieta was once again solid, the only run he allowed being a solo homer to Aaron Altherr among the six hits he gave up in the third straight game he'd gone at least seven innings. It wasn't as dominant as some of his other recent outings, but still seemed effortless. His 19th win makes his season the winningest for a Cubs pitcher since Jon Lieber won 20 in 2001.
The homer, hit in the second inning, gave the Phillies a lead they nursed into the fifth behind starter Adam Morgan, who the Cubs had never seen before. They did have a few baserunners over the first four innings, but it took the third time around the batting order before a Dexter Fowler single and doubles by Austin Jackson and Kris Bryant gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead. Addison Russell doubled in two runs after the Cubs loaded the bases in the sixth on two singles and a walk to Arrieta, the first walk he'd drawn in 68 plate appearances this year.
Starlin Castro completed the Cubs scoring with a home run in the seventh inning, his eighth, and second in his last three games. In September Castro is now 9-for-18 with a double and two home runs.
Arrieta's eight-inning performance dropped his season ERA to 1.99, and also got him to 199 innings. The last Cubs starting pitcher who qualified for the ERA title with a season ERA under 2.00 was Hall of Famer Pete Alexander -- 1.91 in 1920. 95 years ago. In the deadball era. Things are happening to this Cubs team that haven't happened in decades. Keep up the good work!
Justin Grimm threw an uneventful ninth to wrap things up in this victory, the Cubs' first over the Phillies this year.
Jake should have four more regular-season starts, barring rainouts or other rotation changes: Wednesday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, September 21 against the Brewers at Wrigley, September 26 against the Pirates at Wrigley and October 1 against the Reds in Cincinnati, which will set him up perfectly for an October 7 date with the Pirates, presumably, in the wild-card game. Although... the Cubs still do have an outside shot at the division title. They'll need help, but if they could pick up a couple of games on the Cardinals before Sunday...
I'll have a recap of Game 2, as well as a few more thoughts on this one, at the usual night-game recap time, 8 a.m. CT Saturday morning. In the meantime this is intended to serve as a quick discussion place for Game 1, and also as the First Pitch Thread for Game 2. Apologies for the degraded performance of the site during the first game; SB Nation/Vox Media servers were having problems, which I believe are now fixed.
Game 2 should begin about 7:35 p.m. CT, so overflow threads will post at 8:35, 9:35 and 10:20 p.m. CT.
I don't have lineups right now for Game 2, but wanted to get this recap posted quickly, so check the BCB Twitter feed for the Game 2 lineups.