With this sweep, the Cubs served notice that this was going to be a special season. As you'll see in the recap below, they did things in this game that hadn't been done in decades.
The sweep, which moved the Cubs to 14 games over .500 at 62-48, also put them 3½ games ahead of the Giants for the second wild card. Despite continuing to win, they simply could not gain any ground in the division. The Cardinals and Pirates both won again, so the Cubs continued to trail St. Louis by 9½ games and Pittsburgh by three games.
Did you survive the ninth inning of this one?
Well, of course you did, or you wouldn't be here reading this recap of the Cubs 2-0 win over the Giants that completed a four-game sweep, the first any Cubs team had over the Giants at Wrigley Field in 38 years.
But that didn't happen before Hector Rondon nearly duplicated Giants starter Jake Peavy's first inning. Peavy threw 37 pitches in the first inning, including 12 to Dexter Fowler before retiring him. But a walk to Kyle Schwarber and two singles put the Cubs ahead with the only run they'd need. Here's more on the Cubs working counts in this one:
The Cubs fouled off an astounding 37 pitches against Peavy in five innings. Dexter Fowler had 13 (!!) while seeing 25 pitches in 3 at-bats.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) August 9, 2015
Rondon needed 36 pitches to close out the Giants and loaded the bases with nobody out on a single, double and hit batsman. But then he struck out the side to end it, including getting Gregor Blanco for the final out on a beautifully-placed slider. I didn't quite understand why Bruce Bochy sent his backup catcher, Hector Sanchez, up to pinch-hit for reliever Jeremy Affeldt with the bases loaded. Sanchez came into the game hitting .167/.184/.292, although 3-for-10 as a pinch-hitter. Bochy had Justin Maxwell, 5-for-22 as a PH with five walks, still on the bench, yet apparently chose Sanchez because he hits lefthanded. Rondon struck him out on three straight sliders, then got Angel Pagan to swing and miss at a third strike in the dirt.
Whatever Bochy's reasoning, we'll take it -- that was a high-wire act in the ninth, and it's a good thing there's an off day Monday because Rondon, who threw 25 pitches Friday and 37 Sunday, certainly needs the day of rest.
The excitement that we really didn't need came after Jake Arrieta had yet another dominant performance. He allowed just four hits and got to two out in the eighth before the fourth one. Personally, I was surprised Joe Maddon let Arrieta go out for the eighth, considering he'd thrown 103 pitches through seven. Perhaps Arrieta, who took his at-bat in the bottom of the seventh and lined out hard to right field, lobbied Maddon to let him stay in the game until he allowed a baserunner. After Arrieta was lifted, to a tremendous ovation, Justin Grimm gave up a single to Buster Posey, but then Grimm got Hunter Pence to fly to center. It's a good thing the wind shifted during the game and it was raining at the time, because earlier in the day, that ball might have gone off the wall or into the seats. Instead, Dexter Fowler ran it down on the warning track.
The Cubs got a second run thanks to Arrieta, who tripled deep off the right-field wall in the second inning and scored on a fly to center by Addison Russell. After starting the year 0-for-28 at the plate, Jake is 6-for-21 (.286) since July 2 with a triple and a home run. Then there's this about Jake:
Jake Arrieta last 10 starts 1.23 ERA, 73.1 IP, 41 hits, 69/18 K/BB, .163 OPP BA, 0.80 WHIP 1 HR hit, 1 allowed 1 triple hit, 2 allowed #Cubs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 9, 2015
While individual pitcher wins don't mean what they used to, Arrieta won his 13th Sunday afternoon and with 10 starts left has a shot at a 20-win season. That would be the first such year for a Cub since Jon Lieber won 20 in 2001. Since Fergie Jenkins won 20 in 1972, just three Cubs have won 20 in a season: Rick Reuschel in 1977, Greg Maddux in 1992 and Lieber. For the record, the last Cubs pitcher to win more than 20 in a season was Jenkins, 24 in 1971.
For the first time, there was a real reaction to something shown on the left-field video board, and it's not what you might think. Before every game Tom Skilling or one of the other WGN-TV meteorologists gives a game forecast. Sunday, it was weekend weathercaster Jim Ramsey delivering the information and when he said that the game wouldn't be affected by rain, there was loud applause. Unfortunately, he wasn't completely correct as a little rainshower passed through during the eighth inning, not hard enough to stop play but hard enough to bring out umbrellas, and serving as a reminder to the Giants fans in town of Bay Area weather. The rain passed by the time the ninth inning began, so it was easy to focus on the showdown on the field.
That's something that's been missing from Wrigley at this time of year since, really, 2008 (since by this time in 2009 the Cubs were fading out of contention) and though it's been a while, I still remember how intense these games can get. All four of these games were hard-fought and though the Cubs swept the set, it's clear that the Giants are a very good team and the Cubs have played very good teams tough most of this season. Remember this part of my series preview?
the Giants have a tendency to be streaky this year, as Grant noted: They started 4-10, then won 10 of 13, then lost six of nine, then won eight in a row and 13 of 15, then lost five in a row, then...
Well, the Cubs caught the Giants at exactly the right time, apparently, to send them on a skid. Following a six-game winning streak, the Giants have now lost seven of 11 and these four in a row. The Cubs, meanwhile, have now won 10 of 11 and 11 of 13, and will ride a four-game winning streak as they enjoy their well-earned off day Monday before the Brewers come to town Tuesday evening.
The crowd might have been held down a bit by the forecast of rain, but the paid attendance of 39,939 made the four-game total 163,797. A few left during the rainshower but most stayed to see the excitement of the ninth. You know, in previous years the Cubs might have blown that inning, but this team seems to find ways to get out of jams like that and win. Playoff-contending teams do that, just to refresh your memory. (For the record, I thought Rondon had Blanco struck out three pitches before he actually was on a very close slider that was called ball three.)
There are a lot of tweets in this recap but I wanted to share some more that tell you how this Cubs team is doing things that haven't been done in ... well, in some cases, in decades:
#Cubs: third 4-game sweep of the season (vs NYM, @ MIL, vs SF) First time with three 4+ game sweeps in a season since they had 4 in 1945— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 9, 2015
So you made it through the game and this recap. Can you hang in there for 48 hours until the Cubs' next game? This kind of winning makes me excited to get back to the ballpark, and I'm sure the players feel the same. Dan Haren will take the mound Tuesday evening against the Brewers' Taylor Jungmann.