Thesmacked three homers off old buddy and then got good relief work to hang on to this one.
The Cubs' record improved to 66-48, but the standings remained the same as they had been the last couple of days: 4½ games ahead of thefor the second wild card, 1½ games behind the for the first wild card, and 7½ games behind the for first place in the N.L. Central.
Wait, what? Chris Coghlan hit two homers? Where did that come from?
That's how winning teams do it, get contributions from everyone on the roster. And beyond Coghlan's two homers and Anthony Rizzo's 23rd round-tripper, Clayton Richard came out of the bullpen and shut the White Sox down for two innings after Kyle Hendricks had a poor outing. Here's what it came down to:
#Cubs Hendricks says problem was mechanical. "At least the hitters and the bullpen showed up. Me, personally, absolutely terrible."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 15, 2015
#Cubs Maddon credited reliever Clayton Richard's performance as key. "What Clayton did coming in, he really defined the game"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 15, 2015
Joe Maddon is right, and also, here's the exact difference between Maddon and Sox manager Robin Ventura. Both Hendricks and Sox starter Jeff Samardzija struggled -- yet Ventura left Shark in to throw six innings and 110 pitches, yet Maddon got Hendricks out of the game after it was clear he had little command or control and put someone in there who was able to take command and control of the game. You can certainly imagine that Clayton Richard wanted to do well in what was his home park for the first year and a half of his big-league career, and he came through big-time, shutting down the middle of the White Sox order after Hendricks had coughed up the lead by allowing a three-run homer to Adam Eaton. (Really? What's going on with Eaton this year? He has 10 home runs in 425 at-bats; he had six career homers in 821 at-bats prior to 2015. Note that I am not implying anything, just wondering how a guy that small has that kind of power.)
The Cubs led 1-0 after one on a Dexter Fowler triple and Kyle Schwarber sac fly. Hendricks issued two walks in the bottom of the first, quite uncharacteristic of him, and Avisail Garcia doubled in two runs. It could have been worse except for a double play right before those walks. The Cubs took the lead back in the third on Coghlan's first homer, then lost it again right before Richard shut it down, then took the lead back for good in the fifth on Coghlan's second blast and Rizzo's homer, which turned out to be the difference in the game.
Then it was up to the bullpen, and beyond Richard, the rest of the relievers were up to the task as well. Justin Grimm was throwing 97 on the speed meter at the Cell (might have been a little high, I think), but he struck out three of the five batters he faced. Pedro Strop got into a bit of trouble on an infield hit that Addison Russell simply couldn't throw fast enough to get Alexei Ramirez, and a walk, but he ended the inning with K's, and Hector Rondon (20th save) was back to his old efficient self, recording three outs without the ball leaving the infield on just eight pitches. The final out was cradled in the glove of Starlin Castro at second base; Castro was flawless in the field and had three singles. Perhaps second base agrees with him. I'm sure he was glad to be back in the starting lineup.
I mentioned the heat. It was 93 degrees at game time, the first time all year I've written a game-time temp of over 90 on my scorecard. Maybe it was the heat and humidity, but the best description of the crowd at the Cell is probably "languid." There were no incidents between Cubs and Sox fans, not that I saw, anyway, and the mix was about 50-50. The paid crowd of 36,386 was much higher than I thought it would be; there must have been a brisk walkup sale on a sunny summer afternoon. Cubs fans were up and cheering loudly on the home runs, and then again as Rondon made quick work of the ninth inning. It took a while to get out of the area, thus the delay of sorts getting this recap written, but all in all, a worthwhile trip to the South Side for my first Cubs road game of this season. It's the first time the Cubs and Sox have played at the Cell after the All-Star break.
Eight in a row. That's the longest winning streak since a nine-gamer in 2008, and the Cubs will have their chance to match that Saturday evening with Jake Arrieta facing Jose Quintana. It's also 14 of 15 for the Cubs and 15 of 17 since the sweep at the hands of the Phillies. Maybe that somehow energized this run. The Pirates, Cardinals, Giants and Nationals, the Cubs' closest playoff competition, are all either playing at the time of this recap or will play later, so the day's standings will sort themselves out by morning.
In case you are interested in such things, the "Crosstown Cup" is now even at two wins each. It was also the team's 32nd road win, equaling the road-victory total from all of last year. Winning a game like this, in this manner, in hostile territory with shutdown relief -- that's what playoff-caliber teams do.
Final note to the Cubs regarding Friday's throwback uniforms (shown above), which, unlike the Sox who were all wearing No. 9 to honor the late Minnie Minoso, had the team's usual uniform numbers on the back. These are awesome. I would love to see this style made the Cubs' permanent road uniform (perhaps with the addition of one of the "cub" logos on the sleeve). I love the piping on the legs, collar and sleeves, and the red outline on the blue numbers is understated and classy. With the addition of a name on the back, that somewhat darker gray would be the perfect road uniform. Finally, since this (for now) is a throwback uniforom, it should also be noted that the Cubs are undefeated (4-0) wearing throwbacks in 2015.