The Cubs won their fifth straight, improved to 8-1, and had a three-game lead in the N.L. Central -- after just nine games played. More details on how rare that 8-1 start was, below.
We are not used to this.
We will become accustomed to this, I think.
"This" is the new Cubs, the 2016 Cubs, the winning Cubs. The team that simply finds ways to win, no matter who the opposing pitcher is, no matter the weather conditions (cold again Thursday evening), no matter who's in the lineup.
The Cubs crushed the Reds again, 8-1, sweeping their three-game series and posting their fifth consecutive victory. In so doing they raised their record to 8-1, the first time any Cubs team has been 8-1 since the star-crossed 1969 season, when they eventually had an 11-1 record. The only other Cubs team that's been at least 8-1, since 1900, was in 1934, when the team started 9-1.
Neither of those previous teams made postseason play, but I'm reasonably certain this year's version will.
There are quite a few numbers that demonstrate the Cubs' dominance over the season's first nine games, but here are two in particular I want to share with you, sent to me by BCBer Lifetime Cubs Fan:
- Their run differential of 43 runs (64 scored vs. 21 allowed) is more than 21 teams have scored thus far this season.
- In nine games, they have 53 walks. For Shawon Dunston's last eight seasons in the league (801 games), he had 50 walks.
Simply put, they are doing what good teams have to do -- win the overwhelming majority of their games against lesser clubs. Many of us noted the Cubs' so-called "easy" schedule for the first month or so of this season and that they could perhaps pile up big win totals before April ended. So far, they're doing exactly that.
Jason Hammel put together another very good outing, throwing six scoreless innings and throwing only 88 pitches in doing so. He struggled a bit with control, issuing four walks, but only four runners reached second base against him and only one got as far as third. Hammel also helped himself with a run-scoring double in a two-run fifth inning (once again, link only, no embed code available).
Cubs pitchers are hitting .222/.300/.444 (4-for-18) with a double, a home run, two walks and four RBI. That's actually... very good. Nice work!
Kris Bryant hit his second home run in as many nights in the second inning to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. The rest of the Cubs scoring came after many had departed the chilly evening at Wrigley Field, as they put together a five-run eighth inning off a pair of Reds relievers. The inning included three walks and an inexplicable throwing error by Jay Bruce after he made a nice sliding catch of a fly ball off the bat of Jason Heyward. Bruce threw toward first base to try to double off Dexter Fowler. Bruce had done just that in the first inning with Fowler on second. (Fowler, for his part, appeared to get some dirt in his eye after diving back to second base, but after getting some attention from the team trainer, he seemed fine the rest of the night.)
Unfortunately for Bruce, but fortunately for the Cubs, no one was covering first base so Matt Szczur scored the Cubs' final run of the evening:
Remember yesterday when I said I was a bit concerned about Addison Russell's bat? Not that he listens to me, but he came out and had a solid day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored. It's nice to see the Cubs offense click like this on a day when Anthony Rizzo went 0-for-4. Miguel Montero had two hits, and Fowler had three hits and a walk:
Dexter Fowler OBP now .583. 5th multi-hit game of the season.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 15, 2016
Chris Kamka is an expert at putting together numbers like these, and I want to share a few more amazing early-season Cubs numbers from him with you:
Joe Maddon has managed 171 regular season games for the #Cubs. This is already his 8th winning streak of at least 5 games.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 15, 2016
Not only do the #Cubs have +43 run differential this season, they have +10 differential in each series— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 15, 2016
+14 vs LAA
+13 vs ARI
+16 vs CIN
Cubs 53-19 (.736) in last 72 regular season games— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 15, 2016
I could keep posting things like this all morning, but you get the idea. The Cubs sit this morning alone on top of all of baseball with an 8-1 record. You see above some of the categories in which they lead the league. They also currently lead the major leagues (not just the N.L. but both leagues) in runs, walks and on-base percentage. They've also cut way down on strikeouts. Through Thursday's game they rank just 16th with 71 K's in nine games.
The only discordant note from Thursday's game was Justin Grimm's ninth inning. Both Grimm and Hector Rondon were warming up during the eighth, but when the Cubs' rally took any possibility of a save opportunity off the board, Rondon sat down. Grimm gave up hits to the first two batters he faced and Bruce, who singled, scored on an infield out. It didn't matter except for ruining the shutout, and more from Chris Kamka:
Cubs reliever ERA balloons to 1.21— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 15, 2016
#Cubs offense is phenomenal.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 15, 2016
But their starter ERA is 2.78 and bullpen ERA is 1.21 (with 23/2 K/BB)
Winning, even by a good team like this, isn't always going to be this easy, or seemingly so. The Cubs will lose their share of games this year; even the best teams lose 60 or so. But let's enjoy this while it's here. This sort of thing doesn't come around very often.
The Rockies come to town for a three-game set starting Friday afternoon, the season's first home day game. Kyle Hendricks will face Chad Bettis in a 1:20 p.m. CT start. The game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CT.