After winning the first of three in San Francisco, the Cubs dropped the next two to the Giants and the first of a three-game series in St. Louis. It was their first three-game losing streak of the 2016 season.
They crashed out of it with this blowout win over the Cardinals, which brought their record to 30-14. They led the N.L. Central by five games.
You were, I presume, getting a bit worried about the Cubs' missing-in-action offense?
The Cubs assuaged your fears Tuesday night in St. Louis, big time, pounding out 15 hits and putting together twice as many runs as they had in their three-game losing streak, smashing the Cardinals 12-3.
They scored six times before Jason Hammel even took the mound. Hammel and David Ross both hit two-run doubles in the inning, but one of the key plays might have been this one:
Call helps #Cubs— Cubs Strike Zone (@CubsUmp) May 24, 2016
Ball 4 should be strike 1
Top 1 Wacha vs Zobrist
18% call same
2.4in from edge pic.twitter.com/7EpwwzPwaB
That sure looks like it should have been a strike. Ben Zobrist even stood at the plate for a moment until plate umpire Jim Reynolds sent him to first base. Maybe that unnerved Michael Wacha, because after that he walked Jorge Soler. He got the second out of the inning on a force play, but then Ross and Hammel hit their doubles and the Cubs had a comfortable lead.
That allowed Hammel to breeze through seven easy innings, helping him post his sixth win and dropping his ERA from 2.31 to 2.17. He finally ran out of gas in the eighth, when two doubles produced a St. Louis run, and then he was lifted for Justin Grimm, who ended that Cardinals rally with this slick play:
For his part, Grimm thought the play was just as cool as you did:
#Cubs Grimm on his play: "I've always wanted to do that, whether it's behind the back, between the legs. I actually told the umpire that"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 25, 2016
Before that, Soler had extended the lead to 8-0 with this 400-plus foot homer [VIDEO] to center field in the fifth. Soler was 2-for-3 with two walks, two runs scored and three RBI. I've been one of those people who has thought Soler might have benefited from a trip to Triple-A Iowa. But he has been better lately, and over his last nine games is now hitting .296/.424/.593 with two doubles, two homers, four walks and four RBI. Nine games = small sample size, of course, but that's a good stretch and I hope it continues, especially with the weather now warming up. The Cubs need for it to continue, as Soler is a necessary cog in this offense. I would love to see him put together his obvious talent and be a big major-league success.
The Cubs put the game out of reach in the ninth off Dean Kiekhefer, whose name looks misspelled, or missing a letter, or something, and about whom Jim Deshaies said, "He's got LOOGY written all over him." JD was right, as the Cubs' righthanded hitters just pounded him. The biggest blow was this two-run triple by Matt Szczur:
It was the first triple of his big-league career. Szczur has been outstanding in a bench role this year, and I do think the Cubs really missed him off the bench while he was on the disabled list with a hamstring problem. He showed no signs of that injury racing to third base.
Four runs scored in that inning, with the two others being driven in by Tim Federowicz and Dexter Fowler. Fowler had three hits on the night, Kris Bryant chipped in with a pair of singles, and Zobrist singled and had the aforementioned walk and scored twice before both Joe Maddon and Mike Matheny started emptying their benches and giving some of their regulars the evening off, a wise move considering there's another game in just a few hours from when you're reading this recap.
Addison Russell also had two hits, the second on a challenge won by Maddon. You might ask why he'd do that in a game the Cubs were winning by blowout, but as JD noted, doing that is to back up your player for hustling the way Russell did -- and Maddon got him a hit by doing so:
This win felt like the way the Cubs were breezing through their opposition over the season's first five weeks. It improved their record in blowouts (as baseball-reference.com defines them, wins by five or more runs) to 17-2, brought the run differential to +118 (247-129) and had to be a huge confidence-builder for a team that has struggled to score runs over the last week or so.
The only sour note was Clayton Richard's not-so-great ninth inning. He was the victim of an error by Tommy La Stella, making one of the two runs he allowed unearned, but Richard got hit hard by guys he should have been able to retire. In a situation where you're 11 runs ahead it should be easy to challenge hitters. It's been said by some here that Richard might be the odd-man-out if the Cubs decide to make a bullpen upgrade, and I am beginning to concur with that idea. I know many of you would like to see Andrew Miller added to the pen if the Yankees decide to part ways with him. That'd be great, though the cost might be high in terms of prospects -- and also, the Yankees have won six straight and are back to .500, so don't assume they're in a hurry to start dumping players.
Cubs walk watch: six in this one bring the season total to 215, or 4.89 per game. Pace: 792. At the current pace, they would break the team walk record (650) September 1 against the Giants. The Cubs have had 14 games so far this year in which they have walked at least six times, and still just one with no walks (and they won that one, April 5 vs. the Angels).That sure looks like it should have been a strike. Ben Zobrist even stood at the plate for a moment until plate umpire Jim Reynolds sent him to first base. Maybe that unnerved Michael Wacha, because after that he walked Jorge Soler. He got the second out of the inning on a force play, but then Ross and Hammel hit their doubles and the Cubs had a comfortable lead.