Any notion that Jon Lester would follow up Jake Arrieta's no-hitter with one of his own Friday night was disabused with two out in the first inning, when Joey Votto hit an excuse-me ball to the opposite field for a single.
I mention this because Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio thinks Jake's no-no will not be the last one thrown by a Cub this year:
"This is a year we're going to get three," Bosio said of his forecast, one day after ace Jake Arrieta threw the first no-hitter of the season and the second of his rapidly ascending career. "I still believe that. On any given night, any one of these guys can do it.
"Maybe that number is correct. Or maybe that number is higher. I don't know."
Well. Bosio might very well be right; every time Jake goes out to the mound there's a chance he'll throw another one. Lester had one in 2008.
After that first-inning hit by Votto, Lester allowed just four other hits and a single run, a solo homer by Zack Cozart, and the Cubs crushed the Reds again 8-1. They've now outscored the Reds 24-1 in this series and 46-7 overall in five games so far this year. They might have scored even more runs, if not for some nice defensive plays by the Reds.
The game stayed fairly close until the ninth inning, when the Cubs blew it open with a Javier Baez home run (his first of the year, a laser beam of a line drive that just made the first row of seats in left), a single by Tommy La Stella, and three straight doubles by Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward and Kris Bryant. Heyward, also walked and stole a base in this game; hopefully, that means he's starting to get out of his traditional early-season funk.
Earlier in the evening, the Cubs had scored a run on a sacrifice fly by David Ross, and then two innings later Ross executed this perfect squeeze bunt [VIDEO]. Addison Russell and Ross both advanced on a throwing error by Reds pitcher Jon Moscot, at which time Lester laid down this nicely-done safety squeeze.
When's the last time you saw the Cubs pull off two successful squeeze bunts in the same inning? We're just a bit over 10 percent into this season and already the Cubs have a fairly long list of "things we haven't seen before, or in a long time." It was Ross' first multi-RBI game in almost exactly a year, since April 24, 2015, also in Cincinnati.
All of that squeezing happened in the fourth inning after Anthony Rizzo had done this:
That one didn't wind up too far from where his Thursday night homer landed. Rizzo now has homered in three straight games and four of his last seven. He has six overall for the season, and 17 RBI -- 16 of those on the road.
Rizzo has some awfully weird early-season numbers. Overall he's hitting .194/.351/.516, good OBP and SLG numbers despite the low batting average. He's got as many walks (12) as hits. Here are his home/road splits:
Well, that's just... strange. At Wrigley Rizzo is just 2-for-21, one of those hits a home run. The Cubs have played 11 of their 17 games away from Wrigley Field, so I'd think Rizzo's home numbers will improve dramatically next week, although he hit better on the road in 2015, too:
2015 Rizzo at home: .269/.405/.455, 11 doubles, 11 HR
2015 Rizzo on road: .286/.370/.560, 27 doubles, 20 HR
As I said, weird. Even weirder: In 2015, Rizzo hit three triples at Wrigley -- not usually a triple-friendly park -- and none on the road.
Anyway, back to Friday's game: the only time Lester was in a bit of trouble was in the fifth, when Jay Bruce and Adam Duvall led off the inning with singles. The Cubs got out of it with a double play [VIDEO] that was very, very close to being an around-the-horn triple play. (Didn't someone mention a triple play in the game preview comments?)
Pedro Strop threw an uneventful eighth while the game was still fairly close at 4-1, and Justin Grimm, who hadn't pitched in five days, had a scoreless ninth, despite hitting Votto with a pitch. It's become difficult for Cubs relievers to get useful work with starters going so deep into the games. Not that I'd want the starters to have shorter, poorer outings, mind you. It's a nice problem to have.
The Cubs improved their run differential to +67 with this win. There are 17 teams in the major leagues who haven't even scored 67 runs yet this year. The next-best differential is +31 (Nationals), and after that +28 (Cardinals). Those are the only three teams above +18.
Remarkable things are happening. All I can say is: keep it going.
Cubs walk watch: With more than 10 percent of the season gone, it's time we can think a bit about what "pace" the Cubs are on for this. Five more walks Friday night brought the season total to 85. That's 10 more than any other team and an average of 5.00 per game. Five walks per game for a full season would be 810 walks. Only two teams in major-league history have that many: the 1949 Red Sox, the record holder with 835, and the 1948 Red Sox, with 823. The National League record is 732, by the 1947 Dodgers. The Cubs' team record is 650, set in 1975. I think the Cubs will break the team record and have a realistic shot at the N.L. mark. The MLB record might be a bit out of reach -- but then, nothing really seems out of reach for the 2016 Cubs.
More milestones: Since 1900, the Cubs have been 13-4 just three times before this year, in 1907, 1908 and 1970. Two of those years should be very, very familiar to you.
The Cubs continue this so-far-excellent season Saturday night with John Lackey on the mound, facing the Reds' Dan Straily.