It's a credit to Jake Arrieta that he managed to keep the Brewers to one run on three hits in five innings when he clearly didn't have his best stuff, nor command. That's how good a pitcher he is, I think.
Any chance of a second straight no-hitter were eliminated just a couple of minutes into Thursday's game, when Jonathan Villar hit a broken-bat single into left. Jake held the Brewers to just that one hit until the fifth, when he allowed a two-out single to Villar, who stole second and scored on a double by Alex Presley.
In between Jake issued four walks, matching the total from his no-hitter, and piled up 92 pitches, leading to Joe Maddon taking him out after the fifth inning. By then the Cubs had run out to a 5-1 lead, and it was the right thing to do on a cold, breezy afternoon on which the Cubs drew 11 walks on their way to a 7-2 win over the Brewers.
It's the third time this season that the Cubs have had 10 or more walks in a game. The last time a Cubs team had that many double-digit walk games was 2009, when they had four. For an entire season. They've got three this year and April's not done yet. The team record for 10+ walk games in a season is five, set in 2000. I'm thinking that record could be broken by the end of May. More on walks later.
David Ross set the tone for this one with a long home run in the second inning, after the Cubs had scored two in the first on a two-run single by Ben Zobrist. Ross' blast bounced off the concourse behind us and onto the street, nearly hitting the new Nuveen sign:
That was the 98th homer of Ross' career and in hitting it, he doubled his homer output from all of last year, when he had just one.
The Cubs plated two more in the third on a single by Kris Bryant, a double from Anthony Rizzo and a Tommy La Stella double. La Stella also scored after walking to lead off the fifth -- the only one of the Cubs' 11 walks that scored on the afternoon.
By this time Bryant had left the game. He was hit by pitches twice, but that's not why he departed:
#Cubs Bryant left the game to be evaluated. He rolled his right ankle running the bases in the 3rd inning— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) April 28, 2016
Fortunately, it doesn't appear to be anything serious:
#Cubs Bryant to undergo MRI on ankle as precautionary move. Has a mild ankle sprain— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) April 28, 2016
Since this is just a "mild" sprain, I'd think Bryant might only miss a couple of days, and of course the Cubs have Javier Baez to play third base. In this one, Baez played left field in place of Bryant, though I can't say much about what he was like in the field, as he had no fielding chances. He singled and scored the Cubs' seventh and final run in the sixth inning.
After that it was up to the bullpen, and Justin Grimm threw a nice sixth, striking out the side. Trevor Cahill might have made it through two full innings except for his own throwing error on an easy comebacker in the eighth. After he issued a walk -- the Cubs staff walked seven -- Maddon replaced him with Pedro Strop, who struck out the only batter he faced on three pitches. Neil Ramirez got touched for a run in the ninth on a double, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly.
All told, there were 18 walks in this game, four errors, three wild pitches and a passed ball, understandable on another frigid, windy late-April afternoon. The Cubs left 14 men on base -- they easily could have scored another seven runs on top of the seven they had.
Cubs walk watch: The 11 walks gave the Cubs a total of 114 on the season, which, with the Pirates being postponed in Colorado Thursday afternoon, gives the Cubs 18 more walks than any other team. The per-game average increased to 5.43, so the current pace is for 879, which would smash all team records. Obviously I don't really think they'll walk that much... or will they?
I'm a bit concerned about Kris Bryant, but other than that, the complaint department door is closed tight and locked shut. The Cubs are making winning look almost effortless. They'll get a chance to improve on their three-game winning streak when the Braves come to town starting Friday afternoon. Jon Lester will face Aaron Blair.