So it appears that as long as the Cubs can avoid playing teams from the N.L. West, they can just keep this early-season roll going.
They're just 5-5 against N.L. West clubs, but now 21-3 against everyone else, 14-2 against the N.L. Central, and 4-0 against the Pirates after a 9-4 blowout win over the visiting Bucs. They've outscored the Pirates 29-9 so far this season.
The Cubs had some chances in the early innings and so did the Pirates, both stranding runners in scoring position through three, though the game went scoreless into the fourth. After Ben Zobrist singled and Jorge Soler walked to begin the bottom of the fourth, Addison Russell stepped to the plate:
Russell's homer marked the first Cubs runs since the fourth inning of Wednesday's first game -- 17 innings without scoring, horrors! -- and started the Cubs on their day of power. Kris Bryant was next, with a runner on and nobody out in the fifth:
And after a double by Anthony Rizzo that nearly left the yard and a walk to Zobrist, it was David Ross' turn to go deep:
That was the 99th homer of Ross' career and it made the score 8-0. Jason Hammel had settled down after the first three innings and was breezing until Gregory Polanco doubled, followed by a single by Starling Marte in the sixth. Marte took off for second and Ross' throw went into center field, allowing Polanco to score and Marte to take third, where he scored on a single by Francisco Cervelli. Hammel nearly finished the seventh, but a two-out walk to John Jaso brought Joe Maddon out to lift Hammel, and he left to a warm ovation.
Adam Warren came in and got Andrew McCutchen to ground to third to end the inning, and here's where I'm going to quibble a bit with Maddon's bullpen selections. Warren threw just five pitches and the Cubs are breezing along. Why, then, go to Clayton Richard in the eighth? Just to get the platoon advantage over Polanco? Does that really matter with a six-run lead? Why not let Warren finish the game (or at least the eighth inning) and save the rest of the pen?
The move didn't work, as Polanco doubled off Richard. That brought Trevor Cahill into the game, and he promptly gave up a single to Starling Marte, but Polanco held at third. Cahill got two fly ball outs, one to Jason Heyward, one to Dexter Fowler, and the runners held, and then Josh Harrison grounded to third to end the inning.
Cahill wasn't sharp in the ninth, issuing a pair of walks and a homer to McCutchen. That brought Chris Bosio trudging out for a mound visit and got Hector Rondon loosening up. All, in my view, unnecessary; Warren could have thrown the eighth and then maybe Richard or Travis Wood the ninth.
Quibbles, as I said; the Cubs won the game handily so none of this really mattered, except that now you have a couple of guys who threw more pitches than they otherwise might have.
Jorge Soler had a decent day at the plate, with a single and a walk in four trips. I'm still of the opinion that he'd be better off with a trip to Iowa for a while, but we'll see what happens with him this weekend.
With the five-run margin of victory the Cubs improved to 14-2 in games decided by that many runs or more. They also passed the 200-run mark for the season, and improved their run differential to +103 (205-102).
According to Carrie Muskat, there was a wedding in the left-field bleachers during this game:
Congrats to the couple in LF bleachers who just got married. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 13, 2016
The groom was wearing a No. 13 #Cubs jersey that said "Orth" on the back. The bride's dress looked nice, too. Again, congrats. Send a pix— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 13, 2016
I saw this couple as they were leaving; the bride was wearing a similar jersey over the dress, though they left too quickly for me to get a photo. Congratulations to them.
Cubs walk watch: four bases on balls in this one brings the season total to 176 (5.18 per game). Pace: 839.
And, they got this one in with plenty of time before storms are expected in the Chicago area this evening. Those are supposed to pass through overnight, with sunshine and cooler temperatures (lower 50s) for Saturday, when the Cubs try to make it two in a row over the Pirates. Jake Arrieta will face Jeff Locke.