This just gets better and better, doesn't it?
Locked in a tight pitchers' duel for seven innings, the Cubs exploded for a five-run eighth against the Diamondbacks, punctuated by Arizona errors and questionable managerial decisions, and crushed the D-backs 6-0.
John Lackey threw yet another solid game, allowing just five hits through 6⅔ innings. He had to be relieved after allowing a walk and a single with two out in the seventh, and left to a loud ovation. He was helped out by some excellent defense:
- Jason Heyward's running, leaping grab [VIDEO] of a gapper by Jake Lamb leading off the second inning
- This sliding, diving stop [VIDEO] by Ben Zobrist of a two-out grounder by Paul Goldschmidt in the sixth
- This double play [VIDEO] turned by Javier Baez and Zobrist with two on and one out in the fourth
But the Cubs could not break through against Archie Bradley, despite doubles by Kris Bryant in the first and Tommy La Stella in the second. Heyward singled with one out in the sixth, and after Bryant struck out, Anthony Rizzo doubled over Chris Owings' head [VIDEO] to make it 1-0 Cubs.
Still, it seemed as if it would be a tight game all the way to the end until D-backs manager Chip Hale issued an intentional walk to Zobrist with two out and Bryant on third in the eighth. This was after Rizzo had singled Bryant to third and was thrown out trying to take second. Replays -- at least the ones they showed on the video boards at Wrigley Field -- appeared to show that Rizzo was safe, but it was ruled "call stands." You make the call:
Addison Russell, who had entered the game via double switch in the seventh, was the next hitter. He ripped a double [VIDEO] down the left-field line, scoring two runs and making it 3-0. Hale issued yet another intentional walk, this one to Miguel Montero, bringing Baez to the plate. Javy was 0-for-3, striking out all three times, prior to that at-bat, but he hit a ball to the base of the center-field wall [VIDEO], scoring two more, and when Owings' relay went into the seats, Baez was waved home, completing the Cubs scoring.
The Cubs had been issued 15 intentional walks before this game, a bit over the league average of 13, but I think Hale outsmarted himself. Or, the Cubs simply got key hits when they needed them, which has been a hallmark of this team all year. Or both. This team pounces when given opportunities, and it's beautiful to see.
Adam Warren, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm finished up for Lackey. Only Grimm gave up a hit, a leadoff double to Goldschmidt in the ninth, before he struck out the last two hitters of the game to end it.
Here are some more amazing facts about this year's Cubs, who now have all five starters with ERAs under 3.00:
#Cubs starters in last 8 games:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 3, 2016
0.98 ERA, 55.0 IP, 30 Hits, 56 K, .161 Opp BA, 0.800 WHIP
#Cubs starting pitching this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 3, 2016
2.33 ERA (!!), 340.0 IP, 239 Hits, 321 K, .199 Opp BA (!!), 0.985 WHIP (!!)
2.33 ERA by #Cubs starting pitching this season is lower than 72 of the 110 Cy Young winning seasons in MLB history— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 3, 2016
The game was also the Cubs' 20th win by five or more runs, leading to this fascinating fact:
The Cubs are 20-3 in games won by five or more runs. They're 18-12 in games won by fewer than five runs, which is a .600 winning percentage. That percentage would still be third-best in the National League. And, this game was the Cubs' sixth win by shutout, tied for second-best in the league. I could go on and on and on with these, but you get the idea. This is the best Cubs team in many, many, many years.
If you watched the game, you know that Len & JD were in the left-field porch underneath the video board, and field reporter Kelly Crull was in the bleachers, mainly near my section, and doing her reports via a camera attached to a very large boom, which you likely saw providing other shots during the game. Here's what this contraption looked like:
The counterweights on the back of this boom were at least 350 pounds. It's a device that I heard is, for now, just a one-time thing, though it might return for other games later in the season. The CSN crew couldn't have picked a better day to be in the bleachers -- light breeze off the lake, unlimited sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s. Wish we could bottle days like this up and let them out in the winter.
Cubs walk watch: the three IBB's brought the game total to six. That makes the season total 245, or 4.62 per game. Pace: 749.
The Cubs will go for two straight over Arizona Saturday afternoon, with Jason Hammel facing Edwin Escobar.