Throughout this eventful 2016 season, whenever the Cubs appear to be ailing or flailing a bit, the Cincinnati Reds are just the cure.
On a sunny Fourth of July in front of another full house at Wrigley Field, the Cubs brought out the big bats early against Reds rookie Cody Reed, who could be forgiven if he never wanted to pitch against the Cubs again.
Back-to-back three-run innings in the first and second pretty much put this game in the "W" column, and the Cubs cruised to a 10-4 win. Among the highlights of the two big innings early was this two-run blast by Kris Bryant:
Bryant took over the National League lead with that one, his 24th, and he and Mark Trumbo are tied for the major-league lead.
What you're probably more interested in regarding Bryant is his collision with Albert Almora Jr. [VIDEO] when both went after a fly ball to left-center. It appeared that Almora called Bryant off the ball, but the two have not played often in the same outfield. They'll have to do better about getting their signals straight, I'd say. Bryant was diagnosed with a "contusion" to his lower left leg, and this tweet confirms what I figured when Bryant departed for Matt Szczur:
#Cubs Maddon says Bryant would have stayed in the game if it was close. Expect him back Tuesday— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 4, 2016
With the score 8-0 in the fifth (after the Cubs scored a pair on an error in the fourth), why not give Bryant the rest of the afternoon off? Glad to hear that he's fine.
Addison Russell completed the Cubs scoring with a two-run homer in the sixth, his ninth. Russell, Willson Contreras and Jason Heyward all had two hits, Heyward in his first game being dropped in the batting order. Heyward had not batted as low as sixth since June 18, 2015, and if this is what it takes to get his hitting going, he's all for it:
#Cubs Heyward says he talked to Maddon and told him to do whatever is necessary re changes to the lineup— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 4, 2016
Joe's odd lineup changes included batting Javier Baez leadoff:
#Cubs Baez says doesn't ever remember batting leadoff before at any level— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 4, 2016
Baez went 1-for-6 and reached on an error. The Cubs could have scored even more runs, as they left 13 men on base and went 2-for-13 with RISP, but the 10 runs were more than enough, even after Travis Wood got touched up for three runs after two were out in the seventh on back-to-back homers by Zack Cozart and Eugenio Suarez.
Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon finished up uneventfully, allowing one hit each, not because they were needed with a six-run lead, but because they needed the work. Hector hadn't thrown in six days, not since the wacky 15-inning game last Tuesday, and Strop not since Thursday in New York (and just once since last Monday). Neither had too strenuous an outing, Strop with 11 pitches, Rondon with just five, so both should be available Tuesday.
Kyle Hendricks couldn't quite finish the sixth inning, and was charged with an unearned run after a tough error on what could have been a double play [VIDEO], but both runners were ruled safe on the field. The call at second base was ruled "call stands," the one at first "confirmed," and Joey Votto wound up at third when no one was covering the base. The error was given to Jeimer Candelario. Hendricks, who threw exactly 100 pitches, was otherwise solid, and trimmed his ERA from 2.76 to 2.61, now second-best on the staff after Jon Lester's disaster on Sunday in New York.
The win was the Cubs' 10th in 11 games against the Reds this year, and the Cubs have outscored the Reds 97-36 in the 11 games. In the 10 wins the run differential is +69 (92-23), the equivalent of winning all those games 9-2.
This is what good teams should do, crush bad ones. The Reds have now allowed 10 runs or more in four of their last 11 games and have been outscored 22-5 since Sunday. The Cubs need to keep this up against the Reds and Braves this week.
Cubs walk watch: six walks in this game bring the season total to 353, or 4.30 per game. Pace: 697.
A couple of fun July 4 Cubs facts:
Kris Bryant: first #Cubs player to homer on July 4th two years in a row since Bobby Murcer 1977-78— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 4, 2016
This is the first time #Cubs have scored 10 runs in a game on July 4th since 1930 in game 1 of doubleheader at Pittsburgh— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 4, 2016
At this writing, the Pirates lead the Cardinals 4-1 in the ninth inning, and if that score holds up, the Cubs' division lead will be back to nine games. Thank you, Pirates!
They'll go after two straight over the Reds Tuesday afternoon. John Lackey goes for the Cubs and Brandon Finnegan for the Reds.