The Cubs just kept on truckin', as a California-based band used to sing, in their 6-3 win over the Padres Wednesday afternoon in San Diego. In so doing they swept a series in Petco Park for just the second time in the park's history (and first since 2004) and won the season series from the Padres for the first time since 2008.
And with the win, the Cubs move to 36 games over .500. No Cubs fan has seen a team that far over .500 since 1945, when they finished the year 42 games over at 98-56.
Kyle Hendricks -- man, what more can I say about how much I love watching him pitch? As Jim Deshaies said during the game, he mixes up his pitches and changes speeds so well that hitters are just flailing away at his changeup, or better yet, getting called out on strikes. Hendricks had eight more strikeouts in this one, in six innings, and issued two walks. Here's a fun fact about Hendricks' outing:
#Cubs Hendricks has given up 3 or fewer runs in each of his last 17 starts, longest streak of any ML pitcher this year— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 24, 2016
Kyle's 2.19 ERA still leads the major leagues. And after he was done with yet another quality start (his 15th), the bullpen took over to nail down the win. Trevor Cahill allowed a run in the eighth and was relieved by Justin Grimm, who finished up that inning. Aroldis Chapman (29th save, ninth as a Cub) gave up a leadoff single but then struck out the side to finish up.
Aroldis Chapman: 21 K, 7 Hits in 12.2 IP with #Cubs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 24, 2016
The Cubs posted three runs in the first inning. That's now 84 runs scored in the first inning this year; the 0.67 ratio (84 first-inning runs in 126 games) ranks sixth in MLB, but is a significant improvement over last year's 0.55. In fact, they've done better doing this in road games (0.71) than home games (0.59).
Three extra-base hits -- a double by Dexter Fowler, another double by Kris Bryant, and a triple by Ben Zobrist [VIDEO] -- scored a pair of runs, and Jorge Soler hit a sacrifice fly to produce the third run. The three-run lead was chipped at by a single Padres run scored in each of the second and third innings.
The Cubs caught a break that helped produce their next two runs. Singles by Bryant and Zobrist led off the fifth, and one out later they were wild-pitched to second and third. Addison Russell then hit a grounder toward shortstop (JD said Bryant was likely going on contact, which he did), and Padres shortstop Luis Sardinas whiffed while trying to make a short-hop stop and the ball went off his body into left field. Both runners scored, but it was ruled an error on Sardinas, which meant just one RBI for Russell. That seems like a hometown scorer trying to protect his pitcher. Russell has picked up the knack of driving in runs:
Over Addison Russell's last 25 games, he has more RBI (27) than hits (24)#Cubs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 24, 2016
The Cubs added a sixth run in the seventh on Willson Contreras' eighth homer of the season [VIDEO].
Bryant's double was his 30th of the year, to go with his 33 homers, and that produced another historical note:
#Cubs with 30+ HR & 30+ Doubles age 24 season or younger— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 24, 2016
1964 Ron Santo 30 HR, 33 2B
2016 Kris Bryant 33 HR, 30 2B (and counting)
Zobrist, Soler and Bryant all had two hits to help pace the 10-hit attack. The team run differential increased to +218, or 1.73 runs per game. That's a pace for a run differential of +280, and the team run total is now 647, or 5.13 per game. That's a pace for 832 runs for the season, which would be the most since 2008 (855) and just the third time since 1937 that any Cubs team would post 800 or more runs in a season (806 in 1970 is the other). Also, Fowler's leadoff double gave him these numbers leading off a game:
Dexter Fowler in 88 PA leading off games this season:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 24, 2016
.408/.489/.776 with 8 Doubles, 1 Triple, 6 HR, 10 Walks, 2 HBP#Cubs
I will submit, again, that numbers like these show how important Fowler is to this offense and why the Cubs should seriously consider bringing him back on a multi-year deal (not more than three years, though).
As noted in the header to this article, the win reduced the Cubs' magic number for division (and playoff spot) clinching to 24, pending the Cardinals' game Wednesday night against the Mets (it's OK to root for the Mets today and tomorrow!). The Pirates lost to the Astros earlier in the afternoon, so their elimination number from the division race is now 21.
And, the 81st win of the season assured the Cubs of a non-losing year for the second straight year, though a winning season in 2016 was really never in doubt from the middle of April on.
So the Cubs will certainly enjoy their Thursday off day in Los Angeles and then begin a three-game series against the Dodgers Friday evening at Dodger Stadium. Mike Montgomery is scheduled to make the Friday start for the Cubs. The Dodgers do not yet have any starters listed for the series, so stay tuned. And we'll have plenty here tomorrow on the off day, too, so stick around.