This was the first of several 2016 games in which Kyle Hendricks started after the team had played long extra innings and burned up the bullpen. Kyle did exactly what was needed -- eat up innings and shut the other team down.
The Cubs were 51-26 after this game and had an 11-game lead in the N.L. Central.
Ben Zobrist bunted the first pitch of Wednesday's game perfectly in front of the plate for a single.
Four pitches later, Kris Bryant lined a single to center to put runners on first and third with none out.
And then this happened:
Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton looked like they got their signals crossed going for Anthony Rizzo's fly ball to left-center. Duvall ran past the ball, which then hit Hamilton and bounced far away. By the time the ball was retrieved, Rizzo had a three-run, inside-the-park home run, the first inside-the-parker of his career and first by a Cub since Tony Campana did it, also against the Reds, at Wrigley Field August 5, 2011.
The ball apparently hit Hamilton in the jaw. You could tell on the TV broadcast he was trying to lobby Reds coaches and trainers to stay in the game, but undoubtedly he was sent to be examined for broken bones and a possible concussion. I certainly wish Hamilton well; he was down on the ground for quite some time and it looked a lot worse at first.
Addison Russell also homered, his second on this road trip. That's a good sign, I'd think. And Albert Almora Jr. lofted an opposite-field blast for his first big-league home run, and that's worth looking at:
Fun fact about those homers:
The 6th (Almora) & 11th (Russell) overall picks in the 2012 MLB Draft have homered for the #Cubs today.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 29, 2016
Javier Baez, who put the cherry on top of Tuesday's wacky win with a 15th-inning grand slam, had a big day. He went 3-for-5 and turned this slick double play to end the fifth inning, a frame where the Reds had two runners on with one out and were hinting they might like to get back in the game:
Baez has tremendous defensive ability, possibly one of the best defensive infielders in the major leagues. He appears to be getting better at strike-zone judgment. He's still only 23, won't be 24 until after the season ends, and if he can harness his considerable talent he can still become a star player in the big leagues.
More fine defense in this game from Zobrist, who threw Joey Votto out at the plate to end the third:
Kyle Hendricks, Justin Grimm and Carl Edwards Jr. handled the Reds well throughout the game. Watching Edwards throw is a trip. It's hard to believe a guy that small and skinny can throw 97 miles per hour. He looks like he has a good future as a bullpen piece.
Hendricks had a career high in pitches in this game (117). The Cubs bullpen, which worked a huge amount of overtime Tuesday night, certainly thanks him for that, especially since the team still has 11 more games to go without an off day until the All-Star break. Hendricks threw 6⅔ innings, allowed both Reds runs, and struck out five. He also executed a perfect safety squeeze to equal his career high in RBI for a season: one. And that leads to another fun fact:
#Cubs starter (Arrieta, Lester, Hendricks) has RBI in each game of 3-game series for 1st time since Aug 21-23, 1967 (Jenkins, Niekro, Hands)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 29, 2016
The Cubs have hit 24 home runs against the Reds this year in 10 games, their most against any team. 21 of those homers have been in Great American Ball Park (seven of the 10 games between the two clubs have been there), and in this series alone we've seen these:
-3 HR game (Bryant)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 29, 2016
-HR by pitcher (Arrieta)
-Leadoff HR (Zobrist)
-15th inn GS (Baez)
-inside-the-park HR (Rizzo)
-1st career HR (Almora)
Want more? Sure you do. The Cubs have outscored the Reds 87-32 in the 10 games, the rough equivalent of a 9-3 score in favor of the Cubs for every game. And the only Cubs loss to the Reds this year was 13-5 on April 23, so the run differential in the nine Cubs wins over the Reds is 82-19. The Cubs' overall run differential for the season increased to +170. No other team is higher than +88 (Indians); no other National League team is higher than +82 (Nationals), and no other N.L. Central team is higher than positive single digits (Cardinals, +7). All those numbers are pending Wednesday night's action for those teams.
The Reds are having a rough year, could lose close to 100 games for the second straight season, and possibly could allow more than 900 runs, which would be the first time a National League team has allowed 900+ runs since the 1999 Rockies. It's only been done twice by a N.L. team since the 1930s. The Reds are in rebuild mode, much as the Cubs were up till last year, and so in some ways I might consider having a bit of sympathy for them.
And then I think about Marty and Thom Brennaman and say, "Naaaaaah." The Cubs will get another shot at the Reds next week at Wrigley, as they'll visit for a three-game set starting Monday.
Cubs walk watch: Five walks in this game bring the season total to 335, or 4.35 per game. Pace: 705, still on pace to break the team record (650) in game 150, September 19 against the Reds at Wrigley.
Cubs 100-win watch: I'm starting this since the Cubs have reached the 50-win mark (now 51) before the halfway point of the season. In order to win 100 games the Cubs now must go no worse than 49-36 the rest of the season.