The Cubs welcomed another interleague opponent to Wrigley and crushed them on a wet afternoon.
This win brought the Cubs to 22 games over .500 at 62-40 and they continued to lead the N.L. Central by 6½ games.
The Cubs started hitting early in this game and never stopped, with their 14-hit, 12-run attack providing the team's biggest margin of victory in 2016, a 12-1 win over the Mariners.
I'll start at the end, because things got so bad for the visitors that they put first baseman Luis Sardinas on the mound to throw the eighth. He topped out at an 82 miles per hour fastball and was the only Seattle moundsman the Cubs didn't score off of. In case you were wondering:
Last 5 position player pitchers vs #Cubs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 29, 2016
Luis Sardinas today
Ryan Raburn, David Murphy 6/17/15
Daniel Descalso 5/12/14
Abraham Nunez 5/30/04
The other position players pitching in those games against the Cubs all did so in their home parks. I'll have to check when I have more time, but I can't recall seeing any visiting position player pitching at Wrigley Field, at least not in the last 30 years or so, nor do I see anyone who did so at Wrigley at first glance from this list at baseball-reference.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: I did look this up later. The last visiting position player before Sardinas to pitch at Wrigley Field was Chris Donnels of the Dodgers, May 5, 2001, a game the Cubs won 20-1.]
So there's that. The Cubs began the scoring binge in the second, when Chris Coghlan, just activated from the DL, singled in two runs. Coghlan was 1-for-3 and walked twice. Coghlan took second on the throw in and Kris Bryant singled him in to make it 3-0.
Then, with Ben Zobrist on second base with a double in the third, Jason Heyward sliced (no, not a Chris Sale joke, he really did cut that ball through a strong wind blowing in) a two-run homer, his fifth home run of the year and first since June 11:
Heyward drove in another run later with a sac fly. I know we've said this often, but hopefully this will be the impetus to send Heyward on a hitting streak. This is also encouraging about Heyward:
Jason Heyward's HR was hit 102.5 MPH and projected at 383ft... That's the hardest HR he's hit this year #Cubs— Daren Willman (@darenw) July 29, 2016
So it was 5-0 going into the bottom of the sixth, with Jon Lester pitching mostly effortless baseball. Despite the Mariners having an off day Thursday and coming from playing a series in Pittsburgh, they were playing like they were jet-lagged. In Lester's six innings, just four runners got past first base, and he struck out seven, a good way to end what had been up to now a horrible month of July for him.
The Cubs began the sixth with this solo homer by David Ross, his seventh:
By this time a light, but steady rain had begun to fall. And the Cubs kept raining baserunners. Lester drew a walk, his fourth of the season, a new career high for him. Nate Karns, who had relieved starter Hisashi Iwakuma to start the fourth after Iwakuma got hit hard by Cubs hitters, wound up walking the bases loaded, and then Anthony Rizzo laced this double [VIDEO] down the left-field line, clearing the bases and making it 9-0
Ben Zobrist singled, Heyward hit his sac fly, and Javier Baez completed the scoring with a single, making it 11-0.
It was raining harder at this point, but play continued, with Justin Grimm relieving Lester. Seems to always happen when players play through steady rain -- two of the outs Grimm recorded were on foul popups to Bryant. That has to be tough, looking up with rain falling in your face to catch a ball, but he handled both chances.
When the top of the seventh ended, so did play. The umpires consulted both managers and ordered the tarp on the field, even though it wasn't really raining much harder than it had through more than an inning's worth of play, nor did it rain much harder than that through about 40 more minutes worth of rain. Perhaps they just wanted to not risk any injuries, but they probably could have played through it.
25 minutes' worth of field preparation had the game continuing in front of maybe 5,000 or so who waited out the one-hour, 14-minute delay. They saw the Cubs put one more run on the board after loading the bases on a single by pinch-hitter Matt Szczur and two walks. Rizzo hit into a double play, but a run scored.
The only discordant note in this one was the pitching of Mike Montgomery, who was allowed to throw two innings, finishing up. He had a decent eighth, scoreless with one single, and then he got into trouble in the ninth. With two out and two on, he gave up an RBI single to Shawn O'Malley, ruining the shutout, and then he walked Franklin Gutierrez before getting Robinson Cano to ground to second to end it. I wasn't impressed with Montgomery, who didn't have good command of his pitches. He threw 40 pitches, 22 for strikes, and is going to have to do better than this to help the pen.
The win, the Cubs' third straight, puts them seven games ahead of the Cardinals pending St. Louis' game against the Marlins Friday evening. They've won 10 of their last 15 and still have a chance for a .500 July if they can win Saturday and Sunday. (Not easy to sweep, I know.) On the walk watch: the Cubs drew six walks in this game, giving them 429 for the season, or 4.21 per game. Pace: 681, still on pace to break the club record of 650, set in 1975.