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2016 Cubs Victories Revisited, July 24: Cubs 6, Brewers 5

Nobody beats the Riz!

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Beyond the great comeback in this game triggered by Anthony Rizzo, the most interesting thing to me in re-reading this recap was the praise I heaped on Joe Nathan. Nathan pitched in only three games for the Cubs and was released just two weeks later. He signed with the Giants, pitched in seven games for them, didn’t make their postseason roster, and is currently a free agent. So it goes.

The Cubs were 59-38 after this win and led the N.L. Central by 7½ games.


You'll forgive me, please, for stealing the line above from Cubs TV analyst Jim Deshaies, who uttered it during the Cubs' seventh-inning, game-winning rally.

But you're probably so happy about the Cubs' 6-5 win over the Brewers that you don't care. It's a great line, JD -- so thanks!

Anthony Rizzo's bases-clearing double highlighted a five-run seventh inning to give the Cubs the lead that they did not relinquish. Of course you'd like to have another look at it, so here it is:

The Cubs really had no business winning this game, something Len and JD also alluded to during the broadcast. Jon Lester, to put it charitably, was awful. He slogged through a 39-pitch first inning in which the Brewers scored a pair on a couple of walks, a couple of hits, a couple of stolen bases and one play by Lester in which he couldn't get to first base in time to take a throw from Rizzo to record an out.

The Brewers tacked on two more runs in the fifth. Lester loaded the bases with nobody out on a double and two more walks, and Joe Maddon, thankfully, relieved Lester of his duties after he had thrown 100 pitches to record 12 outs. Justin Grimm struck out Chris Carter and looked good doing it, but the platoon advantage raised its head and Joe summoned Clayton Richard to face Scooter Gennett.

Richard did induce the ground ball he was looking for, but it bounced too high over Kris Bryant's head and it was 4-0 Brewers.

The Cubs looked meek against Junior Guerra until the sixth, when Ben Zobrist singled in Bryant after he'd reached on a single and advanced on an error by Gennett. Zobrist had two hits for the second straight game.

But it just didn't look like the Cubs were going to generate any further offense. Tommy La Stella had run himself into an inning-ending out at second base in the fifth after a single to left-center that he tried to stretch into a double. With Bryant and Rizzo up following, that didn't seem like a good idea. TLS did wind up going 3-for-3 on the day.

And Addison Russell had to leave the game in the middle innings. Fortunately, this doesn't sound like anything serious:

The other big story of this game, beyond Rizzo's game-winning double, was the return of Joe Nathan to the major leagues after missing more than a year with Tommy John surgery. Nathan allowed a triple to Jonathan Villar, the first hitter he faced, and then walked Hernan Perez, who promptly stole second.

Chris Bosio came out for a visit with Nathan. Did you know that Bosio retired from pitching only three years before Nathan made his major-league debut?

Anyway, whatever Bosio said must have worked, because Nathan proceeded to strike out the three best hitters in the Brewers lineup, Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter. The Lucroy K was particularly good, as he got him flailing at a slider in the dirt. And then there's this:

No doubt, Maddon will use Nathan sparingly, likely not using him for more than an inning at a time (he threw 29 pitches in this one) or on back-to-back days. But here's a guy who I didn't think had anything left, and clearly, he does. Happy to have been wrong. He looks like he'll be a fine addition to the pen. Here's his first Cubs strikeout, of Braun:

Not that individual pitcher wins mean that much, but I'm guessing this one means a lot to Nathan, his first as a Cub (and first in the major leagues since September 23, 2014.

Also, the sixth-inning battery of David Ross and Nathan is the oldest for the Cubs in more than seven decades.

Here are all the men who have pitched for the Cubs at age 41 (Nathan's age) or older:

Rk Player Year G Age Tm Lg GS CG SHO GF
1 Hoyt Wilhelm 1970 3 47 CHC NL 0 0 0 2
2 Elmer Singleton 1959 21 41 CHC NL 1 0 0 12
3 Dutch Leonard 1953 45 44 CHC NL 0 0 0 27
4 Dutch Leonard 1952 45 43 CHC NL 0 0 0 36
5 Dutch Leonard 1951 41 42 CHC NL 1 0 0 28
6 Dutch Leonard 1950 35 41 CHC NL 1 0 0 21
7 Charlie Root 1941 19 42 CHC NL 15 6 0 4
8 Charlie Root 1940 36 41 CHC NL 8 1 0 10

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/24/2016.

And here are all the catchers who have caught for the Cubs at age 39 (Ross' age) or older:

Rk Player Year G Age Tm Lg PA AB
1 David Ross 2016 44 39 CHC NL 139 109
2 Jim Hegan 1960 24 39 CHC NL 45 43
3 Clyde McCullough 1956 14 39 CHC NL 22 19
4 Walker Cooper 1955 54 40 CHC NL 119 111
5 Walker Cooper 1954 57 39 CHC NL 181 158
6 Al Todd 1943 21 41 CHC NL 46 45
7 Gabby Hartnett 1940 37 39 CHC NL 73 64

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/24/2016.

As you can see, the only year (before now) in which the Cubs had a 39-year-old catcher and a 41-year-old pitcher was 1940, when Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett and Cubs ace Charlie Root were in the twilight of their careers. July 25, 1940 was the last time Hartnett caught in a game where Root pitched.

So you saw something Sunday that hadn't happened in 76 years -- almost to the day.

Suffice to say that this game likely has much more significance, as the 1940 Cubs finished in fourth place at 75-79. This year's team has loftier goals, and wins like Sunday's can, I believe, get them back on the track they were on in the season's first half. The game ran over four hours (4:08) -- but who cares with a comeback like that? -- and the teams combined for 353 pitches (194 by the Cubs, 159 by the Brewers). Cubs pitchers walked eight, but struck out 16. Meanwhile, on the walk watch, Cubs hitters walked six times, giving them 405 for the season, an average of 4.18 per game. Pace: 676.

Travis Wood, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon (18th save) finished up (although not until Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit another homer -- what's gotten into that guy against the Cubs?) and the Cubs had their third straight series win. They've now won seven of their last 10 heading into the four-game set against the White Sox that begins Monday night at the Cell. Jake Arrieta will go for the Cubs and Miguel Gonzalez for the Sox.