When we last left our heroes in the previous installment, they had taken three of four from the Giants.
Then they went to the West Coast and got swept out of a six-game road trip to San Diego and Los Angeles.
This win snapped that losing streak, but the Cubs were still under .500 at 26-27. They were, however, just two games out of first place in the N.L. Central.
At last, Chicago is experiencing what I like to call “Mesa weather,” conditions like you’d see at most Cubs spring-training games. Pleasant temperatures near 80, light winds, low humidity — the calendar turned to June and the weather turned just as quickly.
Turning the wrong way is what Magneuris Sierra did on Anthony Rizzo’s fly ball to left leading off the eighth inning, a fly ball that looked fairly routine off Rizzo’s bat.
Instead, it sailed over Sierra’s outstretched glove for a double, in a game tied 2-2.
Rizzo is such a smart player. Ben Zobrist, the next hitter, grounded to third. Rizzo waited until Jhonny Peralta committed to throwing to first and took third [VIDEO].
No throw came toward third base. That set up what turned out to be the game-winner, a long sacrifice fly [VIDEO] by Jason Heyward hit to his old teammate, Dexter Fowler.
Heyward squared up real well on Trevor Rosenthal’s first pitch to provide that run. Wade Davis (11th save) threw a 1-2-3 ninth to preserve the Cubs’ 3-2 win over the Cardinals, breaking their six-game losing streak and providing a very nice way to begin a long homestand.
It didn’t start out that way. Before the game Fowler received his World Series ring to a loud ovation and hugs from all his teammates as well as Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein [VIDEO].
Dexter also received nice applause when he stepped to the plate to lead off the game, and he returned all this love not in a very nice way at all, hitting John Lackey’s sixth pitch of the game into the right-field seats. I’ll spare you the video of that, but that homer produced this tweet:
Overly specific stat of the day: pic.twitter.com/nmSVwV5Cwu— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 2, 2017
Lackey allowed another run in the second inning, but then got out of the inning by starting a double play himself and after that, he was outstanding. He retired 14 of the last 16 batters he faced, and the only two who reached base were on walks. He was helped out by another double play in the fourth inning. It was one of Lackey’s best outings of the season. More just like this one, please.
The Cubs got on the board in the third thanks to Kris Bryant [VIDEO].
That home run, on a 3-2 pitch with two out, barely made the first row in left-center. The wind, though not too hard, knocked down a couple of other Cubs fly balls that might have made the seats on other days, including Heyward’s RBI double in the sixth that tied the game. It came with runners on first and second and didn’t miss by much being a three-run homer.
Lackey was left in the game to bat for himself with one out and nobody on in the seventh. This certainly was because Joe Maddon had to burn Albert Almora Jr. as a pinch-hitter without him taking the at-bat; when Mike Matheny swapped out lefthander Tyler Lyons for righty Matt Bowman, Jon Jay batted for Almora. This left only Javier Baez on the bench, and I can understand why Joe wanted to not get stuck without a position player on the bench in a close game in the late innings.
Lackey, who came into the game hitting .222 (4-for-18), struck out.
He was relieved by Carl Edwards Jr., who immediately got himself into trouble by walking Sierra leading off the inning. CJ was trying to get his curve over the plate and failed at that, and then couldn’t command his fastball either, eventually walking the bases loaded. With two out and the bags jammed Joe called on Pedro Strop, who successfully converted the highest-leverage at-bat of the afternoon by striking out Yadier Molina.
That set the stage for the Cubs’ successful eighth-inning rally and Davis shutting things down again. He might not throw as hard as Aroldis Chapman, but he locks down the ninth inning nearly every time and it seems like nothing ever bothers him on the mound. He’s been a great acquisition.
There didn’t seem to be as much Cardinal red in the stands as you’d usually see for a June series between the two clubs, perhaps because the series is Friday afternoon/Saturday afternoon/Sunday night, and that means Monday-through-Friday 9-to-5 Cardinal fan workers from St. Louis probably could make only one game.
It’s way too early (and silly) to call a game like this “must-win,” but it certainly was good to see the Cubs get hits when they needed them most. They didn’t have many hits in this one, just five, but got them when they counted. That sort of thing might give a big boost to the entire ballclub going forward.
Saturday afternoon, the Cubs look to make it two straight over their divisional rivals with Jon Lester on the mound facing Mike Leake.