The Cubs needed to win this game just to get back to .500 after that four-game skid. They were 31-31 after this win, but still just one game out of first place in the N.L. Central.
After four straight losses, the Chicago Cubs really needed to win Sunday’s game.
Why “needed,” this early in the season? Well, to end the homestand with a winning record and to go into a road trip where they are playing teams they should beat on a positive note.
They accomplished those goals by smashing four home runs and defeating the Rockies 7-5 on a steaming-hot afternoon at Wrigley Field where the temperature soared into the mid-90s. That ended two streaks: the Cubs’ four-game losing streak and the Rockies’ seven-game winning streak.
And the Cubs went with a different lineup Sunday, benching Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber and installing Jon Jay in the leadoff spot.
That paid off with a four-run first inning after Jake Arrieta had a bit of a shaky first (including failing to cover first base on a possible double play), but didn’t allow any runs.
Jay and Kris Bryant singled, and Anthony Rizzo doubled in Jay while Bryant held at third. That brought up Ben Zobrist, and he hit a ball that had a little help from the wind [VIDEO].
Zobrist’s three-run homer, his first since May 25 (and he’d been in a 3-for-41 slump since then), gave the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
No lead is safe against this powerful Rockies team, but Jake did all right for three innings, allowing two more hits in the fourth but getting out of the jam.
Then the fifth inning happened and Jake seemed to simply lose command after a leadoff double by Tony Wolters. He walked pinch-hitter Raimel Tapia and hit Charlie Blackmon to load the bases. That seemed to upset Jake, as he then walked DJ LeMahieu on four pitches to make it 4-1. He got Carlos Gonzalez on a called third strike for the first out. Mr. Gonzalez took umbrage with plate umpire Marvin Hudson’s call and was given the rest of the afternoon off.
But then Mark Reynolds singled to make it 4-2, and that was the end of Arrieta’s afternoon.
Carl Edwards Jr. entered and gave up a two-run single to Ian Desmond and the game was tied.
But after that CJ settled down and finished off the fifth inning as well as the sixth with no further Rockies baserunners.
But the Cubs had blown a 4-0 lead and that didn’t feel very good.
That is, until Addison Russell came to bat with two out and nobody on in the sixth [VIDEO].
Russell’s homer had a little help from the wind and landed in the left-field basket below the ribbon board to make it 5-4.
Schwarber was next, batting for Edwards. Kyle ran the count full and then hit a baseball thrown by Jordan Lyles that needed no help from any wind to leave the yard [VIDEO].
Schwarber’s homer landed in just about the last row in right-center field. The full house requested a curtain call, which was granted.
That homer was fun to watch. However, I will now throw a wet blanket on it:
Kyle Schwarber last 7 Hits:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 11, 2017
HR, HR, HR, 2B, HR, 2B, HR
Still no singles since May 17th#Cubs
It’s extra bases or nothing for Kyle recently.
Jay doubled, his second hit of the game, after Schwarber’s homer, but ws stranded.
The Cubs sent one more baseball into the seats [VIDEO], hit by Miguel Montero in the eighth inning.
That made it 7-4. Credit to Koji Uehara for throwing two 1-2-3 innings, the seventh and eighth, taking pressure off the rest of the pen. He threw only 19 pitches to get those six outs, and it was the first time he had thrown two innings in a game in nearly two years, since July 24, 2015, and that was the only time he did it that year.
So then it was up to Wade Davis, who got the first two outs easily. Then Blackmon singled and moved up on defensive indifference, where he scored on a single by LeMahieu. Now it’s 7-5 and the tying run is at the plate. The Cubs didn’t hold LeMahieu and he also took second base, but Davis (13th save) got Alexi Amarista to fly to left to end it.
It’s notable that the lineup that started this game was the lineup that played much of last year’s postseason, with Jay instead of Dexter Fowler and Montero catching in place of Willson Contreras. The lineup produced the Cubs’ biggest offensive output (seven runs, 12 hits) since the last game of the previous winning streak, the 10-2 win over the Marlins last Tuesday.
Which leads me to this thought: Maybe all of Joe Maddon’s mixing and matching isn’t working with this bunch, and maybe they ought to stick with this lineup for a while, with the exception of Contreras catching (and maybe Albert Almora Jr. against certain lefthanders). As you know, I’ve been a proponent of Jay leading off and he did the job well Sunday, going 2-for-5.
And that brings me to something else. You know I’ve also been a proponent of sending Schwarber to Triple-A. If the Cubs do indeed stick with Sunday’s lineup for a while, it doesn’t help Schwarber to sit on the bench and pinch-hit three times a week. Why not send him to Iowa for a week or so to help him get his stroke back? The same with Ian Happ, who played just 26 games at Triple-A before being called up for his first big-league action. Sure, Happ started hot, but since May 22 he’s hitting .133/.233/.321 (7-for-53) with 24 strikeouts. I think Happ needs more Triple-A time.
Send them both down, bring back Jeimer Candelario as a bench player, maybe find someone on the waiver wire who could pinch-hit and fill in defensively.
At this writing the Diamondbacks are leading the Brewers 6-0 in the bottom of the seventh. Assuming that score holds up the Cubs will once again be just one game out of first place in the N.L. Central and even in the loss column with Milwaukee.
And so this win was a nice way to send the Cubs on the road to New York and Pittsburgh. The Mets have gotten some of their injured players back (notably Yoenis Cespedes, who hit a grand slam Saturday in his first game back) and won four of their last five, but the Cubs should go into this series with a chance to win it.
Monday evening in New York, John Lackey faces Jacob deGrom in the first of a three-game series.