It might have been six homers, but Jay Bruce robbed Kyle Schwarber of a potential home run (which would have meant Kyle would have wound up with 30 on the season). The Cubs again had to win this one to get back to .500. At 32-32, they were still just one game out of first place in the N.L. Central.
Before Tuesday, Anthony Rizzo had led off once as a Cub, and that game didn’t even matter. It was in spring training this year, in Las Vegas against the Reds. He hit a home run leading off that game.
So in his first official trip to the plate as a leadoff hitter, Rizzo figured he’d just do it again [VIDEO].
That home run: Crushed!
Totally random fun fact about Rizzo’s homer:
Anthony Rizzo: first #Cubs player with leadoff HR in first MLB start leading off since Dee Fondy June 12, 1951— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 14, 2017
Jon Lester was touched for a Mets run in the bottom of the first inning that tied the game. You are forgiven if you had a “Here we go again” moment, because Lester had been demolished a year ago at Citi Field in a game where the Cubs also scored in the first inning.
The second inning put those fears to rest when the Cubs put seven on the board, all after two out. The inning included a single by Lester and Ian Happ’s first career grand slam [VIDEO].
That made it 6-1, and later in the inning Addison Russell added a two-run double to make it 8-1.
Totally random fun fact about Happ’s slam:
Ian Happ is the youngest switch-hitter in #Cubs franchise history to hit a grand slam. Previously, Larry Corcoran on June 20, 1882.— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) June 14, 2017
If Corcoran’s name seems familiar to you even though he played more than a century ago, he was a pitcher (though he did play some other positions as well), and you might have heard of him when Jake Arrieta threw his second no-hitter, as Corcoran’s one of two other Cubs (Ken Holtzman) to throw multiple no-nos. (It should be noted that Corcoran, who threw three no-hitters in the 1880s, threw them from a pitching distance of 56 feet. The current 60 feet, six inches distance wasn’t established until 1893.)
Lester then settled down to finish an excellent seven-inning, five-hit, 10-strikeout outing, by far his best on the road this year. He lowered his 2017 road ERA from 7.11 to 5.85 with this game, and here are all 10 strikeouts in 10 seconds [VIDEO].
The Cubs pounded out 15 hits. Kyle Schwarber had one of them — a single, his first since May 17. Schwarber might have added to the home-run parade if not for this terrific catch by Jay Bruce [VIDEO].
Jason Heyward had two hits, including this towering home run [VIDEO].
Check out the launch angle on that one:
In the next inning, Kris Bryant hit a homer with an even steeper launch angle:
That homer just barely made it over the left-field wall — listen carefully and you can hear it clang off a metal railing.
The final homer of the night for the Cubs was hit by Javier Baez [VIDEO].
Felix Pena served up back-to-back homers to Neil Walker and Lucas Duda in the ninth to cut the Cubs’ margin of victory from 13 runs to 11. At some point I’d expect Pena to be exchanged for one of the other relievers on the Iowa shuttle. Before Pena’s homer-happy inning, Justin Grimm had thrown a scoreless eighth and he has been outstanding since his recall: six appearances, seven innings, no runs allowed, 12 strikeouts (of 25 batters faced), 0.571 WHIP. Grimm has good stuff and if he’s harnessed his command and control as he did for most of 2015, he can be an excellent addition to the Cubs’ late-inning relief corps.
In addition to the 15-hit attack, the Cubs drew nine walks Tuesday evening. That gives them 259, tops in the National League this year. That’s an average of 4.05 per game, a pace for 656, which would tie last year’s franchise record. Unfortunately, all these walks haven’t resulted in enough runs. The 14-run outburst brought the season total to 300, which is 4.69 runs per game, a pace for 759, considerably fewer than last year’s 808. Last year’s Cubs also led the N.L. in fewest runs allowed, and that’s also been a problem this year. The 2017 Cubs have allowed 292 runs so far, sixth-best in the league.
I wish I knew how to figure this team. They’ve scored 22 runs and hit 10 home runs in their last three games, but won only two of the three because the offense mostly vanished in the third one (Monday’s loss). If this team can start putting these kinds of offensive explosions together on a more consistent basis, a long winning streak could happen.
The Rizzo leadoff experiment is likely to continue, for a while at least, after he went 2-for-4 with the homer and a bases-loaded walk drawn in a really nice at-bat after he was down 0-2 in the count.
The Brewers defeated the Cardinals in the second game of their doubleheader Tuesday night, so the Cubs still trail by one game, although they are even with Milwaukee in the loss column. They are ahead of the Cardinals by 1½ games in the N.L. Central.
The Cubs will go for the series win Wednesday evening. Mike Montgomery will go for the Cubs against the Mets’ Matt Harvey.