The Cubs spent much of the end of June treading water, never getting more than two games over .500. This blowout win put them back there at 37-35, but they now trailed the Brewers in the N.L. Central by 1½ games.
How many times have I written this? How many times have you thought this?
“There’s a game that could send the Cubs on a long winning streak.”
Maybe, just maybe, the Cubs’ 11-1 crushing of the Marlins Thursday night will be that game.
The Cubs didn’t waste any time beginning their long-ball barrage. After a quick first inning in which Jeff Locke and Jake Arrieta both threw only seven pitches, the Cubs loaded the bases in the top of the second on two singles, a groundout advancing the runners and an intentional walk (on a 3-0 count). Arrieta hit a ground ball to short, but J.T. Riddle’s throw to second was late. Jake was credited with an RBI single.
Next up was Mark Zagunis, making his major-league debut. He hit into a force play, scoring another run. Zagunis then stole second base. That’s one more steal than he had in 65 games at Triple-A Iowa this year.
Jake continued mowing down Marlins hitters, with the exception of Marcell Ozuna, who hit a solo shot off Jake to make it 2-1. The Cubs got their own power display started in the fourth with two runners on base [VIDEO].
Kris Bryant’s 16th home run of the season was his first since June 13, and also his first with more than one runner on base. It went a long, long way:
Bryant had been in an 0-for-12 skid, but is now 4-for-11 over his last three games with a double, a homer and four runs scored.
Addison Russell made it 6-1 in the fifth [VIDEO].
Russell also had a single and two doubles; his four-hit night was his second such game of the season, but first since April 24. Suddenly a hot hitter, Russell is hitting .382/.400/.853 (13-for-34) over his last 10 games with four home runs. Thursday night’s homer was measured at exactly the same distance as Bryant’s and landed in almost exactly the same spot:
The Cubs’ last home run of the night [VIDEO] was contributed by Willson Contreras with a runner on base in the seventh.
That made it 8-1, but the Cubs’ offense wasn’t done. Russell doubled in a run in the eighth and then with two men on base, Ian Happ’s fourth hit of the night, a double, made it 11-1. Fun fact about Happ and Russell both having four hits:
Happ & Russell each have 4 hits tonight.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 23, 2017
Only time 1913-present the #Cubs have had two players age 23 or younger collect 4+ hits in a game.
Beyond the 16-hit, four-walk attack, the other excellent thing about this one was Arrieta’s solid performance. It was his best start of the season, and just the second time he’d gone seven innings. He allowed just three hits and a run and didn’t walk anyone. He threw just 82 pitches and, to open the complaint department door just a tiny bit, I was somewhat surprised that Joe Maddon didn’t let him try to finish the game. He could certainly have gone at least one more inning, considering the pressure that’s been on the Cubs’ bullpen most of this season.
But on came the pen, and Felix Pena and Brian Duensing completed the game without incident.
This game represented what we all figured we’d see much more of from the Cubs this year: timely hitting, sprinkled in with a bit of power, and outstanding starting pitching. Cubs starting pitching, at least, has been pretty good over the last seven games, of which the Cubs have won five, and they have outscored their opponents 39-16 over that span. That includes allowing just seven runs total over the last five games, and the Cubs are 4-1.
So maybe what you’re thinking, and what I’ve been writing, is finally happening. The Cubs are getting better offensive performances (well, except for Wednesday’s clunker against the Padres) and more consistent pitching. Stretch that out over the next week or two and this team very well could enter the All-Star break in first place.
The win kept the Cubs 1½ games behind the Brewers in the N.L. Central, and even with Milwaukee in the loss column, and they seem to be putting a bit of distance between them and the three other teams in the division. The Cardinals now trail the Cubs by 3½ games, the Pirates are 4½ back of the Cubs and the Reds, who have lost 11 of their last 12, are 6½ behind the Cubs.
Well done! Keep this going. Friday night, John Lackey goes for the Cubs and Jose Urena for the Marlins.