The Cubs actually fell below .500 by losing the first two games of a weekend series in Cincinnati. This win brought them back to the break-even point at 41-41. They were still in second place in the N.L. Central, now two games behind the Brewers.
Well, that’s a relief.
The Cubs don’t have to slink back to Chicago having been swept by the Reds. Instead, they come home for an off day happily after Ian Happ drove in four of their six runs with two homers and a single. The Cubs’ 6-2 win over the Reds brought them back to the .500 mark — for the 18th time this year. Hopefully, they’ll now go on a streak and leave that level behind for good this year.
Happ’s first home run [VIDEO] came with one out in the second inning and Willson Contreras on base after a walk:
That one went a long way:
July 2, 2017
And two innings later, Happ went deep again [VIDEO].
That gives Happ 12 homers for the season — in just 45 games. It’s his second two-homer game of the year:
#Cubs with 2 multi-HR games through first 45 career MLB games— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 2, 2017
Mandy Brooks did it in 1925, a year in which he played 90 games and hit .281/.322/.513 with 25 doubles, seven triples and 14 home runs. One of these days I’m going to look into his career and find out why he played only 26 big-league games after 1925.
Anyway, Happ was continuing to demolish the Reds singlehandedly. He came to bat with runners on first and second in the sixth and singled in a run to make it 4-0. After that he stole second, his second steal of the season. That produced this fun fact:
Ian Happ: first #Cubs player with 2 HR & a Stolen Base in a game within first 45 career games since Ryne Sandberg 4/23/1982— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 2, 2017
Well, that’s good company.
The headline to this recap might have been “The Ian Happ game,” but we need to also give credit to Anthony Rizzo, who hit this massive home run in the seventh:
Anthony Rizzo clubs a solo home run to right field in the top of the 7th, extending the Cubs lead to 5-0!!! #ThatsCub pic.twitter.com/KbNqyHhw2k— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) July 2, 2017
Look how high that one soared:
July 2, 2017
Nice grab, too, by the fan on the carom off the beer sign.
Javier Baez, who had three hits on the day, drove in the Cubs’ sixth run with a double in the eighth after an Addison Russell single. It might have been more runs, but Contreras was ruled out at third on a Reds challenge after taking an extra base on an infield grounder by Happ.
While the Cubs offense clicked when it needed to in Sunday’s game, let’s also give credit to Jake Arrieta. Is this the return of 2015 Jake? (Probably not, no one could do that again.) Or even 2016 Jake, we’d take that. He threw seven outstanding innings, 69 strikes in 100 pitches, allowing just one hit (a clean line-drive single in the first inning by Joey Votto) and two walks, with six strikeouts. A return to good form from Arrieta would be a huge boost to the Cubs in the season’s second half.
Justin Grimm and Koji Uehara ruined the shutout by giving up two hits apiece in the eighth inning, allowing the Reds to score a pair. That forced Joe to go to Carl Edwards Jr. to finish off the inning, which he did by striking out Adam Duvall with two runners on base.
With a four-run lead Joe called on Pedro Strop to finish up, which he did uneventfully, allowing one hit.
At this writing, the Brewers are losing to the Marlins; if that score holds up the Cubs will move back to within two games of first place in the N.L. Central.
The Cubs wrap this series 6-3 for the season against the Reds. They’ll surely enjoy their off day Monday, the final off day before the All-Star break. They’ll take on Joe Maddon’s old team, the Tampa Bay Rays, in a two-game set starting Tuesday afternoon. Former Cubs farmhand Chris Archer will go for the Rays and John Lackey for the Cubs.