After the Cubs defeated the Phillies May 4, they lost four in a row and looked bad doing it, including being swept by the Yankees on a frigid weekend at Wrigley. Then they suffered through a snow-out of their first scheduled game in Denver, forcing a doubleheader vs. the Rockies. The first-game loss was the fourth straight, then they beat the Rox behind John Lackey in Game 2. They were 17-16, in third place, 1½ games out of first place in the N.L. Central, following this win.
Raise your hand if you predicted that John Lackey would be the first Cubs starter to throw seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts in 2017.
I don’t see any hands, and I shouldn’t, because you didn’t. (Jon Lester also has thrown seven shutout innings this year, but he struck out just three in that outing.)
Lackey was outstanding, just what the Cubs needed to end their four-game losing streak. Javier Baez and Kris Bryant homered in an 8-1 win over the Rockies. Just how outstanding was Lackey?
Lackey joined Pedro Martinez (Expos, 1997) as the only opposing starting pitchers to throw seven shutout innings and strike out 10 [at Coors Field.]
Well now, that’s pretty good company.
In Tuesday’s first game, some poor Cubs defense helped lead to a big inning with unearned runs for the Rockies. The Rox returned the favor in the nightcap. Trevor Story and DJ LeMahieu, both of whom have good defensive reputations, committed throwing errors in what became a five-run Cubs second inning. The scoring began with a solid RBI single from Lackey [VIDEO].
Lackey, who was a .104/.132/.137 hitter in his career (19-for-183) before 2017, is 4-for-13 this year, including a double.
Albert Almora Jr. and Bryant also had RBI hits in the inning and Jeimer Candelario, up from Triple-A Iowa as the 26th man for the second game, drew a bases-loaded walk. Candelario also singled and scored a run. It’s possible that after the series is over and the Cubs won’t need nine relievers (I hope not, anyway!) that Candelario might stick around as a bench player, at least until Jason Heyward returns from the disabled list.
As Lackey kept mowing down Rockies hitters, the Cubs increased their lead with home runs. Baez hit the first Cubs homer of the game in the eighth [VIDEO].
That two-run shot, Baez’s fifth, made it 7-0, and after the Rockies got a consolation run (unearned) off Felix Pena in the eighth, Bryant got that run back in the ninth [VIDEO].
That homer, hit to the opposite field, wasn’t significant in the game score, but could be significant for Bryant, who said during spring training he was going to make a point of trying to hit more to right field this year.
I was a little bit puzzled as to why Joe Maddon felt he had to make a pitching change with a seven-run lead and one out and a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth. But I suppose he felt he really wanted to win this one and didn’t want the Rockies to even get close. Brian Duensing was summoned to face Charlie Blackmon and Gerardo Parra and struck them both out. After a rough start Duensing has been really good over his last seven appearances: 8⅔ innings, four hits, two walks, no runs, nine strikeouts.
So between Lackey, Pena and Duensing in the second game and Dylan Floro’s solid 4⅓-inning outing in Game 1, the rest of the Cubs bullpen should now feel very rested going into the series finale Wednesday afternoon. Then everyone has another day of rest Thursday on the off day before beginning a series against the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday evening.
The crowd at Coors Field for Game 2 sounded overwhelmingly Cubs-centric on the TV broadcast; if you were there let us know how many Cubs fans there were among the announced attendance of 36,563.
As I noted above, it’s entirely possible the Cubs will choose to keep Candelario around for a few days as a fourth bench player. Jason Heyward is eligible to return from the DL next Tuesday when the Cubs take on the Brewers at Wrigley Field. I can’t imagine them carrying nine relievers all the way through the weekend. Pena, who has options remaining, could be sent back to Iowa.
The Cubs, meanwhile, have a chance to win the series Wednesday afternoon at 2:10 p.m. CT. The Cubs last won a series in Coors Field in April 2015 (they lost two of three last year), so that’d be a nice way to end this series. Kyle Hendricks will go for the Cubs and German Marquez for the Rockies.
And guess what? Rain is in the forecast again.