This victory once again put the Cubs back at .500 — the 20th different time they’d been exactly at the .500 mark in 2017. They trailed the Brewers by 4½ games in the N.L. Central.
The pace of this game was very, very slow. At three hours, 46 minutes, it was the longest nine-inning game at Wrigley Field this year.
However, since the Cubs finally broke through and scored lots of runners, defeating the Pirates 6-1 after leaving seven men on in the first three innings, the complaint department door is (mostly) closed this afternoon. I will have a few thoughts on the length of this one later, primarily concerning Eddie Butler.
While the Cubs were leaving all those runners on base, so were the Pirates. They left seven men on base through four innings, leading to tweet sequences like this:
There's no way we are going to see 10 men LOB between the teams in the first two innings here, right?— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 7, 2017
Ok, 10 LOB after 2. Yeesh— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 7, 2017
Note the timestamps on those two, only three minutes apart. Butler and Trevor Williams kept getting themselves in trouble and working their way out of said trouble, even while throwing monstrous numbers of pitches.
Williams was the first one to get himself taken out of the game, and the Cubs, who had RISP in innings one through three with less than two out and could not score, had their first two hitters go down easily in the fourth.
Ben Zobrist singled, and finally, the Cubs got a run when Kris Bryant laced this ball down the left-field line [VIDEO].
Bryant wound up on third base with his second hit of the game, a triple, and given what had happened earlier, I thought this might wind up the world’s worst 1-0 game. Instead, Anthony Rizzo almost immediately made it 3-0 [VIDEO].
That ball didn’t go too far off the ground:
That was it for Williams, who threw 98 pitches and recorded 11 outs. Yeesh is right.
More yeeshing went on in the fifth, when Butler hit Josh Harrison leading off the inning and Joe Maddon decided he’d had enough. Butler: 86 pitches, only 49 strikes, 12 outs recorded, three walks, and here’s where I open the complaint department door a bit. Watching Butler in the first couple of innings, I noticed he was taking an inordinate amount of time between pitches even when the bases were empty. That’s where a 12-second pitch clock would be used. So I started timing Butler between pitches with the bases empty. In one at-bat alone he would have had five pitch-clock violations.
Here’s where that kind of pace is harmful. Fielders hate it, they’d rather be on their toes and ready for pitches to come promptly. I don’t know why Butler was working so slowly in this one, but it can’t be a good thing.
Anyway, Joe called on Carl Edwards Jr., an unusual move in the fifth inning with a 3-0 lead, but with the middle of the Pirates lineup coming up and a runner on base, it was likely the highest-leverage situation to come, and I thought the right call. CJ retired the first two hitters he faced and then, as he has done so many times after that, issued a walk. Fortunately, he got out of the inning. He issued another walk in the sixth, and with CJ at 32 pitches, Joe got him out of there for Pedro Strop, who wrapped up the inning with a groundout from Adam Frazier.
After a double play erased a promising start to the sixth (a Willson Contreras single), KB extended the lead to 4-0 [VIDEO].
Now that one had a majestic trajectory:
Had it been just a little farther toward center field it would have hit the bottom of the video board. As it was, it landed on the very back of the concourse behind left-center field:
With a 4-0 lead and the game moving a bit faster — the first four innings took two hours — the bullpen did its job. Strop did get touched up for a run in the seventh, unearned due to a throwing error by Bryant (busy guy in this one!), and Koji Uehara had a 1-2-3 eighth on only eight pitches — the only 1-2-3 inning by either side all afternoon.
A walk drawn by Contreras with one out in the eighth made it possible for Bryant to come up in the ninth with a chance to hit for the cycle. He needed a double, but certainly no Cubs fan was disappointed with the result of KB’s at-bat [VIDEO].
I can’t stress enough how important it is for the Cubs to get Bryant going. Last year’s MVP carried the team at times, but he’s struggled much of this season, even with a decent OPS (.893 entering Friday’s game). Between June 13 and Thursday, Bryant was hitting just .217/.347/.350 (13-for-60) with one home run in 18 games. Perhaps his big day Friday can get him going. When he and Rizzo hit in tandem, good things do happen.
Wade Davis, who had been warming up anticipating a save situation when Bryant homered, threw the ninth anyway and dispatched the Bucs with one walk in a scoreless frame.
A couple of fun notes about the Bryzzo combo of homers:
Most 20+ HR seasons by #Cubs lefties— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 7, 2017
13 Billy Williams
6 Bill Nicholson
5 ANTHONY RIZZO
5 Leon Durham
If you were around parts of the Chicago area early Friday, some heavy rain fell, including in the area around Wrigley Field around 8 a.m. But it cleared out by midday and the sun came out and light winds blew off Lake Michigan and it was a delightful day both weatherwise and baseball-wise. The game certainly had entertainment value even if it wasn’t well-played (the teams combined for six errors).
If the Yankees can defeat the Brewers Friday evening, the Cubs would pull to within 3½ games of first place in the N.L. Central. Rooting for the Yankees to win... well, that’s not something I usually do. An exception is being made this weekend.
Saturday, the Cubs go for two in a row over the Pirates — in fact, they’ll try for two in a row for the first time at all since they won three in a row from June 18-20. The Cubs are at .500 for the 20th different time this year and it would be nice to see them leave the break-even mark behind. Friday’s win also evened up the season series with the Pirates at five wins each.
Jake Arrieta goes for the Cubs Saturday and Ivan Nova will throw for the Pirates.