The Cubs absolutely crushed the Reds all year; win No. 102 was no different. It brought the Cubs’ record to 102-57 and gave them a lead in the N.L. Central of 18½ games.
Here’s how you feel, right? Drumming your fingers on a table, waiting for the first postseason game next Friday, but first, we’ve got to watch a couple more meaningless contests, and then make it through four off days. (Credit to Cubs TV analyst Jim Deshaies for the line from Friday night’s broadcast that I used for the headline to this recap.)
At least Friday night’s game was entertaining. The Cubs defeated the Reds 7-3, and in so doing got five solid innings out of a pitcher who might be part of next year’s bullpen, or even considered for rotation backup.
Jake Buchanan, who hadn’t pitched in 25 days, put together five strong innings, allowing no runs. His velocity is average, but he throws a decent sinker and induces ground balls with it (six ground ball outs out of his 15 outs). Not bad for a guy picked up off the scrap heap (released by the Astros at the end of spring training). Granted that he’s facing a team that isn’t very good, but since the games of the final week of this season are kind of being played like spring games, Joe Maddon and the coaching staff got a good long look at someone in advance of 2017.
For a while, Cubs bats were quiet, although many of the early outs were fly balls, hinting that the bats would eventually come alive. The first 13 Cubs were retired by Josh Smith before Ben Zobrist launched a baseball into the right-field seats for his 16th homer of the year (and first since September 12).
In the next inning, two singles and a walk loaded the bases and a run scored when Kris Bryant hit into a force play, beating a relay throw to first, his 102nd RBI of the season. The Reds made it 2-1 with a single run off Trevor Cahill in the bottom of that inning, but the Cubs got their two-run lead back with doubles by Zobrist and Addison Russell in the seventh.
Before Russell’s RBI double, he made this nice leaping catch of a line drive hit by Steve Selsky in the bottom of the sixth. Love the big grin on Russell’s face after he made that grab.
The Cubs put the game away in the eighth. Dexter Fowler walked and Bryant singled. They both moved up a base on a wild pitch, and then Anthony Rizzo singled them both in to make it 5-1. Rizzo moved up to 108 RBI, tied with Matt Kemp for second in the National League.
Zobrist followed that with his second homer of the game to make it 7-1:
The homers were the Cubs’ 38th and 39th off the Reds this year, the most any Cubs team has hit off any single opponent in a season (previous record: 37, against the Cardinals in 1955) — with two games to go. More on this:
Most HR by #Cubs vs single opponent in a season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) October 1, 2016
38 - 2016 vs Reds
37 - 1955 vs Cardinals
36 - 1961 vs Reds
That tweet was sent before Zobrist’s second homer, so the total is now 39. That 1961 Reds team won the N.L. pennant and the Cubs lost 90 games that year, so that was a pretty good performance. It should also be noted that the 1955 and 1961 homer marks were set in 22 games against those teams, while the Cubs’ 39 against the Reds this year have been hit in 17 games, with two more against the Reds to go. Also for Zobrist:
Ben Zobrist:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) October 1, 2016
2 HR tonight,
2 HR in previous 62 games.
Carl Edwards Jr. threw the ninth and struck out Hernan Iribarren, but the ball got far away from Miguel Montero and Iribarren reached base. Joey Votto followed with a long home run to make it 7-3. Edwards recovered to retire the next three hitters to end the game.
The Cubs still have a chance to win 104 games this year, which would tie the 1909 and 1910 teams for third-most in franchise history. So there’s still something to look forward to as we somewhat impatiently wait for the postseason to begin.
On the walk watch: The Cubs walked four times Friday night. The season total is 644. Seven more in the season’s last two games will break the franchise record.
On the run watch: The seven runs Friday evening brought the season total to 797, so the Cubs need just three runs over the final two games for 800, which would be just the third time since 1937 that any Cubs team had scored that many (806 in 1970, 855 in 2008).
On the run differential watch: The four-run win brought the Cubs’ run differential to +252. If they can keep it at that number or higher, it will be second-best in franchise history (best, +323 in 1906, current second-best, +251 in 1935).