Last year, the Cubs were well-known for blowing away opponents. Within their first 16 games (as far as we are into 2017), the 2016 Cubs had won games by 9-0, 14-6, 9-2, 8-1 and 16-0.
This year? Jim Deshaies touched on it late in Friday night’s broadcast, noting that every year is different, even though the ballclub has most of the same personnel. I was thinking just this when he called them the “Cardiac Cubs,” and that’s the way they’ve won each of their last three games, spotting their opponent a big early lead and then coming back.
Friday night was no different. With the team trailing 5-2 with two out and two runners on base in the ninth, Anthony Rizzo squared up on a Michael Lorenzen fastball:
No quit in @ARizzo44. #ThatsCub pic.twitter.com/Ab7cPj8EVV— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 22, 2017
The ball barely made it to the first row of seats in right field and bounced back onto the playing field, but Rizzo’s three-run blast gave the Cubs new life.
Then it was up to Hector Rondon, Carl Edwards Jr. and Wade Davis, who retired nine of the 10 batters they faced in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings. A walk by Rondon was the Reds’ only baserunner in those frames.
Back in last year’s World Series, heads-up baserunning by Albert Almora Jr. helped the Cubs in their winning extra-inning rally. He showed us some of that good baseball instinct Friday night. Almora drew a one-out walk — and that at-bat was excellent, coming from an 0-2 count and laying off a couple of very close pitches. He went to third on a single by Kyle Schwarber. Kris Bryant was next, and he popped a fly ball into short left field [VIDEO].
That fly ball didn’t really go far enough for most runners to score. But Almora realized that Adam Duvall was running toward center field and would have to throw across his body and make a perfect throw to get him. Almora took a chance and the throw was offline. That gave the Cubs the run they needed for a 6-5 win over the Reds to begin this nine-game road trip.
The Cubs’ first two runs of the game came on solo homers. Jason Heyward’s first homer of the season is worth watching [VIDEO].
That ball: Crushed!
Jason Heyward's home run tonight was projected at 434ft... That's the longest HR he's hit recorded by @statcast. Previous long 423ft. pic.twitter.com/VOl3dzqnhz— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 22, 2017
The early returns on Heyward’s new batting stance are good. Sure, he occasionally still hits the weak ground ball to second base that we saw way too much of in 2016. But his .286/.333/.375 numbers (one triple, one home run) are decent enough, for now. You’d like to see more power, and I do think it will come. The homer gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
But the Cubs coughed up that lead in the bottom of the fourth, thanks in part to a two-run double by Reds pitcher Tim Adleman. Javier Baez homered [VIDEO] in the fifth to cut the lead to 3-2. It was Javy’s first of the season.
That didn’t last long. Jon Lester served up a home-run ball to Duvall in the fifth and then gave up a single and a walk with two out in the sixth. Justin Grimm was summoned and walked Patrick Kivlehan to load the bases. Then he issued another walk — to Billy Hamilton, who came into this game with four walks in 68 plate appearances and a .269 on-base percentage. That run was charged to Lester and made it 5-2.
The Cubs will tell you, as shown on this tweet from mental skills coordinator Darnell McDonald after Wednesday’s win, that they never quit:
WE NEVER QUIT #ThatsCub pic.twitter.com/2AmUXTxw02— Darnell McDonald (@MacDime54) April 19, 2017
It’s right there on the World Series ring. And they don’t. And it’s amazing to see.
You’ll forgive me if I wouldn’t mind seeing them take big early leads and keep them. The best thing about this win, beyond the fact that the Cubs did come from behind and win, was that the bullpen seems to have stabilized. After Grimm gave up the run charged to Lester, the rest of the pen threw five shutout innings, allowing one hit and two walks, striking out eight. Credit to Pedro Strop and Brian Duensing as well as the three men mentioned above.
The Cubs are expected to make a roster move before Saturday’s game:
#Cubs likely to make roster move on Saturday, and option La Stella to @IowaCubs (if no injury to anyone tonight)— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) April 21, 2017
I’ll have a separate post up if/when this move actually takes place.
The Cubs and Reds will go at it Saturday afternoon at 12:10 CT, weather permitting (and Friday’s game was played in a fairly steady rain for much of the evening). Jake Arrieta will go for the Cubs and Cody Reed for the Reds. The game preview will post at 10:30 a.m. CT.