Another potential trip to Des Moines: Avoided!
Ian Happ, who had been 4-for-35 with 16 strikeouts in his 11 previous games before Sunday, smashed two home runs Sunday night, driving in four of the Cubs’ runs. Both of those set career bests in Happ’s brief career and helped lead the Cubs to a 7-6 win over the Cardinals.
That win gave the Cubs their second three-game sweep of the 2017 season and it was the first time they had swept their rivals at Wrigley Field in almost 11 years (a four-game sweep July 27-30, 2006).
This game didn’t start out that way. Kyle Hendricks allowed just one baserunner (a walk) in the first three innings, and that runner was erased on a double play. Hendricks was also helped out by this terrific catch by Jason Heyward on a sinking liner by Matt Carpenter:
Carpenter was impressed:
Cards' Carpenter tipped his cap to #Cubs Heyward after he made an amazing catch and robbed him of potential extra base hit— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 4, 2017
So the Cardinals had no hits through three innings. In the bottom of the third, Happ stepped up with one out:
That ball: Crushed!
Ian Happ.... Really got into that one! pic.twitter.com/BfBLrop6jQ— Daren Willman (@darenw) June 5, 2017
And then we went to the fourth inning and plate umpire Chris Guccione threw the strike zone away. I’m just going to leave these here:
That’s three in one inning! The first two helped result in walks to Dexter Fowler and Carpenter, and you know that Hendricks needs pinpoint location in order to succeed. I can’t imagine he was happy with those calls.
Stephen Piscotty made
Guccione Hendricks pay with a three-run homer. Hendricks followed with two strikeouts, but the result of the at-bat to Paul DeJong, instead of being a K, was a single. Aledmys Diaz followed with an RBI double and suddenly it was 4-1.
According to the @CubsUmp Twitter feed, Guccione missed 12 calls Sunday night. That’s a lot for any single game; most have maybe two or three, if that. Seven of those 12 hurt the Cubs, six of those while Hendricks was in the game.
Bring on the robot umpires. Please.
Anyway, the first two Cubs went down quickly in the bottom of the fourth and then the team started a rally. Miguel Montero walked — and two of the four balls in that walk were, said @CubsUmp, calls that helped the Cubs. Addison Russell followed by a single, and then this happened [VIDEO].
Albert Almora Jr., batting for Hendricks, inside-outed a single to right that got past Stephen Piscotty. Two runs scored and Almora wound up on third. An error was charged to Piscotty, though as you can see in the video, he didn’t appear to ever touch the ball. Almora could easily have been given a triple.
Now it’s 4-3. Kyle Schwarber walked (one of three walks he had on the night) and up stepped Happ [VIDEO].
Happ’s second homer of the game, a three-run shot, gave the Cubs a 6-4 lead. He hit that one nearly as hard as the first one:
Ian Happ does it again! Crushing baseballs tonight. First one was 110 MPH... This one 108 MPH. pic.twitter.com/sg1nB5rOv2— Daren Willman (@darenw) June 5, 2017
Fun fact about Happ’s two-homer night:
Ian Happ (22 y, 296 d): youngest #Cubs leadoff man with a multi-HR game since Tony Taylor (22 y, 194 d) 7/1/1958— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 5, 2017
Nine total runs scored in the fourth inning and a tight pitcher’s duel was now broken open, and both starting pitchers had departed.
The Cubs ran themselves out of a potential run in the fifth. Anthony Rizzo led off with a double off the bullpen doors in left and when it rolled away from Fowler, Rizzo tried to take third.
Anthony, we know: You’re a good and smart baserunner. Usually. But that was an unnecessary chance up by two runs. Fowler threw Rizzo out at third, depriving the Cubs of a runner in scoring position.
The Cardinals tied the game in the sixth off Hector Rondon, who allowed a single and a walk leading off the inning. One out later, Diaz hit a ball that stuck in the ivy for a ground-rule double. That turned out to be an important play, because only one run scored. Both runners likely would have scored if the ball doesn’t get stuck in Wrigley’s famed ivy.
Pedro Strop finished off the inning and then threw a 1-2-3 seventh. That allowed the Cubs to begin what turned out to be the game-winning rally in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Rizzo singled and advanced to second on a two-out single by Heyward. That brought up Jon Jay, pinch-hitting for Strop [VIDEO].
Heyward’s smart baserunning here after Jay singled, getting himself held up just long enough between second and third to allow Rizzo to score, giving the Cubs a 7-6 lead. Incidentally, that was Jay’s ninth pinch hit of the season, in just a bit more than one-third of games. The Cubs team record for pinch hits in a season is 20, set by Thad Bosley in 1985 and tied by Dave Clark in 1997. Jay’s having an excellent year as a PH and that mark could be broken. The major-league record for pinch hits in one season is 28, set by John Vander Wal in 1995.
Back to this game: after Jay’s RBI it was up to the Cubs bullpen to hold it. Carl Edwards Jr. helped himself with some slick defense [VIDEO].
That was just instinct, self-defense, on a ball hit hard by Tommy Pham. CJ finished a 1-2-3 inning and after the Cubs didn’t score in the bottom of the eighth, it was a bit of a surprise to see Koji Uehara, instead of Wade Davis, enter to close. Davis had recorded saves in each of the first two games of the series, throwing 23 pitches Saturday, but those were his first two outings since May 24. You’d have thought he’d be available, but perhaps Davis and Joe Maddon had decided that he wouldn’t go on Sunday.
Beyond that, on two previous occasions when Uehara had gone on back-to-back days in April, he was hit hard both times. Sunday was the first time he’d been in back-to-back games since May 3-4.
Fortunately, this time he was up to the task, retiring the Cardinals 1-2-3 for his second save, and former Cub Fowler was the final out, striking out to end the game and to give the Cubs their badly-needed sweep.
The Cubs improved to 6-3 over the Cardinals this year with the sweep and they’re now 18-11 against N.L. Central teams, as well as 10-8 in one-run games. After the disastrous California road trip that ended May, the Cubs have started June very, very well. After the game some players revealed they’d had a players-only meeting as the rough road trip was coming to an end:
#Cubs players met before last Wed game. Hendricks: "It was just getting back to focusing on what we do, the guys and playing the game"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 5, 2017
#Cubs Heyward: "It was just checking in, hearing how we're doing, hearing what we think about this, what we think about that"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 5, 2017
The goal of the get together in San Diego, Heyward said, was to make sure everyone was on the same page. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 5, 2017
Well, we all know what can happen after Jason Heyward says a few words in a team meeting. Whatever was said in San Diego, this team does look like it is indeed back on that same page, doing the types of things they did a year ago.
One other fun thing from ESPN’s broadcast of the game, which featured retired former Cubs catcher David Ross as a fill-in analyst. Ross, who along with Aaron Boone and Dan Shulman was stationed on the right-field party patio, had some fun with Heyward between the second and third innings:
Ross got a standing ovation from fans down the right-field line and in the right-field bleachers when he walked down that area before the game on his way to the right-field party patio where the ESPN broadcast crew was stationed.
A fine time was had by all (well, probably excepting any Cardinals fans in attendance) at Wrigley Field over the weekend, where earlier forecasts of rain and thunderstorms did not come to pass, and all three days turned into pleasant weather conditions with (mostly) the wind blowing in off Lake Michigan.
The Cubs will try to extend their winning streak to four Monday night when they begin a three-game series against the Marlins. Eddie Butler will go for the Cubs and ex-Cub Dan Straily will take the mound for the Marlins.