The Cubs’ 10-2 win over the Marlins, their fifth consecutive victory, didn’t start out propitiously.
Jake Arrieta allowed a single with one out and then walked the bases loaded. Then he induced J.T. Realmuto to hit what looked like an inning-ending double-play ball to Addison Russell.
Russell double-clutched it just long enough to allow Realmuto to beat the relay to first base and a run scored.
Yes, another first-inning run. You have definitely heard this before, and perhaps more so from Arrieta than anyone else on the Cubs staff. That made 11 earned runs in 12 first innings for Jake this year, an 8.25 ERA. (He’s got a 3.49 ERA in all other innings this year.) The Cubs as a team have allowed 51 first-inning runs (and 14 first-inning homers), their most in any inning, and by a lot (next most: 31 runs in the fourth inning).
But then the script flipped. Including Realmuto’s force play, Jake retired 16 in a row and 17 of 18. The only other Marlins baserunner off him until the seventh was a two-out walk in the sixth. Jake’s velocity looked good, he got a couple of called strikeouts and in general, seemed at least back to where he was a year ago. He also got some defensive help, particularly from Kris Bryant [VIDEO].
Meanwhile, Cubs bats were taking their time getting going off Jeff Locke, a pitcher they had hit hard and with regularity when he was a member of the Pirates. Through four innings the Cubs had just two singles and a pair of walks. Runners had been in scoring position in the second and third, but no one crossed the plate. This was beginning to sound like a familiar 2017 story until the fifth.
The first two Cubs hitters flied to center in that inning, but you could see they were starting to get to Locke, who then walked Jon Jay.
Or did he?
I’ve got to be fair here. This call was pretty bad by plate umpire Paul Emmel. The Cubs will surely take it, but there’s certainly another argument here for the robot umpires.
Perhaps this bad call got to Locke, who then walked Bryant.
That brought Marlins pitching coach Juan Nieves out for a visit with Locke. Whatever he said helped... the Cubs, because Anthony Rizzo sent a 1-0 pitch into the right-field bleachers [VIDEO].
That was about the only way anyone was going to get a baseball out of Wrigley Field Tuesday night, with the wind blowing in again, this time at 15 miles per hour. That laser beam of a homer made it 3-1 Cubs. Rizzo really likes hitting Locke:
Anthony Rizzo in 33 career PA vs Jeff Locke:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 7, 2017
.379/.424/1.000 with 5 HR #Cubs
Willson Contreras then reached on an error by shortstop J.T. Riddle and Jason Heyward doubled off the wall in right-center to make it 4-1.
Jake went out for the seventh inning at 97 pitches. I didn’t think this was a bad idea, as he had been cruising since the first. But when Realmuto smashed a triple off the wall in right to lead off the inning, Joe Maddon came to get him. Jake left to warm applause and Brian Duensing, who hadn’t pitched in a week, entered to face Riddle. He got Riddle to hit a sharp ground ball at Russell, who couldn’t handle it. Realmuto scored (he might have even if Russell fields that cleanly) to make it 4-2.
Pedro Strop then entered the game and got Tyler Moore to hit a comebacker, which turned into a double play. Pinch-hitter Derek Dietrich doubled. The next hitter was Ichiro Suzuki, entering for the second day as a pinch-hitter to a nice ovation. It’s really good to see the Wrigley crowds acknowledging Ichiro’s great career.
It was also really good to see Strop strike him out to end the inning. Pedro has had his struggles this year, but he has now made nine consecutive scoreless appearances covering 8⅓ innings, with seven strikeouts. If he can continue pitching at this level, it will take a lot of pressure off Carl Edwards Jr. to be the sole setup man.
Then the Cubs blew the game open in the bottom of the seventh. Three of the four runs scored up to that time had been on Rizzo’s homer, and the Cubs had scored very few runs over the course of this winning streak that had not been on homers.
That all changed in the seventh inning off reliever Brian Ellington, who might quickly be on the “A” train back to the minor leagues after his outing.
Bryant doubled and was singled in by Rizzo. Contreras struck out, but Heyward made it 6-2 with a double, his third hit of the game. Albert Almora Jr. singled Heyward to third; both scored on a double by Javier Baez, the third Cubs double of the inning. Ian Happ batted for Strop and walked and one out later Jay hit the Cubs’ fourth two-bagger of the inning, driving in a pair to complete a six-run inning, the biggest Cubs inning of 2017 — all without a home run.
That’s great to see, and gives signs that this team’s offense can score the way the 2016 Cubs did.
After that Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon both threw scoreless innings. That, too, was good to see, because both those pitchers have had rough times this year. If those relievers can get back to previous form, the Cubs might have a strong bullpen that doesn’t need further adjustment.
Thus the complaint department door is locked up tight after this one, a satisfying victory with contributions offensively from just about everyone (Russell went 0-for-4, the only starting position player who didn’t have a hit) on another cool night for early June.
The Cubs go for the sweep Wednesday night, when the weather will again be a bit cool and breezy for this time of year. John Lackey will go for the Cubs and Jose Urena for the Marlins.