The just-completed weekend series between the Cubs and Brewers was well-played on both sides, with good pitching and timely hitting.
Fortunately for our favorite team, most of that was in favor of the Cubs and they did it again in a 4-2 win Sunday afternoon that increased their lead in the N.L. Central to 2½ games.
John Lackey threw extremely well in this one. He allowed no runs to score in the first five innings and the only real trouble he was in during that time was in the second, when two singles and an intentional walk loaded the bases with two out. Then facing his opponent, Brewers pitcher Zach Davies, Lackey got him to hit a soft fly ball to right field to end the threat.
But Davies matched Lackey and the Cubs had just two singles through the first five innings.
In the top of the sixth, after the first two Cubs went down easily, Jon Jay singled and Kris Bryant followed with a double that hit the part of the left-field wall that juts out. The ball went right to Ryan Braun in left, so Jay had to stop at third.
Willson Contreras was the next hitter [VIDEO].
Contreras beat a bad throw from Davies and was credited with an RBI single. Jay scored and Bryant stopped at third. Addison Russell came up next [VIDEO].
Russell’s sharp line-drive single to center scored Bryant to make it 2-0.
Braun led off the bottom of the sixth with a single but Lackey struck out Travis Shaw. Domingo Santana then made short work of the Cubs lead:
Domingo Santana belts a home run down the right-field line off and over the right-field wall, tying the game at 2 in the bottom of the 6th pic.twitter.com/4hhX3aZRwA— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) July 30, 2017
Friday night, Heyward made a fantastic catch on a ball hit to nearly the same spot. This one went off the top of the wall just out of J-Hey’s reach and the game was tied.
Give credit to Lackey. He had a very good outing: six innings, five hits, two runs, two walks, seven strikeouts. You’ll take that from the guy who’s essentially your fifth starter, every time. Also:
#Cubs starters in 16 games post All-Star break: 2.53 ERA, 96.0 IP, 69 H, 21 BB, 87 K, 0.938 WHIP— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 30, 2017
John Lackey: 4.12 ERA over last 7 starts— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 30, 2017
(2.65 if you took out the 5.1 IP, 8 ER start at Washington) #Cubs
Almost as quickly as the Cubs had given up the lead, they got it back:
Victor Caratini crushes his first Major League home run over the center-field wall to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead in the top of the 7th!!! pic.twitter.com/4tjYoz12I1— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) July 30, 2017
Victor Caratini, playing first base in relief of Anthony Rizzo, who sat with a sore back, smashed his first major-league home run to dead center field. As I like to say... that ball was crushed!
July 30, 2017
Congrats to Victor on his first big-league round-tripper, and I hope the folks at Miller Park got the ball back for him. That run turned out to be the game-winner.
The Cubs extended the lead to 4-2 in the eighth on a baseball everyone in Milwaukee and watching on TV could hear a “clang” on:
Kris Bryant Belts a line drive down the left-field line that hits the foul pole for a home run, extending the Cubs' lead to 4-2 in the 8th pic.twitter.com/sKfDarnU4k— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) July 30, 2017
KB’s 376-foot blast hit the left-field foul pole and established these milestones:
Bryant now 4th #Cubs player ever with 3 20-HR seasons by age 25 or younger (joins Santo, Rizzo and Williams)— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 30, 2017
Kris Bryant: first #Cubs player to hit 20 HR in each of first 3 seasons he appeared in the Majors— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 30, 2017
Note that not even Ernie Banks did that, nor did Santo or Williams, though to be fair, Bryant’s first season was a nearly-full year, while Ernie, Ron and Billy all had partial seasons as their first season in the big leagues.
The Cubs bullpen, which has been very, very good lately, was exactly that again in this one. Justin Grimm, Hector Rondon and Wade Davis (22nd save) threw three innings and allowed one hit (a single off Davis in the ninth) with a pair of strikeouts. It was especially good to see Grimm have a solid inning, as he’s been very shaky lately. Despite the fact that the Cubs pen has been good, I think Theo & Co. are still out there looking for potential relief help before Monday’s deadline.
The win, in front of another Miller Park sellout of 44,269 that sounded like majority Cubs fans, put the Cubs at a season-high eight games over .500. Beyond their 2½-game division lead, they are four games ahead of the Brewers in the loss column and at last, after a long road back, they have more wins than the Brewers (56 to 55) for the first time since May 6. The Cubs have actually played three fewer games than the Brewers, 104 to 107, and now with a comfortable division lead that’s their biggest of the 2017 season, they can simply focus on winning their own games and force the trailing teams to try to catch them. They’ve also now won four of six games against the Brewers in Miller Park this year and are 7-5 against them overall with seven games remaining, all in September. Finally, since the All-Star break the Cubs are 13-3 and the Brewers 5-11, so the Cubs have made up eight games on them in a 16-game span.
And they finished July with a 16-8 record, their best calendar month since August 2016 (22-6).
One more post-All-Star note: The Cubs have outscored their opponents 85-49 in the 16 games since the break and have allowed three runs or fewer in nine consecutive games.
The Cubs will thus certainly enjoy their bus ride back to Chicago for their off day Monday before they take on the Diamondbacks Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field with Jon Lester facing Patrick Corbin at 7:05 p.m. CT. For Monday, then, the rest of us can be on trade watch with the non-waiver deadline coming up at 3 p.m. CT tomorrow.