The first five and a half innings of this game were a slog through things that have been all too common through the Cubs’ 2017 season.
First-inning run given up? Check. RISP failure? Check.
And then Jon Jay came up with two runners on and two out in the bottom of the sixth, an inning in which all four previous Cubs hitters had hit the ball hard off Erasmo Ramirez, two for hits and two for outs.
Jay, nicknamed “The Federalist” here for the similarity of his name to 18th-Century Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay, came through big-time with two runners on:
Jay’s three-run homer to the opposite field awakened a crowd that had mostly slumbered through the early parts of this game and tied it 3-3. That ball went pretty high in the air before landing in the bleachers:
That was Jay’s 11th pinch hit this year. He’s 11-for-28 (.393) as a PH with the homer and seven RBI. The Cubs’ team record for PH in a season is 20, set by Thad Bosley in 1985, tied by Dave Clark in 1997. Jay has a shot at that mark.
Before Jay’s blast, John Lackey had given up yet another first-inning run, on three singles. It might have been more, but he got Steven Souza Jr. to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Lackey in the first inning this year: 13 earned runs, 6.88 ERA
Lackey in all other innings this year: 44 earned runs, 4.05 ERA
Off his first inning results only, Lackey’s a DFA candidate. In the rest of his innings, he’s a serviceable fifth starter. He did get touched up for two other runs, one in the third and one in the sixth, but completed those six innings throwing just 79 pitches (53 strikes). It was a perfectly good outing, and then Jay batted for him, so that worked out pretty well.
Here’s one possible reason for Lackey’s troubles this year:
#Cubs Lackey has been dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 5, 2017
Not to make too much of a pun out of that, but that’s a very painful malady that could give him real issues in, uh, planting his right foot, which could certainly mess things up for him. Maybe he gets used to it past the first inning and that’s why he’s been much better after that inning is over this year. This will be Lackey’s last start before the All-Star break, and (likely) the earliest he could go, presuming Jon Lester starts the first game after the break, would be the second game after the break — and most likely, later than that.
So he’s got at least 10 days to rest that foot and get treatment. Presuming he’s healthy otherwise, I look for a better second half from Lackey.
The Cubs put together their game-winning rally in the seventh. The Rays left Ramirez in to throw to Kris Bryant, but the righthander walked KB. Lefty sidearmer Adam Kolarek, throwing in just his third big-league game, gave up an opposite-field single to Anthony Rizzo, a real nice piece of hitting by Rizzo.
When Ben Zobrist came up after that I thought he might bunt to keep the team out of a double-play possibility, and he did, executing a nice sacrifice to put the runners on second and third.
Happ’s single past the pulled-in infield gave the Cubs a 5-3 lead.
In the top of the eighth, Carl Edwards Jr. retired the first two hitters (helped out by a slick stop by Addison Russell), then gave up a hit and a walk. This is something CJ does fairly often, and I’d like to see more 1-2-3 innings from him. Koji Uehara came in with Evan Longoria the scheduled hitter. This was clearly a move made by Joe with Uehara’s long history vs. Longoria from Koji’s days in the A.L. East. Longoria was 5-for-27 vs. Uehara with 13 strikeouts coming into the game, and Koji obliged this matchup by striking Longoria out to end the Rays threat.
With Wade Davis warming for a potential save, the Cubs extended the lead in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella was hit by a pitch, and with two out Bryant walked again.
That was really nice to see — another Rizzo hit to the opposite field. He was thrown out trying to take third on a pitch that got away, but the Cubs had a four-run lead. Fun fact about Rizzo’s year so far:
Anthony Rizzo (19 HR, 54 BB, 42 K) can be first #Cubs player with 15 HR & more BB than K before All-Star break since Andre Dawson in 1990— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 5, 2017
Out of the save situation leading by four in the ninth, Davis gave up a leadoff single.
Bryant then made a real nice stab to start this double play:
And after a walk, Davis got Adeiny Hechavarria to ground to Bryant to end it, and the Cubs had a well-earned split with the Rays with a well-played 7-3 win.
After so much frustration through the first four innings, when the Cubs had a runner in scoring position with less than two out in all four, it was really nice to see them do some excellent situational hitting after Jay’s homer tied the game. Those are the kinds of things we saw a lot in 2016, not so much this year. Let’s hope we start seeing much, much more of this going forward.
The Cubs thus knock half a game off the Brewers’ lead and trail them by three games in the division race. The Brewers play the Orioles in Milwaukee tonight, a game they moved up by an hour to 6:10 p.m. CT because the Brewers then have to bus to Wrigley for Thursday’s makeup of the May 20 rainout game. Personally, I don’t mind if the Brew Crew comes into Wrigley a bit tired out from tonight. Hopefully, the Orioles (who looked awful in the first two games of the series) can take one game out of their series at Miller Park.
In the Thursday afternoon contest, Mike Montgomery will go for the Cubs and Zach Davies for the Brewers.