Pretty much all of us said, or thought, that when the Cincinnati Reds came to town the Cubs had to warm up the big bats and begin demolishing Reds pitching the way they’ve done over the last two years. And with this beginning a stretch of 13 games against last-place teams, it was really a time to assert leadership in a division that was there for the taking.
Man, did they, with authority and, for lack of a better term, “swagger.” The Cubs smashed three home runs in a 17-hit attack that crushed the Reds 15-5, a game that felt very much like a 2016 Cubs win.
It began early. Jon Jay singled leading off the bottom of the first and one out later, Kris Bryant doubled. Anthony Rizzo singled them both in for a 2-0 lead... a lead that Jose Quintana coughed right up in the top of the second. It might have been worse except for this terrific throw and tag by Kyle Schwarber and Alex Avila:
Kyle Schwarber nails Tucker Barnhart at home. pic.twitter.com/CVNi2TKZJG— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) August 15, 2017
Kyle might not be the most graceful left fielder. But that throw was outstanding.
Though Quintana struggled a bit in this outing, eventually throwing 105 pitches through five innings and being lifted, I honestly have few complaints about it. Too many pitches, sure, and too many walks (four), but except for that second inning he got himself out of any self-inflicted trouble. I suppose some were expecting “ace” out of Quintana because of who the Cubs gave up to get him, but that’s just not who he is. He’s a solid rotation starter who, at 28, could still improve over the next couple of years. He might be putting too much pressure on himself to succeed, and he has to realize he doesn’t have to — this is a really good team behind him. He showed flashes of the brilliance he might have in his first Cubs start a month ago at Baltimore. I suspect there’s more of that in him.
In the fourth inning, Quintana got some help from another no-look tag by Javier Baez on a caught stealing:
The Cubs smashed this one open in the fifth inning. Jason Heyward led off with a single, and after two strikeouts Jay tripled him in. That meant Jay was a home run short of a cycle with a couple of plate appearances to go.
Tommy La Stella singled in Jay to make it 4-2 and that’s when the home-run barrage began. Kris Bryant:
That made it 6-2. Rizzo was next, and his homer brought out some excellent trolling of Hawk Harrelson from the Cubs official Twitter account:
“I will never step foot in that ballpark again.” – That baseball pic.twitter.com/Ty1Q3C2pOd— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 15, 2017
That’s Grade-A trolling. Well done. And that ball... CRUSHED!
Rizzo’s career high in home runs is 32, set in 2014 and tied last year. He’s got an excellent shot at surpassing that and an outside chance at 40, if he can go on one of his patented hot streaks.
It’s 7-2, then, heading for the bottom of the seventh and Mike Montgomery has thrown two solid innings of relief. Schwarber was hit by a pitch (originally ruled not hit, it was overturned on review). One out later, Heyward singled (originally ruled an error, that was changed by the official scorer). Javy singled to load the bases, and up came Montgomery:
2-run double for Mike Montgomery. pic.twitter.com/DqpKEXbLLV— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) August 15, 2017
Montgomery now has two hits this year, both for extra bases. (Remember his home run in Atlanta?) That brought up this fun fact:
Mike Montgomery: first bases loaded double by #Cubs pitcher since Carlos Zambrano 7/17/2005— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 15, 2017
The Cubs weren’t done in the seventh. Jay, with a chance for the cycle, was intentionally passed (to boos from the crowd) and TLS hit a ball that was ruled a sacrifice fly and an error on right fielder Patrick Kivlehan (I didn’t understand that, I had scored it a single). Singles by Rizzo and Schwarber completed the scoring in that inning. Schwarber had a productive day at the plate. He did strike out in his first PA, running his streak to eight consecutive K’s, but then was hit by a pitch twice, walked and singled, so officially 1-for-2.
Despite the still-poor .193 BA, Kyle’s OBP is now .310, matching his highest since mid-May. He’s doing just fine. Since his return from Iowa: .247/.350/.551, 22-for-89, four doubles, a triple, seven home runs and 11 walks in 103 plate appearances. That’s really, really good. Yes, 39 strikeouts. Look at the rest of the numbers and your response to the K’s should be: “So what?”
Montgomery ran out of gas in the eighth and served up a two-run homer to Scooter Gennett and another run on a force play and was replaced by Justin Grimm, who got out of the inning with no further damage.
The Cubs, though, weren’t done damaging Reds pitching, although “pitching” was now a misnomer, as Gennett took the mound for the eighth:
Scooter Gennett is pitching... and he's a sidearmer!#Reds— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 15, 2017
Scooter Gennett: first player in MLB history to hit 4 HR in a game and pitch in the same season. #Reds— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 15, 2017
Gennett, firing 67 mile-per-hour “fastballs,” walked Heyward leading off the inning and that brought up Javy:
Javy’s 18th landed just to our right and bounced around in the stairwell at the left edge of the bleachers. By the time I realized where the ball was, it was too late to run down the stairs to try to pick it up.
Jay came up yet again with a chance for the cycle, and with Gennett throwing there was a decent chance it might happen. He flew to medium-deep center field to end a 3-for-5 night. Also with three hits in this one: TLS and Rizzo, and Heyward, Baez and Bryant all had two. Regarding Bryant:
Kris Bryant last 19 plate appearances:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 15, 2017
1B 1B HBP 1B BB 1B 2B BB out 1B 1B 2B BB out HR 2B out HR BB#Cubs
That was sent out before Bryant’s final at-bat of the night, when he flew out to center. KB went 0-for-4 against the Brewers on July 28. Since then: .441/.507/.712 (26-for-59) with five doubles, a triple, three home runs, 11 RBI and 12 runs scored in 15 games.
Fans in the right-field bleachers had, in the top of the inning, attempted a Yankee Stadium-like “roll call” of Cubs players. Many of them did acknowledge it, but as Carrie Muskat pointed out (even if she spelled “roll” incorrectly):
Someone needs to tell those RF fans you don't do role calls in the 8th inning— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 15, 2017
It was still a good bit of fun on a night where everything Cub-related was fun. This is exactly the type of game the Cubs needed to have to begin a homestand where they can hopefully put some distance in between them and the Cardinals, Brewers and Pirates. All three of those were off Monday, so the Cubs gained half a game on all of them, now leading St. Louis by 1½, Milwaukee by 2½ and Pittsburgh by 4½. The Cardinals are playing the Red Sox at Boston the next two days and the Pirates play the Brewers at Milwaukee the same two dates.
I am going to open the complaint department door just a tiny bit for a non-game-related note. I’ve hesitated to do this here because I thought perhaps it could be handled at the ballpark, but multiple requests there have been ignored, so here goes publicly: The PA speakers in the bleachers are way, WAY too loud, to the point of becoming painful to listen to. The music and ads between innings make it impossible to carry on a conversation with people sitting next to you (and sure, I get it, the ads are needed, but they don’t have to be mind-numbingly loud). So I’m asking, nicely: PLEASE turn them down!
That out of the way, the Cubs have now won three of their last four and are 7-3 against the Reds this year. Their +52 run differential is the high point of the season. Let’s keep this going! Tuesday night, Kyle Hendricks goes for the Cubs and Luis Castillo for the Reds.