I had a whole recap’s worth of harrumphing to do, what with the Cubs blowing a 3-0 lead, squandering chances to score more or win in the ninth on a walkoff, and then getting shoddy relief work in the 10th.
But in one of the wackiest extra innings you’ll ever see, the Cubs came from two runs down to defeat the Blue Jays 6-5 and sweep the three-game series. So as the headline says... winning forgives a lot. It’s the Cubs’ first sweep in a month, since they swept the Braves in Atlanta, and their first at Wrigley Field in more than two months, since a sweep of the Cardinals in early June.
Let’s deconstruct that 10th inning first, since that was the most fun (after it started out not very nicely at all), and then rewind back to the beginning.
Koji Uehara, just off the disabled list, gave up a leadoff single, then retired two Jays on flies to center sandwiched around an intentional walk. That would have set up the inning nicely as scoreless, but Kevin Pillar singled in a run and that was it for Uehara.
Justin Wilson was next. I mean... have they not looked at any video of Wilson’s outings in Detroit, where he was very good this year, and tried to fix what’s wrong? Wilson has been, in a word, awful since the trade that brought him and Alex Avila to the Cubs. Once again, he walked the first man he faced. That loaded the bases, and then he issued another walk. That means he walked four straight batters dating back to his last outing on Thursday against the Reds, and nine walks in all of 36 batters faced.
That’s just bad. He finally got out of the inning on a fly to center.
That brought in Jays closer Roberto Osuna. Osuna came into the game with 32 saves, but also seven blown saves. One thing he has done well this year is have control: only seven walks and one wild pitch in 52 innings entering this game.
Make that two wild pitches after he struck out Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber reached base on the strike-three wild pitch. Ben Zobrist followed with a single, sending Schwarber to third.
Osuna threw ball one to Anthony Rizzo, and then... make that three wild pitches this year for Osuna:
August 20, 2017
Schwarber scored to make it 5-4, with Zobrist taking second. Rizzo grounded to second to put Zobrist, the tying run, on third base with one out.
Then Osuna struck out Javier Baez, but once again, the ball bounced in, and... well, if you can explain this play go ahead, because I didn’t understand what Raffy Lopez (a former Cubs minor leaguer who played seven games with the big-league Cubs in 2014) did. Javy ran toward first and Lopez picked up the ball and... just didn’t do anything with it. By the time he realized what was going on and threw, Baez was safe at first. It probably should have been another wild pitch, but was ruled “fielder’s choice.”
Then Javy stole second because... they basically gave it to him. At that point you might have thought they’d intentionally walk Jason Heyward, but Osuna took care of that by hitting him with a pitch.
So now it’s bases loaded, one out, the Cubs down by one, and Avila is the next hitter:
¡Viva Avila! #Walkoff pic.twitter.com/1WVeKq1CUJ— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 20, 2017
I have seen a lot of baseball. So have you, most likely. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an inning quite like that one.
All that came a very long time after Kyle Hendricks threw three solid innings to start this game. The Wrigley pitch-speed meter had him at 86-87 for his fastball in the early innings, which is an encouraging sign. He was getting some weak contact and spotting his changeup well.
The Cubs broke open for three runs in the bottom of the third, beginning with a single by new Cub Rene Rivera. Jon Jay was hit by a pitch and Hendricks tried to sacrifice. Instead, his bunt dropped fair near the third-base line and Marco Estrada’s throw was wide. Hendricks was credited with a single and the bases were loaded for Albert Almora Jr.:
Albert Almora clears the bases with a double. pic.twitter.com/inQ6lAUCqh— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) August 20, 2017
It’s 3-0 Cubs and Hendricks appeared to be cruising. Unfortunately, he gave up single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth, the last on a home run by ex-Cub Miguel Montero.
That’s right. Miggy, who came into this game hitting .111 (5-for-45) as a Blue Jay.
Well, that one hurt. However, please note. The booing of Montero all weekend was completely unacceptable and uncalled-for. He was a key contributor to two Cubs playoff teams and had two of the most important hits in the 2016 postseason. I will always remember him fondly and no matter the way he departed, he will always be a champion Cub. Montero sent out several tweets this weekend thanking the Cubs and Cubs fans, including this one after Sunday’s game:
Once again @Cubs and all the cubs fan THANK YOU— Miguel Montero (@miggymont26) August 20, 2017
Let’s thank him too. He’s a big part of some of the best Cubs memories we will ever have.
The Cubs had runners on second and third with two out in the fifth but didn’t score, and the bullpens held the game scoreless through the ninth. Credit to Brian Duensing, Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop and Wade Davis, who threw three shutout innings. Davis did get himself into trouble with a pair of walks, but struck out Lopez to end that ninth-inning threat.
In the seventh, Kris Bryant, who had entered the game on a double-switch, hit a ball to deep center that looked like sure extra bases. Pillar, though, is really, really good at outfielding:
What a catch by Pillar to rob Kris Bryant of extra bases. pic.twitter.com/b7DnIKFULZ— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) August 20, 2017
Spectacular. All the credit in the world to Pillar, who had never played at Wrigley before this weekend. Jays fans know how good he is and he showed us with that grab.
Then the Cubs frustrated the heck out of the Cubs-fan portion of the crowd by having a ninth inning that looked promising, but turned out to be nothing. Heyward and Avila walked leading off the frame, putting the winning run in scoring position. Jay tried to sacrifice, but his bunt went too hard right to Jays pitcher Ryan Tepera, who forced Heyward at third. Bryant could have been the hero but struck out and Ian Happ, batting for Almora, also struck out, and on we went to extras.
Which is where I picked up the story at the beginning of this recap.
It’s difficult to put too much importance on one game, or have enough perspective on this game to say what it’s going to mean for this year’s Cubs down the road. I will say that going from what looked like a win in the middle innings, to a tie game, to giving up two runs in bad fashion in the 10th, to a come-from-behind win, has to energize these players. Of course these things don’t often carry over into the next game, especially with the Cubs having Monday off, but the sweep and the move to a season-tying nine games over .500 have to be very, very satisfying, and the walkoff hit by someone relatively new to the team, Avila, certainly makes him much more a part of this year’s story.
The Cubs thus maintain their two-game edge over the Brewers, who defeated the Rockies Sunday afternoon. The Cardinals and Pirates are playing Sunday night, so the Cubs will be no worse than 2½ games ahead of the third-place Cardinals, and maybe 3½ if the Pirates can win this one. The Cubs now stand 23-12 since the All-Star break. That’s a winning percentage of .657. If the Cubs can play .657 ball for their remaining 39 games, they’ll win 90 or 91 games (it doesn’t break down evenly, that percentage is 25.6 wins), and that should be enough to win the N.L. Central, I’d think.
One more salute to the thousands of Blue Jays fans who traveled to Wrigley Field this weekend, passionate about their team with loud “Let’s go Blue Jays!” chants, friendly and enjoying their time in Chicago to the max. Thanks for being great guests. Oh, and thanks for the three wins, too.
After a win like this one, the Cubs will certainly enjoy their off day Monday before beginning a three-game series against the Reds in Cincinnati Tuesday. John Lackey will go for the Cubs Tuesday against the Reds’ Homer Bailey.