The Cubs got solid relief work in nailing this win down. They were 65-57 and increased their N.L. Central lead to two games over the Brewers.
Really, you could not possibly invent a better regular-season day at Wrigley Field than Saturday.
The weather was perfect: 79 degrees, low humidity, not a cloud in the sky, a gentle breeze blowing off Lake Michigan. A “Mesa day,” I call these, weather really similar to what we see in Mesa during spring training.
The capacity crowd at Wrigley was treated to some flyovers from the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, who were part of the annual Air & Water Show on Chicago’s lakefront, including a flyover that couldn’t have been more than 1,000 or so feet off the ground.
And the Cubs put together solid starting pitching, timely hitting and (at last) some good relief work and took the series against the Blue Jays with a 4-3 win.
The Cubs scored first in the bottom of the first inning. They loaded the bases with one out on two walks and Kris Bryant being hit by a pitch. Ian Happ singled in Jon Jay and it was 1-0 Cubs. It might have been more, but Alex Avila hit into a double play to end the inning. A faster runner might have beat Darwin Barney’s relay to first.
Jose Quintana got into a bit of trouble in the second, thanks in part to an error by Bryant. The Jays eventually loaded the bases with two out, and there was an intentional walk as part of that, and once again I’d like to put in my $0.02 for Cubs PA announcer Andrew Belleson to notify the crowd that an IBB has been issued, as they do in several other major-league parks. I pay very close attention to the game and sometimes I miss those.
Anyway, Quintana struck out Jays pitcher Nick Tepesch to end the inning.
But Toronto took the lead in the fourth. Three straight hits off Quintana scored two runs, but Jose then retired the next three, two by strikeout, to end the top of the fourth with the Cubs down by one.
That was Happ’s 18th, providing this fun fact:
The Cubs stranded a pair of runners with two out in that inning, so they had five left on base in the first four innings. But the score was tied 2-2.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth, when Happ led off with a walk, took second on a groundout by Avila and scored one out later on a single by Javier Baez.
That was it for Quintana, who threw a solid six innings, allowing four hits and two runs and striking out eight. This was the guy the Cubs hoped they had gotten when they made the trade with the White Sox.
It was a bit of a surprise when Felix Pena was the first man out of the bullpen in a one-run game. Pena has been up and down between Chicago and Iowa this year and had been OK, but not great, in 10 Cubs appearances.
So on the one hand, he’s not really a big-league setup man, not yet, anyway. On the other hand, how many other bullpen guys does Joe Maddon trust right now?
Pena rose to the occasion by striking out all three batters he faced, including Jose Bautista swinging after Bautista had fouled off five pitches in a row.
The Cubs extended the lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh. Albert Almora Jr. batted for Kyle Schwarber (vs. a lefthanded reliever) and singled with one out. One out later, Anthony Rizzo’s bloop single scored Almora:
Rizzo adds an insurance run in the 7th. pic.twitter.com/vilYKsBUCQ— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) August 19, 2017
Hector Rondon was next, and how many times have we seen this recently? A Cubs reliever gets the first two batters he faces (granted, here it was on two hard-hit fly balls), and then starts giving up hits. This is what Hector did, allowing a run, although it wasn’t really his fault (and was unearned). The first hit was a dribbler that Bryant threw away — a ball he probably never should have thrown. As a result, Steve Pearce got to second base, where Kevin Pillar’s seeing-eye grounder got through for an RBI single, making it 4-3.
The Cubs didn’t score in the eighth, so it was Wade Davis’ turn with a one-run lead. He got through a 1-2-3 inning, but not without yet another highlight-reel play from Javy:
Here, have another look from another angle:
How does he do that? The ball’s deflected, he’s totally moving in the opposite direction from the deflection, yet he stops himself, grabs it, sets up and throws. The throw’s a bit high — thankfully, the Cubs have a six-foot-five first baseman with a great reach. Every day, these guys seem to turn in plays like that.
For Davis, it was his 26th consecutive save, and he has no blown saves this year. That ties the franchise record set by Ryan Dempster in 2004-05. Davis had a bit of a rough stretch after the All-Star break but now he’s had five scoreless outings in his last six and seems back on track.
Once again, Wrigley Field was overrun with thousands of friendly Blue Jays fans. I’d have said “blue-clad” but the color isn’t all that different from Cubs blue, so they were hard to pick out if you were watching on TV. They all sang the Canadian national anthem and also got involved at one point in dueling “Let’s go Blue Jays” vs. “Let’s go Cubbies” chants:
Let's Go Cubs and Let's Go Blue Jays chants at Wrigley. pic.twitter.com/mwFGRqFI0V— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) August 19, 2017
That was fun. This has been a fun weekend, with loyal and passionate visiting fans bringing some fun to this rare rivalry, and especially for our side since the Cubs have won the first two games of the series.
The Pirates are currently leading the Cardinals; if that score holds up the Cubs will be two and a half games ahead, unless the Brewers beat the Rockies, in which case Milwaukee moves back into second place, two games behind. We’ll know more by later this evening, of course.
They’ll go for the sweep Sunday afternoon at 1:20 p.m. CT. Kyle Hendricks goes for the Cubs and our old N.L. Central friend Marco Estrada for the Jays.