On “Little League Weekend,” when every player wore a softball-style jersey with a nickname, the Cubs ran up a Little League-like score on the Phillies. Their record stood at 69-59 after this win, and they led the N.L. Central by three games.
When Phillies phenom Rhys Hoskins came to bat in the bottom of the first inning with a runner on second and two out, I thought the Cubs should have intentionally walked him. Yes, in the first inning. Because this rookie had been smashing home runs at a ridiculous rate, and five pitches into the at-bat he did exactly what I feared he’d do, send a Kyle Hendricks changeup into the seats at Citizens Bank Park for his 10th home run in his first 17 big-league games. (10 in 13, actually, since he didn’t homer in his first four games.)
Well, that just made Cubs hitters mad, I think. They unleashed a barrage of homers and runs that hadn’t been seen in a very long time, and resulted in a fun-to-watch 17-2 win over the Phillies. It was the first time the Cubs had scored 17 runs in more than two years, since a 17-0 win June 17, 2015 at Cleveland. (In case you’re wondering, the Cubs haven’t scored 17 or more at Wrigley Field since August 14, 2009 against the Pirates.)
The Cubs hit six home runs, which tied a season high and also tied a franchise record for most home runs in a road game. It was the seventh time in franchise history that a Cubs team had hit six homers in an away game. The most recent previous time was August 2, 2011 in Pittsburgh.
The fun began almost right away after Hoskins’ blast. Tommy La Stella hit the first of the six, a solo shot in the second. That brought the Cubs back to within one, and they wasted no time taking the lead. Jon Jay walked to lead off the third. One out later Kris Bryant walked. Up came Anthony Rizzo [VIDEO].
The Cubs had a lead they would not relinquish.
Two innings later, Bryzzo! Kris Bryant and Rizzo went back-to-back and both the baseballs went a long way:
Rizzo reached the 30-HR mark for the fourth straight year. He joins Hack Wilson, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Sammy Sosa as Cubs who have accomplished that feat. Rizzo’s season best is 32, set in 2014 and tied last year. He’s got an excellent chance to break that.
The Cubs blew this game open in the seventh, when they scored seven runs, and all of it without a single home run. Kyle Hendricks, who is not a very good hitter, led off with a single. Jay doubled him to third, and one out later Bryant walked. Rizzo singled in one run, giving him five RBI for the game, and Alex Avila doubled in a pair. Now it’s 9-2 and Phillies manager Pete Mackanin thought a pitching change might help.
It didn’t. New pitcher Jesen Therrien gave up RBI singles to Albert Almora Jr. and to La Stella. After Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure visited the mound, Therrien recorded the second out, but that brought up Hendricks again.
Hendricks smacked a double into the gap in right-center. No, I am not making that up. It was just the second extra-base hit of Hendricks’ career in 177 at-bats. Two runs scored, and that made Hendricks part of a bit of history:
Aug. 11, 2015 is the last time a pitcher (Jeremy Hellickson) had 2 hits in an inning before Hendricks. Hellickson against the Phils as well— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) August 27, 2017
Hendricks hits 2b for 2nd hit of the inning. Zambrano July 29, 2003 at Marlins last Cubs pitcher to have 2 hits in an inning.— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) August 27, 2017
The Cubs were not done torturing Phillies pitchers. Yacksel Rios was brought into the game in the ninth inning, and he walked the first hitter he faced, Avila. One out later, TLS worked a nine (!) pitch at-bat and then sent his second homer of the game deep into the Philadelphia night, the first multi-homer game of his career. He also set a career high with four RBI.
Javier Baez walked on four pitches and Ben Zobrist was sent up to pinch-hit for Brian Duensing. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, “Zorilla” sent one into the seats [VIDEO].
That completed the scoring. On the TV broadcast, Len & JD mentioned that the 17 runs was the most a Cubs team had scored against the Phillies since the famous 23-22 game at Wrigley Field in 1979. So I decided to look and see how long it had been since any Cubs team had scored 17 or more runs in Philadelphia. Turns out... just a bit longer:
The 17 runs tonight is the most a #Cubs team has scored in Philadelphia since May 5, 1937.— Al Yellon (@bleedcubbieblue) August 27, 2017
Also, the 15-run margin of victory gives the Cubs a +71 run differential for the season, a season high. Even at that, they are still two wins below their Pythagorean projection based on that run differential.
Something that should not be lost in the home-run barrage is the outing that Hendricks had on the mound. At least based on the TV pitch-speed meter, his fastball seems to have ticked up to 87 (most of the time), which is pretty close to where he was last year. That makes his changeup more effective, and the only mistake he made was the homer he served up to Hoskins. Seven innings, six hits, two runs, no walks, eight strikeouts — that’s a vintage 2016 Hendricks outing and if he can keep this up, he could have a really solid September and postseason.
The six home runs kept the microphone that TLS found in the old interview room at Wrigley busy. He and Ian Happ are doing “interviews” in the dugout after home runs:
Ran out of copy tonight. Here's a new GIF. pic.twitter.com/RMqF9p8p0x— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 27, 2017
This is great fun and I’m glad the team found something like this to bring them closer together. This is exactly what Joe Maddon was talking about earlier this year when he said the 2017 team “hadn’t found its identity.” It’s things like this that give a team that identity, and also allow them to have the fun that Joe always wants them to have.
I’m sure you would like to see all the home runs, so here are all six of them in one handy video:
The N.L. Central race stayed exactly where it was beginning this day, as it did a day earlier, when all four teams lost. Saturday night, the Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals and Pirates all won, so the Cubs remain three games ahead of Milwaukee, 4½ in front of St. Louis and eight ahead of Pittsburgh, with one more day ticked off the calendar.
Just about the time this one ended I got this tweeted at me:
@bleedcubbieblue hello yes where do i file a complaint about the Cubs baseball team— Liz Roscher (@lizroscher) August 27, 2017
Sorry, Liz. The complaint department is definitely closed after this one.
Sunday, the Cubs go for the series win. John Lackey will throw for the Cubs and Nick Pivetta for the Phillies, and the latter is a break for the Cubs because originally, Aaron Nola, the Phillies’ best pitcher, was supposed to go. The game preview will post at 11 a.m. CT.