The Cubs completed their second consecutive sweep and won their sixth straight behind the arm and bat of lefthander Mike Montgomery. They were 49-45 and now just 1½ games behind the Brewers in the N.L. Central.
Just when I get finished saying Mike Montgomery can serve the Cubs best in the bullpen, he puts together an outstanding six-inning outing. He allowed just one run on two hits with five strikeouts as the Cubs completed their sweep of the Braves and won their sixth consecutive game, 8-2. The six straight wins is a season high.
Oh, yes. Montgomery added to his excellent pitching by hitting a home run [VIDEO].
To say that Montgomery is a bad hitter is being charitable. Coming into this game he was 1-for-27 in his career with 14 strikeouts. Look at the photo at the top of this post: He seems utterly shocked that he hit a baseball this far:
393 feet at 100 miles per hour? MiMo, you done good.
Beyond that surprising hit, Montgomery had all his pitches working well in this outing. He made just one mistake, the home-run ball served up to Ender Inciarte, and if this is (for now) his swan song in the rotation, he made it an excellent one. I am anticipating MiMo moving back to the bullpen when Kyle Hendricks is activated from the disabled list, likely Monday to start against the White Sox.
As far as the home run goes, it was the second by a Cubs pitcher this year (Jake Arrieta had the other), but overall Cubs pitchers are not good hitters. They came into Wednesday’s game hitting .108/.137/.153 (19-for-176) with 83 strikeouts.
The Cubs had opened this game with an injury scare to Kris Bryant. Full details in this front-page article, but the bottom line appears to be that KB won’t be out very long, maybe only a couple of days.
In the second inning, Kyle Schwarber drew a walk off R.A. Dickey and one out later, scored on Addison Russell’s double to make it 1-0 Cubs. When Montgomery made it 2-0 in the fifth, it marked the first time since June 13 (a span of six starts) that any team had scored more than one run off Dickey.
Tommy La Stella took over at third base when Bryant departed with the apparently not-serious injury, and figured that since he was replacing a top Cubs power hitter, he’d fill in that slot as well. His homer was TLS’ second of the season. That matched his career high set last year, and it gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead.
Inciarte’s blast made it 3-1 in the sixth, but the Cubs got that run right back in the top of the seventh on back-to-back ground-rule doubles by Happ and Addison Russell [VIDEO].
Russell went 4-for-4 (two singles, two doubles) on the afternoon and drove in a pair. Since June 20 Russell is hitting .301/.346/.521 (22-for-73) with seven doubles and three home runs, a nice hot streak that’s got his overall BA up to. 240 — above the .238 he hit in 2016.
Justin Grimm allowed a home run to Tyler Flowers in the seventh to make it 4-2. That’s the fourth appearance in the last five in which Grimm has been scored upon and I suspect he might wind up heading back to Iowa when Hendricks is activated.
In the eighth, though, the Cubs put this one away when TLS singled, Schwarber walked and Javier Baez smashed this homer to center field [VIDEO].
Man, is Javy hot:
Baez 10 for last 15.— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) July 19, 2017
Koji Uehara got into a bit of trouble in the eighth, loading the bases on three singles and retiring only one Braves hitter. But it took Pedro Strop just two pitches to bail Koji out of that jam with a double-play ball.
Jon Jay then completed the scoring with an RBI single in the ninth, and Hector Rondon finished up with a 1-2-3 inning, striking out the side. As Jim Deshaies said on the broadcast, if the 2015 version of Hector shows up the rest of the year, that will be a huge boost to the bullpen.
This afternoon’s game, fortunately, was not delayed by rain. ICYMI in the game preview, part of the reason for the previous two delays is the location of the stadium, one of the wettest parts of the Atlanta area:
So you’d think one solution to this would be to play more day games, except... well, it’s pretty hot and steamy in Atlanta in the summertime, and the stadium was built facing southeast, which means almost all the seats are in the sun.
This is going to be a problem for the Braves as long as they play at SunTrust Park, which, since they made such a big deal about “needing” this new stadium, will probably be a while.
The win means the Cubs have won their first six since the All-Star break for the first time since 1935, a year where they roared through the second half and won 100 games and the N.L. pennant. Doing that this year probably isn’t possible, though you never know. This win also brought the Cubs back to .500 on the road (25-25) and put them four games over .500 at 49-45, matching the high-water mark of the season. And, the Cubs outscored their opponents 44-17 in the six games on this road trip.
The Cubs will have Thursday off, which hopefully will help Bryant recover from his sprain. The Cubs face Carlos Martinez Friday, and Bryant might as well sit against Martinez anyway, as he’s 3-for-22 lifetime against him with 11 strikeouts. Jake Arrieta will go for the Cubs, coming off one of his better outings of the year against the Orioles last weekend.
The win draws the Cubs to within two games (down one in the loss column) of the Brewers, who face the Pirates again Wednesday night as well as Thursday afternoon. It’s entirely possible that the Cubs could be even in the loss column with the Brewers by the time they open the series against the Cardinals Friday afternoon.
Good things are happening as this team appears to, at last, be playing up to its talent level. Here’s hoping that continues through the next homestand, and beyond.