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2017 Cubs victories revisited, July 25: Cubs 7, White Sox 2

Willson Contreras continued his hot streak.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

A loss to the White Sox in the first game of this series dropped the Cubs out of first place. This win made their record 52-47, but they still trailed the Brewers by half a game in the N.L. Central.

If you attended Tuesday’s 7-2 Cubs win over the White Sox, you certainly can say you got your entertainment dollar’s worth (as well as a Cubs win).

That one had just about everything: home runs, good Cubs pitching, bad Cubs pitching, warnings issued after five batters were hit by pitches, a couple of team records tied or nearly so, and in the end, the Cubs evened up their set with the South Siders.

It looked at first as if this might be an easy Cubs win. Ben Zobrist led off with a double, and one out later Anthony Rizzo walked. Up stepped Willson Contreras [VIDEO]:

Willson’s 16th homer of the year made it 3-0 Cubs; that was one of three hits he had on the afternoon, and he’s now second among all catchers in homers and RBI (56) behind Salvador Perez. That ball was crushed:

It flew directly over our heads and bounced off the back fence of the bleacher concourse. Mike Bojanowski and I both almost got our hands on it, but it bounced away and someone else jumped on it and got the ball. Here’s a cool graphic showing the flight path of all 16 of Willson’s homers this year:

And here’s Willson on his recent hot streak:

Good advice for anyone, I’d say.

John Lackey got out of the first inning without allowing a run. If you’ve been following Lackey’s year closely, that’s an accomplishment. That first inning also accomplished this:

But success in the first wasn’t good enough for Lackey. He allowed a pair of singles in the second and with two out, up stepped Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon, who served as a DH occasionally in college ball and hit pretty well (.267/.353/.307, 20-for-75 with three doubles). And he smacked a double into center field to make it 3-2. It was his first big-league hit.

The Cubs got one of those runs back in the second. Addison Russell blooped a double to right and Lackey walked. Zobrist then doubled, scoring Russell and potentially setting up a big inning. But Kris Bryant and Rizzo struck out.

And that’s when the fun started. Lackey managed to get through the third and fourth unscathed, so it was 4-2 Cubs with one out and Zobrist on second after a walk and stolen base when Bryant had an eventful at-bat.

He ran the count to 2-2 and fouled a ball off his knee, which looked pretty painful. KB sat on the ground for a while and it seemed he might have to leave the game, but he shook it off and stayed in.

Rodon’s next pitch was ball three. But plate umpire Lance Barksdale called this pitch a strike:

Hey Lance, got a scoop for you:

That’s not a strike. Here, see for yourself:

Kris Bryant never argues, but he argued that one, and apparently said the so-called “magic word” and got tossed, his first ejection as a major leaguer.

Please. Bring on the robot umpires. Now.

At least in this case, the training staff had a chance to look over KB’s knee. I presume he’ll be OK to start tomorrow.

Lackey began the fifth by serving up a ball to Melky Cabrera that looked like it was heading for the right-center field gap. Zobrist ran it down with this nice grab [VIDEO].

Looked like Melky thought he had a home run at first, too.

Then the fireworks began. Lackey had hit Jose Abreu in the first inning, and he hit him again in this frame. Abreu looked none too pleased. Lackey got the second out, then hit Matt Davidson. And then he hit Yoan Moncada.

Frankly, I was surprised no warnings were issued. That’s a lot of hit batters:

Lackey got out of the inning with a ground ball to short. Here’s Lackey on all the hit batsmen:

Meanwhile, Rodon was lifted after four innings and 98 pitches with the weird pitching line of four innings, seven hits, four runs, three walks and 11 strikeouts. Albert Almora Jr.’s fly to right in the third was the only out recorded by Rodon that wasn’t a K. Fun fact:

The Cubs, meanwhile, were stranding runners again, despite scoring four runs in the first four innings. They left six on base, and left two more against Chris Beck in the fifth. Beck hit Ian Happ leading off that inning, and finally warnings were issued, a bit late, in my opinion. There were no more incidents after that, though.

Lackey was left in to throw the sixth and put the first two runners on via a walk and double, and Joe Maddon summoned Carl Edwards Jr.

CJ has struggled recently but this outing was excellent. He struck out Tyler Saladino, got Cabrera to hit a comebacker and checked both runners before throwing to first, and then struck out Abreu on a really nice curveball:

Excellent work by CJ.

Then the Cubs put together a nice rally in the sixth. Jon Jay (who had replaced Bryant in the batting order) and Rizzo walked. Contreras drove in one run, his fourth RBI of the day, with a single, and after another walk, Almora hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2.

Pedro Strop threw an uneventful 1-2-3 seventh. Hector Rondon gave up a leadoff triple and a walk, but after a Chris Bosio visit he struck out Adam Engel and got Saladino to hit into an inning-ending double play. Sort of, I suppose; the Sox challenged and at least one angle appeared to show Saladino safe at first. But the replay crew, perhaps anxious to get to dinner as this game passed three and a half hours, ruled “call stands.”

The Cubs added one final run in the eighth. Happ walked and Almora doubled to make it 7-2.

You are, presumably, familiar with the “Three True Outcomes” of an at-bat: a walk, a strikeout or a home run, the three outcomes that solely involve the pitcher and the hitter. The Cubs had 44 plate appearances in this game, and 27 of them (17 strikeouts, nine walks and a home run) were of the three-true-outcome variety.

The 17 strikeouts is a Cubs team record for any regulation-length game in which they did not have to bat in the bottom of the ninth. The game also produced just the second five-strikeout game by a Cubs position player... ever:

Soto is the only other one in the era (since 1913) and since K’s were rarer before that, I think it’s safe to say he and Baez are the only ones.

Brian Duensing finished up with a scoreless frame to complete the victory and send the Cubs back to a season-high five games over .500 and again into a virtual tie for first place in the N.L. Central with the Brewers, pending Milwaukee’s game at Washington tonight.

It was a gorgeous afternoon for baseball, sunny skies, temps in the mid 70s, low humidity and a wind that began blowing out to left field, but shifted to off the lake by mid-game. That wind might have knocked down Cabrera’s fifth-inning fly ball that was caught by Zobrist.

This four-game series moves to the South Side of Chicago Wednesday evening (7:10 CT) with Jake Arrieta facing James Shields. The White Sox, whose bullpen was depleted after the trade of David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees, are down one more reliever:

So this would be a good time for Cubs hitters to have a couple of good games against the Sox rotation and pen. #LetsGo