The Cubs had been swept by the Brewers and their lead cut to two games, so this win was welcome. It raised their record to 78-66; the two-game lead was maintained, and the magic number cut to 17.
When a team that’s contending for a division title hosts a club that’s been decimated by injuries and trades of star players, the thing to do is to win games like those convincingly.
That’s what the Cubs did Tuesday night, smacking three home runs and getting solid starting pitching in an 8-3 win over the Mets.
The Cubs had plenty of chances to score in the first three innings, but could not push a run across the plate. They left RISP in all three innings, hit into a double play in the first and ran into one in the third (not sure what Ben Zobrist was thinking, running on a 3-2 pitch to Kris Bryant) and things were starting to look like they did during the Brewers series, an inability to move runners along.
The Mets broke through in the top of the fourth when a double, a single and a groundout produced a run.
The Cubs wasted no time getting that run back. Kyle Schwarber led off the bottom of the inning with a walk and Jason Heyward singled him to third. Javier Baez struck out, and that brought up Jose Quintana:
Quintana gets down the safety squeeze to tie it. pic.twitter.com/LQSxavtfRx— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) September 13, 2017
Quintana, who was 0-for-27 with 16 strikeouts and only three sacrifice bunts in five-plus years with the White Sox, appears to have been working hard on becoming at least decent at the plate. His fourth sacrifice bunt since he came to the Cubs scored Schwarber to tie the game.
After Zobrist hit a hard line drive to center field that was caught for the second out of the inning, Bryant was next:
3-run homer for Kris Bryant. pic.twitter.com/HMJfwQv0c2— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) September 13, 2017
The homer, Bryant’s 26th, was just his eighth with anyone on base and only his second three-run homer of this season.
The Mets made it 4-2 in the top of the fifth, but Schwarber got that run right back in the bottom of the inning:
Home run for Kyle Schwarber off the lefty Milone. pic.twitter.com/xs8Kz0ar2Y— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) September 13, 2017
The homer, Kyle’s 26th of the year, was just his third off a lefthander this season. Kyle added a single in the seventh for a 3-for-3 night (plus a walk), just his fourth three-hit game of 2017. Also:
revisiting Schwarber since return from minors (51 games):— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 13, 2017
.258/.352/.566, 14 HR #Cubs
That’s really, really good, a .918 OPS over that period of time. And his .207 BA, while still not great, is at its highest level since April 29.
The Mets appeared to treat the game like a spring-training contest after Bryant’s homer, with pitchers throwing one inning each and guys wearing numbers in the 60s and 70s inhabiting the No. 9 spot. Each of the Mets’ five pitchers allowed at least one run, and the Cubs had one more home run up their sleeves. Ian Happ, in the seventh:
Ian Happ home run pic.twitter.com/LRtwfFxglJ— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) September 13, 2017
Happ’s home run was his 22nd, and just his fifth hitting righthanded. That gives him an outside chance at matching the Cubs’ team record for home runs by a rookie, 26, set by Bryant two years ago. Happ needs just one more to tie Billy Williams (1961) and Geovany Soto (2008) for second place on the Cubs’ rookie home run list.
Willson Contreras returned to the starting lineup and walked the first three times he came to the plate. He was picked off the third time; not sure what he was thinking there, as he should probably be a bit more careful on the bases, for a while, anyway. Those three walks were part of an eight-walk night for the Cubs, giving them 544 for the season. That’s second in the N.L. to the Dodgers and puts the Cubs on pace for 612 walks, which would rank sixth in franchise history (since 1913).
While all this was going on, Quintana was putting together one of his best games as a Cub: seven innings, six hits, two runs, one walk, seven strikeouts. He threw 112 pitches. He’d thrown at least 110 three times while with the White Sox, so this doesn’t seem as if it’s overworking him.
Carl Edwards Jr. had an uneventful eighth and the Cubs added an eighth run in the bottom of that inning on a sacrifice fly by Bryant. That made this game just the second four-RBI game from Bryant this year.
And now we get to the one event that opens the complaint department door just a bit. With a six-run lead against a bad team, Joe Maddon figured this was a good time to give Justin Wilson the ninth inning in a very low-leverage situation.
And Wilson failed again. Amed Rosario hit a sharp single to lead off the inning. Wilson then struck out Travis Taijeron, but then issued a pair of walks to load the bases. There’s nothing wrong with Wilson’s velocity. He consistently hits 95, and did so again Tuesday night during the walks. But the ball has no movement and Wilson doesn’t appear to have any idea how to locate any of his pitches.
In order to squelch any possibility of the Mets coming back and ruining this fine team effort by the Cubs, Joe called on Pedro Strop. An infield out scored a run, but Strop then got a comebacker to end it.
That’s great, but as of right now I wouldn’t let Justin Wilson anywhere near a postseason roster. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but at this point I think I’d wait till spring training to try to fix it.
This was a satisfying win in exactly the way the Cubs can win games — good starting pitching and home runs.
The Brewers and Cardinals both also won Tuesday, so the standings remain the same: the Cubs lead the Cardinals by two and the Brewers by 2½. One number was ticked off the elimination number for both clubs, as the number for eliminating St. Louis dropped to 17 and for Milwaukee to 16.
There were a fair number of empty seats at the ballpark on a coolish evening, and with the Cubs blowing out the opposition Wrigley started to empty out after the seventh-inning stretch, on a school night with the game approaching three hours. Cubs attendance now totals 2,890,300, so they should pass the three million mark in tickets sold on Saturday.
The Cubs will look to make it two in a row over the Mets Wednesday evening. Jon Lester goes for the Cubs and Matt Harvey for the Mets.