The Cubs put on a clinic in old-school baseball Thursday night at Wrigley Field.
Kyle Hendricks was vintage Kyle — inducing weak contact and, as we often say here: “All he does is get guys out.” He was helped along in seven strong innings by some outstanding Cubs defense. And Kyle Schwarber hit a laser beam of a home run on a night when baseballs were dying in the wind at Wrigley Field.
And all of this was completed in just two hours, 22 minutes, a completely satisfying 1-0 Cubs win over the Brewers in the opener of a four-game series. Incidentally, that’s the 13th 1-0 game in the major leagues already this year. There were only 29 such games all of last year. It’s also the Cubs’ third shutout win of 2018; they had just eight shutouts all of 2017.
Anyway, the first few innings breezed along. Hendricks registered eight ground-ball outs in the first five innings; two Brewers who hit two-out doubles in the first and second were stranded. (Only one other Brewer reached second base the entire night.)
But the Cubs couldn’t do much off Chase Anderson in the first five innings. Albert Almora Jr. led off the first with a walk — the only walk of the game. He was caught stealing, as was Javier Baez, who singled leading off the fourth.
It was the sixth where quite a bit of action began to happen. Anderson led off the inning with a slow roller. Tommy La Stella’s throw was a bit offline, but Anthony Rizzo snagged it and kept his foot on the base long enough for the out. The Brewers challenged, but it wound up “call confirmed”:
The next hitter, Lorenzo Cain, drove a ball to deep center field. You certainly know what happens to balls driven to deep center field when Almora is playing there:
It seems that every Almora catch tops the last one. As usual, it’s not his speed that gets to these, it’s the perfect routes he runs.
With one out in the bottom of the inning, it was Schwarbomb time!
As I noted earlier, baseballs hit high in the air Thursday night were simply dying, not carrying at all. That ball was a laser beam, and I finally got a good photo of the numbers the Cubs are now flashing on the right-field video board after home runs:
You don’t see home runs hit at a launch angle like that very often. Also:
Schwarber nearly knocked a beer off the front row of the Budweiser party deck, right under the Schwarboard.— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) April 27, 2018
The spectacular defense wasn’t done, either. Ryan Braun led off the top of the seventh and sent a screaming line drive toward center field. El Mago did his magic:
Just outstanding, Javier Baez is.
Hendricks completed seven innings, the second straight Cubs starter to do so, and allowed just four singles, striking out five. Carl Edwards Jr. threw a 1-2-3 eighth, striking out pinch-hitter Jesus Aguilar to end the frame. That’s a good sign, because there are times C.J. gets the first two hitters in an inning out easily and then struggles to put the third guy away.
In the ninth, Brandon Morrow allowed a leadoff single but was then bailed out by a double play. With two out, Braun dribbled a ball down the third-base line that went for a hit. Then the wind helped the Cubs out again. Travis Shaw sent a fly ball to left field that might have been out of the yard on another night, but again it got knocked down and Ian Happ, who replaced Schwarber defensively in the ninth, put it away on the warning track and the Cubs began their homestand on a high note. They evened up their home record at 4-4 and moved to within two games of first place.
While it was still chilly Thursday night, it wasn’t nearly as cold as it had been during the season’s first homestand. The ballpark filled up; of the 37,197 announced, probably 30,000 were in the house, and what a treat we all saw, with the pitching, defense and Schwarber’s solo home run providing the only offense the Cubs needed.
And a big thank you to the Cubs, who, just before game time finally turned the P.A. system volume down. Whatever you did — keep it that way please, it worked, everything was audible but not loud enough to blast you out of your seat.
Friday afternoon, the teams meet again. Yu Darvish will go for the Cubs and Brent Suter for the Brewers. This weather forecast says any rain that falls will hold off until after 4 p.m., hopefully time to get all of this one in. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage Friday afternoon is via NBC Sports Chicago.