It’s been windy and sunny at Wrigley Field many, many times over its century-plus history. And it’s been chilly, with the wind blowing off Lake Michigan as it was Saturday, more times than I care to count.
The wind played enough havoc with baseballs for the Cubs to squeeze out a 3-0 win over the Brewers, as Milwaukee’s defense couldn’t handle it. Javier Baez played some sparkling defense and got a key hit, and Jose Quintana continued his mastery over the Brewers.
It started in the top of the first inning. With Ryan Braun at bat, Kyle Schwarber lost his fly ball in the sun, but Albert Almora Jr. ran over and bailed Kyle out:
Let me tell you ‘bout my best friend pic.twitter.com/uBuODm7CVv— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 28, 2018
Quintana retired the next six Brewers in order, helped out by an excellent snag of a line drive by Ben Zobrist to end the second inning. Meanwhile, Junior Guerra was matching zeroes with Quintana until two out in the third. Almora singled and then Baez hit a popup into short center field that the wind took away from three Brewers surrounding it. It eventualy bounced off Orlando Arcia’s glove for a double, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Then Javy did some Javy:
Draw the throw to second, go to third.— MLB (@MLB) April 28, 2018
Savvy steal, Javy. pic.twitter.com/EzlEVgmXyF
In the fourth, with a Brewers runner on third and two out, more Javy:
In the bottom of the fourth, Schwarber hit an infield popup and... well, let a Brewers beat writer tell you the story:
Schwarber's towering infield pop goes untouched and falls for infield hit. Was hit to right side of infield but third baseman Perez was only fielder who tried to catch it. #Brewers having all kinds of issues with wind and sun. Never seen it be such a struggle.— Tom (@Haudricourt) April 28, 2018
Cubs play 1:20 p.m. games all the time and it's generally windy here. Bound to have been plenty of sunny games. For some reason, that combination is bedeviling the #Brewers. Hasn't affected Cubs yet.— Tom (@Haudricourt) April 28, 2018
On days like this, every fielder has to go toward every pop up. Wind could blow it toward any of them. Can't leave it to one fielder.— Tom (@Haudricourt) April 28, 2018
Haudricourt is correct. The Cubs fielders obviously can make these plays. Brewers fielders had all kinds of trouble fielding baseballs Saturday afternoon, granted it was not easy to play with the wind and the sun the way they were, but somehow, the Cubs managed to do it.
Still, no one else could score, as the game proceeded through the fifth and sixth innings. In the top of the seventh, Javy made a rare error allowing Domingo Santana to reach, but Q helped his teammate out by picking Santana off first base [VIDEO].
In the last of the seventh, Craig Counsell replaced Guerra with Oliver Drake. That turned out to be a very good thing for the Cubs. Zobrist singled up the middle and Jason Heyward doubled into the gap in left-center — yet another of the strong hits to the opposite field he’s had this year — putting runners on second and third.
That brought up pinch-hitter extraordinaire Tommy La Stella:
The little pop fly into left field scored Zobrist easily, and when the Brewers fielders just stood around with the ball, Heyward kept running and also scored, excellent, heads-up baserunning.
TLS is now 5-for-14 (.357) as a PH this year with two doubles, two walks and five RBI. It’s not a stretch to call him the best pinch-hitter in baseball so far in 2018; the five pinch hits lead all major leaguers. The Cubs’ team record for pinch hits in a season is 20, set by Thad Bosley in 1985, tied by Dave Clark in 1997. TLS has a pretty good shot at that; the major-league record is 28, set by John Vander Wal in 1995.
Joe sent Pedro Strop out to throw the eighth, and he did it 1-2-3 with only nine pitches. When Strop came out to throw the ninth, I thought Joe might let him finish the game, but he played it one hitter at a time. After Strop struck out Lorenzo Cain, Joe wanted lefty Brian Duensing to face the lefthanded-hitting Christian Yelich. Duensing took four pitches to get Yelich to ground to short, and then it was Steve Cishek’s turn to face Braun. Two pitches later, the game was over, on a grounder to Javy. No doubt, it was good that Brandon Morrow didn’t have to go Saturday after having been in two straight games, so he should be available tomorrow.
Yes, it was cold. The temperature at game time was 43. The average high for this date is 64. That’s... way too cold. Still, at least the sun was shining and the Cubs got this one done, even with the two ninth-inning pitching changes, in a snappy two hours, 37 minutes. The team has now won three straight for the first time this year and is four games over .500, also for the first time in 2018.
Other notes: With Almora and Baez both getting hits in this one, both now have 11-game hitting streaks, career highs for both. And Quintana continues his domination of the Brewers; in 13 innings this year he’s allowed them five hits and three walks, with 13 strikeouts and zero runs allowed.
This also marks the first full time through the starting rotation where all five Cubs starters have gone six full innings, and all have had good-to-excellent outings. That’s resulted in this:
#Cubs: only 8 runs scored over last 4 games... but only 6 runs allowed so they are 3-1 over that span— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 28, 2018
The Cubs go for the four-game sweep of the Brewers Sunday afternoon. Tyler Chatwood takes the mound for the Cubs against Milwaukee’s Zach Davies. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT, Sunday TV coverage is via NBC Sports Chicago.