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Cubs 8, White Sox 4: The long, wet victory

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The Cubs broke out to a big first-inning lead again and held on for their second straight win over the Sox.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Before I get to the baseball played in the Cubs’ 8-4 win over the White Sox, let me address the rain delay Saturday afternoon.

Not long before the scheduled game time of 1:20 p.m., the Cubs covered the infield and made this announcement:

This isn’t an unreasonable call. The last thing you want to do is get your starting pitcher all warmed up and ready to go and then have the game delayed in the first inning. So Jon Lester and pitching coach Jim Hickey walked back from bullpen to dugout and the game was delayed... but the rain didn’t hit until about 2:15, and it wasn’t all that heavy, just light to moderate rain for about 45 minutes, after which everyone warmed up and began two hours and 15 minutes late at 3:35 p.m. CT.

I mean... I suppose they could have started at 1:20 and played maybe three innings, had a delay and then resumed, but would Lester (and Sox starter James Shields) have been able to return? This is the kind of thing baseball people used to do, and it wasn’t really fair to the starting pitchers. While the rain didn’t fall exactly when it was forecast, the way the delay was handled was the right thing to do, because after that the game was played without interruption.

And then the Cubs began the first-inning dismantling of Sox pitching, just as they did Friday. Javier Baez led off the game with a triple. Seems any time Joe Maddon makes an unorthodox choice at leadoff, it works. After a walk to Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo stepped up:

That’s Rizzo’s fifth home run this month, in just nine games. Rizzo’s a noted streak hitter and he’s certainly on one of those tears. Entering May, Rizzo was hitting .149. He’s up to .214 following Saturday’s game, still not up to his usual standards, but I’m betting he’ll be there by month’s end.

The Cubs added a run later in the inning. After Kyle Schwarber drew a walk and Addison Russell singled, David Bote singled in Schwarber to make it 4-0.

The Cubs added another run in the second. Baez beat out an infield hit and then did this:

We have seen Javy do this before; he just seems to have an instinct of exactly how to slide to avoid a tag. That steal helped lead to a run, as after a fly ball and a walk, Willson Contreras singled Javy in to make it 5-0.

Jon Lester was sailing along. He gave up a walk and a bunt single in the third with no damage, and got out of a two-runners-on, one-out situation in the fourth with a double play.

Shields, who usually either shuts the Cubs out or gets pounded by them, did both in this game. After Contreras’ single in the second, he retired 12 straight Cubs until Bote singled with one out in the fifth and stole second when the Sox completely ignored him. That didn’t lead to a run, though.

Lester got into trouble in the sixth, and was lifted with two out and a run in for Justin Wilson, who ended the frame with a fielder’s choice. Wilson also threw a 1-2-3 seventh, which is encouraging. The Cubs could use an effective Wilson later in the summer. Joe’s giving him chances in relatively high-leverage situations to help him get back to where he was before the Cubs acquired him last July. For Lester, it wasn’t a great outing, but:

The Cubs batted around for the second time in the game in the seventh; Contreras came to bat with one on and one out:

That two-run shot made it 7-1, and here’s what Willson has done in his last three games: 9-for-14 with three doubles, two triples, three home runs, five runs scored and 11 RBI. More:

National League Player of the Week, perhaps?

A bunch of walks then made it 8-1. At one point Sox pitchers threw 13 straight pitches out of the strike zone. It almost makes you feel sorry for them.

Carl Edwards Jr. hadn’t worked since Tuesday, so he was given the eighth. The rust showed; he was leaving pitches up in the zone for Sox hitters, and after a single and double, Matt Davidson hit a three-run homer. Davidson has had a weird home-run year. That was his 10th. He’s hit one at home, one at Wrigley, one in Toronto and seven in Kansas City.

Anyway, after CJ had racked up 31 pitches, Mike Montgomery was summoned to complete the inning. Then MiMo allowed a leadoff single in the ninth, and might have gotten to finish the game, had a catchable ball by Kris Bryant in right not been dropped. That put runners on second and third with one out, and thus a save situation! And so, Brandon Morrow entered. He, too, had not thrown since Tuesday, and he unleashed at least one fastball that showed on the Wrigley pitch-speed meter at 100 miles per hour. He struck out a pair, then issued a walk, loading the bases and bringing Jose Abreu to the plate as the tying run.

That’s not optimal, but Morrow got Abreu to hit a ground ball to Rizzo, and the game was over, the Cubs’ fifth straight win and Morrow’s ninth save.

So the Cubs have, in the last couple of weeks: Won five straight, lost five straight, then won five in a row again. I like the winning streaks better, and it looks like the team’s hitting on all cylinders now. More on the streaks:

The crowd of 41,099 dwindled after the long delay; maybe 25,000 saw the first pitch and by the time Morrow got the last out, maybe 5,000 remained. One of these days it’ll warm up to stay in Chicago. The forecast for Sunday, at least, has rain out of the area by early morning and temperatures a bit warmer (upper 50s) for the series finale. The Cubs go for the sweep with Kyle Hendricks on the mound facing Sox righthander Lucas Giolito. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and the broadcast with Len & JD is on WGN (Sox broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago).