If you closed your eyes Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field during the first few innings, you could feel how it was back in the 1960s or 1970s when pitchers like Fergie Jenkins, Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal (to keep this idea in line with Friday’s opponent) were mowing down hitters and games sped their way along.
Hendricks was magnificent. He retired 17 of the first 18 hitters he faced, the only exception being a leadoff homer by Gorkys Hernandez in the fourth. Many of those outs were on the first or second pitch of the at-bat, and that brings to mind this:
Kyle Hendricks today: 7.0 IP, 2 Hits, 1 Run, 2 BB, 7 K— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 25, 2018
Max Velo: 88.5 MPH#Cubs
The Cubs scored a run in the first inning. Singles by Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. put runners on second and third after a passed ball while Kris Bryant was hitting. Anthony Rizzo followed with a single, scoring Zobrist, but Almora was out easily trying to score a second run.
That’s all the Cubs could muster through the sixth; they did have runners on first and second with two out in the third, but could not score. Give credit to Giants starter Derek Holland, who nearly matched Hendricks through six innings.
With the score 1-1 in the last of the seventh, the Cubs put the first two runners on base without a hit. Javier Baez was hit by a pitch and Ian Happ walked. They were sacrificed up one base each by Addison Russell, and Tommy La Stella drew a four-pitch walk batting for Hendricks.
Let’s stop for a moment to credit TLS for his outstanding pinch-hit at-bats this year. TLS has 26 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter. He’s got nine hits and five walks — that’s a .538 on-base percentage as a PH, just ridiculously good. He’s by far the best pinch-hitter in the National League.
That was an excellent piece of hitting, taking a first-pitch curveball from reliever Will Smith and smacking it into the left-field corner for a two-run double, with La Stella taking third. After Almora struck out, Bryant followed with a two-run single [VIDEO].
Baserunners when the Cubs needed them, quality at-bats and hits with runners in scoring position. Really, you couldn’t ask for a better four-run rally. In this game, the Cubs were 4-for-9 with RISP after not doing much with a bunch of baserunners in the Cleveland series.
Carl Edwards Jr. threw a 1-2-3 eighth, which sounds easy but this, the final strike (and out) of the inning, was pretty interesting [VIDEO].
Then the Cubs added on a run in the bottom of the frame. Happ singled with one out and stole second, his third steal of the year. That put him in position for Russell to single him in to give the Cubs a 6-1 lead.
That should have been the cap on a great day, and I was going to slam the complaint department door shut tight and lock it, except the ninth inning... wasn’t optimal. Pedro Strop began the inning. Justin Hancock had been warming up earlier, and could have thrown the ninth with a five-run lead, but I suspect Joe Maddon wanted Strop to face three good hitters, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey and Brandon Belt, and see how that worked out.
Two batters in, a strikeout and a groundout on just five pitches, it looked great. But Belt singled, took second on defensive indifference and scored on a single by Evan Longoria. That brought Joe out to bring in Brian Duensing to throw to the lefty-hitting Brandon Crawford... who he walked on a 3-2 count after four foul balls.
Well, now it’s a save situation, so in came Brandon Morrow.
Morrow decided he wasn’t messing around. Three straight fastballs, at 100 (!), 99 and 99 miles per hour, took care of Mac Williamson and ended the game with Morrow’s 11th save.
So I’ll leave the complaint department door open just a little bit for that messy ninth inning, otherwise, this was a well-pitched and well-played win on a gorgeous summer afternoon in front of a full house of 41,777. You really can’t ask for much more than that.
All I’ll ask for is for the Cubs to do it twice more this weekend.
One last note, food for thought:
#Cubs this season (including today)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 25, 2018
Games Almora starts: 19-10
Games Almora plays, but doesn't start: 7-6
Games Almora doesn't appear in: 0-5
Saturday, the Cubs game is among three “Baseball Night in America” games on Fox-TV. Here’s the coverage map (and a reminder, if you subscribe to MLB.tv or MLB Extra Innings, you can watch the Cubs game even if it’s not on the Fox station in your market). Jose Quintana goes for the Cubs and Chris Stratton for the Giants. Game time is 6:15 p.m. CT.