Mike Montgomery, well-rested (unlike his Cubs teammates) Monday afternoon, made his case for a spot in the starting rotation with 5⅔ shutout innings against the Pirates. The Cubs added home runs from Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell and defeated the Pirates 7-0 in the first of a three-game series. In so doing, the Cubs moved to a season-high tying six games over .500.
Montgomery flew ahead to Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon and took a perfect game into the fifth, until Corey Dickerson singled with one out in that frame. The Cubs had taken the lead in the second, thanks to Rizzo [VIDEO].
Rizzo’s blast was his seventh of the season, and he added a walk and two singles. At .228, his season BA is at its high for the entire year (well, except for .250 after his 1-for-4 on Opening Day), and he’s now on a 10-game hitting streak in which he’s hitting .333/.500/.462 (13-for-39) with three doubles, a home run, eight walks and 13 RBI. Also, Rizzo is now hitting .295/.400/.557 (25-for-87) with six home runs, 15 walks and 27 RBI in May. Were you worried about him? He’ll be just fine.
He’s also about to move up on the Cubs’ team all-time home run list:
#Cubs career HR list— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 28, 2018
11. Alfonso Soriano 181
12. Derrek Lee 179
13. Andre Dawson 174
14. ANTHONY RIZZO 172 (one today so far)
The Cubs might have had another home run in that second inning if not for Pirates left fielder Corey Dickerson [VIDEO}.
Credit where credit is due: That was one of the better catches of the year by anyone. A tip o’the cap to Dickerson.
Meanwhile, Montgomery cruised into the sixth inning before being relieved with two out after 76 pitches (54 strikes). He probably could have finished the inning, but having not thrown more than 59 pitches in any game so far this year, Joe Maddon probably felt like not stretching him out too far. Steve Cishek finished the sixth without incident. With Albert Almora Jr. on base in the top of the seventh, Russell batted for Cishek [VIDEO].
That’s the second pinch home run of Russell’s career, and if you’re concerned about Addy’s hitting, here are his numbers from May 5 through this game: .318/.403/.470 (21-for-66) with five doubles, two home runs, 10 walks and nine RBI. Were you worried about him? As is the case with Rizzo, Russell will be just fine.
A weird play happened in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and nobody out. Chris Gimenez, making his Cubs debut, hit a ground ball to shortstop. Pirates shortstop Sean Rodriguez fired home for the force, but when catcher Elias Diaz threw to first for a possible double play, the throw went wildly into right field. That was because Rizzo had done a slide into the plate, which he’s entitled to do. The umpires did a crew chief review and it was determined that Rizzo didn’t do anything wrong, after which Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was ejected. According to Len Kasper on the game broadcast, they were first checking to see if the play was reviewable, and when they determined that it was, they then found that Rizzo’s slide was within the rules.
Justin Wilson threw a scoreless seventh against his old team, and Pedro Strop did the same in the eighth. In the ninth, the Cubs rallied for two runs in the ninth, driven in by Rizzo with his third hit of the game. That gave us the chance to witness a rare Strop plate appearance, just the third of his career. He actually got decent wood on the ball, hitting a fly ball to medium-deep center field, perhaps the only hitter who’s received a standing ovation for making a routine out.
After that, Luke Farrell finished up with a 1-2-3 ninth. The Pirates had just two baserunners the entire afternoon, the single by Dickerson and another single by Sean Rodriguez, both off Montgomery. The pitching staff did an outstanding job, helped out by the defense; since the Cubs turned one double play, the staff faced just 28 batters, one over the minimum. The Cubs certainly have earned a good night’s rest tonight!
And, management and the coaching staff will have to consider what to do with Tyler Chatwood’s spot in the rotation, especially with Montgomery’s excellent outing in this one.
One more thought about the night-to-day scheduling forced on the Cubs by the Pirates, who decided they wanted an afternoon game Monday. I wrote about this last week, and even though it’s allowed by the CBA, it probably shouldn’t have happened. And if the Pirates scheduled a day game hoping for a big crowd, that didn’t work: only 19,382, about half PNC Park’s capacity, attended this one, many of them Cubs fans.
Tuesday evening, the Cubs will go for the series win over the Pirates. Jon Lester will go for the Cubs and Nick Kingham for the Bucs. Game time Tuesday is 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage is via WGN.