With Yu Darvish on the DL for 10 days, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Monday night that they hadn’t decided whether they’d get a start from Jen-Ho Tseng Tuesday or just make it a “bullpen day.”
They wound up doing both, and despite a shaky outing from Tseng, the Cubs’ bullpen threw seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a pair of walks, with seven strikeouts. Meanwhile, the Cubs’ offense was digging out of a 3-0 first-inning deficit, and finished the comeback with a terrific slide by Kris Bryant in the eighth for a 4-3 win over the Marlins.
Tseng’s start wasn’t good. He retired the first two batters he faced easily, then allowed four straight hits, including a home run by Justin Bour, and the Cubs were down 3-0 before they even got to bat. Tseng did throw a 1-2-3 second, but Joe Maddon then figured he’d just go with the pen. I still think Tseng will be a successful starter at the big-league level, but clearly he’s still a work in progress.
Also, I had written earlier Tuesday that Tseng would be the first Cubs pitcher ever to wear uniform No. 1, which he had worn in spring training. When he got to Chicago, though, they issued him No. 52, and I wish I had thought of this comment first:
So now I get why he’s wearing Grimm’s old number.— Justin Bates (@_JustinBates) May 9, 2018
Before all the excellent bullpen work, the Cubs had narrowed the deficit to 3-2 in the second. Ian Happ and Victor Caratini singled, putting runners on first and third with two out. David Bote, just recalled to replace Jason Heyward (concussion DL), batted for Tseng:
Those were the first two big-league RBI for Bote, who figures to get a start or two while Heyward is out:
#Cubs Maddon also said Bryant might get start in RF while Heyward is sidelined— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 8, 2018
After Bote’s hit, the bullpen took over. Rob Zastryzny, the day’s Iowa shuttle guy replacing Cory Mazzoni on the roster, threw a pair of scoreless innings, thanks in part by Ben Zobrist channeling Heyward’s defense:
Derek Dietrich was out by 20 feet. There was no reason for the shove, but that led to one of the funniest bench-clearing incidents I’ve ever seen, the first since the bullpens were moved under the bleachers. Watching the relievers from both teams run from there to the middle of the scrum at full speed was amusing, and then there was this:
wait, did Kris Bryant start tickling Starlin Castro? pic.twitter.com/rvfab9SOZV— FanDuel (@FanDuel) May 9, 2018
You can always count on Starlin Castro for providing some humor. There was laughing all around, and one thing you didn’t see: As this was going on, the last guy in the pen, bullpen coach Lester Strode, walked about halfway from the bullpen to the infield, realized things were just about over, then turned around and headed right back.
Things calmed down and the Cubs’ pen kept it that way. Steve Cishek threw a 1-2-3 fifth and Justin Wilson allowed a single in a scoreless sixth.
The Cubs tied the game in the bottom of that inning. Bryant was hit by a Jose Urena pitch to lead off the inning, went to third on a single by Anthony Rizzo and scored on a fielder’s choice. The Cubs had runners on first and third with one out after Tommy La Stella singled, but Addison Russell popped up a bunt — a safety squeeze attempt, maybe? — and Ian Happ struck out to end that threat.
The Cubs pen kept putting up zeroes. Pedro Strop threw only eight pitches to finish a 1-2-3 seventh, and Carl Edwards Jr. struck out the side in the eighth. CJ has now faced 66 batters this year and struck out 30, a K rate of 15.9 per nine innings. His walk rate is a bit too high still, at 4.2 per nine, but he’s just not giving up hits — only seven in 17 innings — for a WHIP of 0.882. He’s just been dominant.
And then the Cubs manufactured the eventual winning run. Bryant walked to lead off the eighth, was wild-pitched to second and went to third on a ground ball to first by Rizzo. The Marlins pulled in their infield and Caratini hit a ground ball right to Castro:
You can see Starlin hesitate just slightly before throwing. On a contact play like that, Bryant’s going anyway and he never stopped, beating the throw home for the lead run.
That brought in the Cubs’ sixth reliever of the night, Brandon Morrow. And Javier Baez, who had been held out of the starting lineup because of the minor groin injury he suffered Monday, had remained in the game at third base after pinch-hitting, with Bryant moving to right field and Zobrist to left. That created, with one out, yet another signature Javy defensive moment:
Can’t say enough about Javy’s defensive instincts. Even with a body that’s not 100 percent, he made that one look easy.
Morrow finished up for his eighth save, and despite all the bullpen use Tuesday night, several of those relievers should be available for Wednesday’s game. Cishek threw only seven pitches, Strop eight and Morrow just five, a very efficient way of getting three ninth-inning outs.
With Zastryzny having thrown 38 pitches, it would not surprise me to see him shuttled back to Iowa before Wednesday’s game and have another reliever replace him, possibly lefthander Randy Rosario, who’s having a terrific year in Des Moines: 0.60 ERA, 0.933 WHIP in 15 innings.
And one last fun fact about this game:
#Cubs: 2-game streak of scoring more than 3 runs.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 9, 2018
First such streak since Apr 22 (9) and Apr 24 (10).
First time this season scoring more than 3 runs in a game after scoring 10.
By the way, they are tied with Braves for most 10+ run games this season (6)
All of this happened on a beautiful early-May night at the ballyard. Most of you will remember the 18-inning game a year ago Tuesday, May 7, 2017, when the Cubs lost to the Yankees on a 40-degree night. Tuesday night’s temperatures were in the 60s with light winds. Wednesday, we might not be so lucky, with storms in the forecast. Wednesday is the final game of the year between these two teams. The Cubs have Thursday off but the Marlins don’t, so they’ll likely do whatever they can to get this one in.
Jose Quintana will start for the Cubs and Wei-Yin Chen will go for the Marlins, a matchup of lefthanders, as the Cubs go for the sweep. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT. TV coverage Wednesday is via WGN. The game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CT.