Just when you thought the Cubs might never score another run ever ever ever, they exploded for six runs in the 14th inning, highlighted by a pair of two-run doubles and a two-run homer by Javier Baez and defeated the Mets 7-1 for their third straight win.
Fun fact: This game, as far as I can tell, was the first extra-inning 7-1 victory in Cubs franchise history (at least, going back to 1908, as far as Baseball Reference’s Play Index goes).
There’s a tremendous amount to unpack here, so let’s get started.
Jacob deGrom, who’s been the best pitcher in the National League this year not named “Max Scherzer,” was dominant over the early innings. He struck out eight Cubs in the first four innings and 13 overall in seven outstanding innings. The Cubs managed to touch him up for a single run in the sixth, when the first three hitters, Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, all singled. Rizzo’s hit drove in Heyward for a 1-0 lead.
This was the kind of weak contact deGrom was getting all night from Cubs hitters, when he wasn’t striking them out. The Cubs managed seven hits off deGrom, six of them singles.
But Mike Montgomery nearly matched deGrom. Montgomery threw six solid innings, allowing just two hits, his second consecutive excellent start. One of those hits, unfortunately, was a solo homer by Michael Conforto in the bottom of the sixth, which tied the game 1-1.
And there it stood for inning after inning. Mets manager Mickey Callaway had to remove deGrom after 118 pitches and seven innings. deGrom became just the eighth pitcher this year to throw that many pitches, and with the Mets’ record of pitcher injuries, it remains to be seen whether that will affect him down the road.
This is where Cubs hitters began to frustrate all of us watching. They had RISP off the Mets bullpen in every single inning from the eighth through the 13th, but could not score. They kept striking out, in every single inning from the eighth through the 13th, with runners on base. They wound up striking out 24 times, a season high for any MLB team:
#Cubs: 2nd time striking out 20+ times in a game this season (also 20 on 3/30 in 17-inning game at MIA).— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 3, 2018
Just two other teams had struck out 20 times in a game this year, the Padres vs. the Dodgers on April 20, and the Orioles against the Athletics May 5, both in 12-inning games, both exactly 20. The 24 strikeouts are a Mets franchise record, for whatever that’s worth.
The Cubs’ bullpen, though, was up to the task. Cory Mazzoni, Justin Wilson, Luke Farrell and Brandon Morrow threw eight combined innings, allowed five hits and three walks, and struck out 11.
Particular kudos to Farrell, who threw five of those eight innings, the longest stint of his big-league career, and struck out seven. Fun facts:
Luke Farrell: first #Cubs relief appearance of 5+ scoreless innings with at least 7 K since Ray Burris 9/23/1973— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 3, 2018
However, Burris allowed two runs inherited from Rick Reuschel to score, so Farrell even more impressivehttps://t.co/rDEtbJEwfG— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 3, 2018
Farrell’s reward for this outstanding pitching is probably going to be a trip back to Des Moines, because after a 76-pitch outing he’s not likely available for three or four days, at least. Barring injury, the Cubs can’t bring back Justin Hancock until Friday. Perhaps the return of Dillon Maples?
Anyway, finally, finally, the Cubs offense broke through in the 14th inning. With one out, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber singled. That brought up Albert Almora Jr.:
That’s the Spanish-language call on Almora’s hit, and I embed that here because for its usual inscrutable reasons, MLB won’t let me embed the English-language version. Here’s that English-language call [VIDEO].
The Cubs, as it turned out, had just begun that winning rally. An intentional walk to Addison Russell followed, and then Ian Happ drew an unintentional walk to load the bases. Ben Zobrist was next [VIDEO].
That made it 5-1, and then Baez, the last man on the Cubs bench who had, up to that time, been given the night off, stepped to the plate to bat for Farrell [VIDEO].
Javy just loves to hit home runs in extra innings:
Javier Báez already has 5 career extra-inning HR— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 3, 2018
12th, 13th, 14th, 14th & 15th innings
Ryne Sandberg had 3 in his career (all in 10th inning)#Cubs
#Cubs Almora after Baez HR in 14th: "We were yelling at Joe, 'You took that long to put him in? If he was going to do that, we would've been out of here a long time ago.'"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 3, 2018
Morrow, who had been warming up for a potential save situation, entered the game anyway, with that six-run lead. He allowed a one-out single, but then got Adrian Gonzalez to hit into a game-ending double play, and the four-hour, 53-minute marathon came to a happy conclusion.
Hopefully, Morrow won’t be needed Sunday, as he’s thrown three days in a row (though only two pitches Thursday). Even with Monday’s off day, you don’t want Morrow throwing four straight days.
In addition to all the pitching and hitting heroics mentioned above, I want to give more props here to Heyward, who had four hits on the night, three singles and a double:
Heyward's 8th career 4+ hit game.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 3, 2018
2nd with #Cubs. First since 4/24/16
Heyward is on a tremendous hot streak. It’s his fourth multi-hit game over his last five, and in those five games he is hitting .521/.542/.609 (12-for-23) with two doubles and only two strikeouts — and those numbers include a game (Friday) where he went 0-for-5. Since May 5: .358/.434/.434 (19-for-53) with two doubles, two triples and only three strikeouts.
Whatever Heyward is doing right now, it appears to be paying off. Keep up the good work.
The win moved the Cubs to their high point of the season, nine games over .500 at 32-23, and kept them three games behind the Brewers in the N.L. Central, as Milwaukee defeated the White Sox. Their +91 run differential is now best in the N.L. and second only to the Astros (+128) in all of baseball.
And, since I have been noting the Cubs’ record wearing different road uniforms, I will point out that the team did win wearing the blue alternate jerseys, improving their record to 4-10 in that color. It’s their first win wearing the blue alts since April 24 in Cleveland, and doing so improved the Cubs to 5-1 on this road trip and six wins in their last seven overall.
The Cubs go for the four-game sweep in New York Sunday afternoon at 12:10 p.m. CT. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and Steven Matz for the Mets. TV coverage Sunday is via ABC7 Chicago. Today’s game preview will post at 11 a.m. CT. (This time for sure!)