Rarely does a replay review decide a major-league game, but Thursday afternoon’s 4-3 Cubs win over the Phillies indeed turned on one such play.
Situation: The Cubs are leading 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth, having already scored a pair of runs in the inning. The bases are loaded with one out; Albert Almora Jr. is the runner on third base.
Anthony Rizzo lifts a fly ball to left field. Watch what happens [VIDEO].
Almora was called out on the field, but Joe Maddon asked for a review of the home-plate collision rule. After a three-minute, five-second review, the review crew ruled there had been a violation of the rule and called Almora safe. That fourth run turned out to be the deciding run after Brian Duensing got touched up for a pair of runs in the sixth, the Phillies helped out by an error by Kris Bryant.
But here, I’m starting in the middle, so let’s rewind to the start of the game.
The first two Cubs reached base, a double by Almora and Tommy La Stella getting on via catcher interference. But they were stranded, and the next 10 Cubs were set down in order by Phillies righthander Nick Pivetta.
Meanwhile, Tyler Chatwood was getting himself in trouble with walks. Again. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the first, was helped out by a double play in the second that he began, and loaded the bases on walks again in the fifth before Joe finally had mercy and took him out in favor of Duensing, who ended the fifth inning on an infield popup.
I mean... Chatwood did hold the Phillies to one run. But he didn’t finish the fifth and walked seven, and threw 107 pitches, only 58 of which were strikes. He struck out six, but walked seven, and...
Most starts this season with 5+ walks:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 7, 2018
8 Tyler Chatwood (including today)
4 Lance Lynn
3 Lucas Giolito
Here’s what Chatwood said after the game:
#Cubs Chatwood on his outing: "It's a step in the right direction even though it dind't look like it"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 7, 2018
Well, no, it didn’t. I just don’t know what to say about this anymore. The Cubs, somehow, have managed to win half of Chatwood’s 12 starts. But they simply can’t have the bullpen overextended like this every fifth day. He’s going to have to figure things out, and quickly.
Anyway, after those 10 aforementioned Cubs went down in order, Rizzo stepped to the plate with one out in the fourth [VIDEO].
That gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. It was also a Cubs milestone for Rizzo:
Career HR #175 with #Cubs for Anthony Rizzo, passing Andre Dawson for 13th in franchise history— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 7, 2018
Next up: Derrek Lee, 179, and Alfonso Soriano, 180. Numbers on Rizzo’s blast, his 10th of the season:
I’ve already talked about the top of the fifth, when the Phillies tied the game off Chatwood before Duensing put out their rally, and the bottom of the fifth, where the Cubs plated three, helped out in part by a throwing error by Pivetta, and a walk drawn by Duensing. Prior to this game Duensing had been 0-for-12 as a hitter with eight strikeouts and no walks. His comment on his base on balls:
Today, #Cubs Duensing collected his 1st career walk as a batter. It wasn't 1st time on the bases. Says he was used as a pinch-runner with Twins— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 7, 2018
Anyway, Duensing got in trouble in the sixth and Scott Kingery doubled in two runs to make it 4-3. Steve Cishek was called on to face the same hitter who homered off him Wednesday night — Aaron Altherr. This time, Cishek won the battle by striking Altherr out.
And then it was a battle of the bullpens. The Cubs had just one baserunner after the sixth, La Stella reaching again on catcher interference in the eighth. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before — catcher interference is rare enough that usually, we see it once or twice a year in Cubs games, not twice in one game and certainly not twice by the same player. Unfortunately, TLS was wiped out on a double play.
But the Cubs pen matched that effort. Justin Wilson, whose awful outing on May 19 had me wondering if it was time to cut ties, has been really good since then: seven games, 8⅓ innings, three hits, five walks, 13 strikeouts and an 0.00 ERA. He struck out the side in this one. Credit where credit is due: Wilson is still walking a few too many but he’s thrown well enough to be trusted in a high-leverage situation like this one.
Pedro Strop threw an uneventful eighth and Brandon Morrow, who threw 21 pitches in a not-so-great outing Wednesday night, was summoned to save the game.
Morrow’s snag of the sharp line drive by Carlos Santana was the first out; he got a ground ball to Rizzo for the second. After a walk, the Phillies sent up Jorge Alfaro to pinch hit, and Morrow struck him out on a 98 mile per hour fastball to end it, win the series, and post his 15th save. Unfortunately, he threw 21 pitches again in this one, so he might not be available Friday.
But that’s tomorrow. Let’s celebrate this one, and also worth celebrating, the absolutely stunningly gorgeous weather Thursday afternoon:
You really couldn’t ask for a nicer day at the ballpark.
The Cubs reached another high-water mark with the win, now 11 games over .500 at 35-24, and cut their deficit in the N.L. Central to just half a game behind the Brewers, who were idle Thursday. Friday, the Pirates, who have lost five of seven since last week’s Cubs series at PNC Park, will be at Wrigley Field to begin a three-game series. Mike Montgomery will go for the Cubs and Chad Kuhl starts for the Pirates. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage Friday will be on NBC Sports Chicago.