I wouldn’t recommend this as a way to a whole season’s worth of wins.
But this Cubs team seems to have mastered the knack of spotting the other team a lead, even in the first inning, and then coming from behind to win.
They did it so for the 31st time in 2018 Thursday night at a windy Wrigley Field, giving the Cardinals the first two runs of the game but coming back with a five-run fifth that helped lift the Cubs to a 9-6 win, a great way to begin the second half of the season.
Kyle Hendricks did not start this game well. Three hits in the first inning led to a run, and this isn’t good:
19 runs allowed, 9 home runs in 20 innings in the first inning for Kyle Hendricks this season.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 19, 2018
Hendricks’ ERA in the first inning this year is 8.55. After the first inning, it’s 3.43. Fix that and you have a pretty good Kyle Hendricks. The first-inning woes are just inexplicable. That’s also nine of his 18 overall home runs allowed in the first inning.
This time, the home-run bug hit Hendricks in the second inning, when Tommy Pham hit a massive home run onto Waveland Avenue. By the end of that second inning, Hendricks had thrown 52 pitches by the end of that second inning, making it unlikely he’d get past five innings. He wasn’t really pitching that badly, but the Cardinals were fouling off lots of pitches and running long counts.
The Cubs came back with a single run in the third, thanks to an inning that was extended when Jedd Gyorko couldn’t handle a grounder by Kris Bryant that otherwise would have been a routine third out. That put runners on first and third for Jason Heyward, who hit this RBI single [VIDEO] to make it 2-1.
The Cardinals had thoroughly dominated the first three innings, but still led by only one run.
St. Louis extended the lead to 3-1 in the fifth. Another long-count inning put Hendricks way over 100 pitches, and Joe Maddon left him in probably one batter too long. With two runners on and two out, Hendricks walked Gyorko to load the bases. Maddon had Brian Duensing ready to go, but let Hendricks throw to Kolten Wong anyway. Wong singled in the third St. Louis run, and only then did Joe go to Duensing, who got Dexter Fowler to ground to third to end the inning. (Because the Cubs went ahead when Duensing was the “pitcher of record,” his seven-pitch outing qualified for the “win,” again demonstrating how meaningless individual pitcher “wins” are. Duensing has a 3-0 W/L record, which tells you almost nothing about how he’s pitched.) One more thing about Hendricks’ outing:
5 or fewer innings by Hendricks in 10 of his 20 starts this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 20, 2018
He’s going to have to do better than that going forward.
Anyway, the Cubs blew the game open, with a terrific long-sequence fifth inning. Victor Caratini singled to short and took second when Paul DeJong threw the ball away. After a groundout, Anthony Rizzo doubled in Caratini to make it 3-2. A single by Bryant followed to put Rizzo on third, and Heyward’s second hit of the game tied it up and put Bryant on third, where he scored on a sac fly by Ben Zobrist to give the Cubs a 4-3 lead.
Ian Happ was next [VIDEO].
Happ’s no-doubt-about-it two-run homer put the Cubs ahead by three. Fun fact:
2nd year in a row a #Cubs player homered in the season opener AND the first game after the All-Star break. Willson Contreras last year, Ian Happ this year.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 20, 2018
The Cardinals made it 6-4 in the top of the sixth on a solo homer by Matt Carpenter off Anthony Bass.
One more run scored in the seventh. Heyward led off with a single, his third hit of the game, and stole second [VIDEO].
Normally I wouldn’t make a big deal about a stolen base by posting video, but as you can see, that was J-Hey’s first steal of 2018. He’d only made one other steal attempt all season.
That steal turned out to be important, because Heyward scored on a single by Zobrist to make it 7-4.
The Cardinals got one run back in the eighth on some sketchy fielding. With two runners on and one out, Carpenter hit a potential double-play ball. But by the time Addison Russell attempted a relay for what would have been the third out of the inning, he really had no chance to double up Carpenter, the throw got away from Rizzo and a run scored, making it 7-5.
The Cubs scored a pair in the eighth. Russell led off with a double and Caratini singled him in, taking second on the throw into the infield. Rizzo was intentionally passed and Bryant singled to make it 9-5.
Brandon Morrow hit the DL again, so the Cubs had to mix-and-match relievers in this one. Fortunately, the Morrow injury (biceps) doesn’t appear serious:
#Cubs Maddon on Morrow: "It's been bothering him a bit but we thought it was manageable but now it's not so we have to take a little bit of a break. ... It seems to be prudent to go this course."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 19, 2018
#Cubs Morrow had an MRI today on his arm. Wasn't too concerned— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 20, 2018
That put Carl Edwards Jr. into the game in the eighth, apparently with the intention of letting him finish. But on a hot, sticky night, he ran out of gas with two out in the ninth and a runner on second. Wong singled in DeJong to make it 9-6, which brought Pedro Strop into the game. Strop made fast work of Fowler, taking only two pitches to retire him on a ground ball to third, and the Cubs had their fourth consecutive victory. The win put the Cubs three full games ahead of the Brewers in the N.L. Central.
Nice performances in particular from Heyward (three hits, the stolen base), Caratini (3-for-3, three runs scored) and Rizzo, now 8-for-16 with five doubles and three walks since he moved to the leadoff spot in San Diego. I’d expect him to continue leading off for a while, since it appears to be helping him get out of his slump.
The Cubs and Cardinals will continue their series Friday afternoon, weather permitting. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and Jack Flaherty goes for St. Louis. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage Friday is via NBC Sports Chicago.