Now that’s the Cubs team we’ve been accustomed to seeing over the last three-plus seasons.
They took advantage of some shoddy Cardinals defense to post a three-run fifth inning, and Kyle Hendricks had one of his better outings of the year. The 5-2 win salvaged one of a three-game series in St. Louis.
I should qualify that comment about Hendricks a bit. Once again, he had first-inning woes.
Before all that started, though, Ben Zobrist gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the top of the first with a solo home run [VIDEO]. Zobrist’s blast, his seventh, was his first in exactly one month. That one had a high, majestic arc:
But Hendricks couldn’t hold the lead. A double by Yadier Molina (who is just crushing Cubs pitching this year) was followed one out later by a two-run homer from Marcell Ozuna.
Hendricks in the first inning this year: 22 IP, 8.59 ERA, 10 home runs allowed
Hendricks in all other innings this year: 105 IP, 3.00 ERA, nine home runs allowed
Hendricks first inning HR allowed:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 30, 2018
2018: 10 (1 tonight)
Now if you have an explanation for all of that and how to fix it, please let Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey know, because I’m sure they’d be interested.
The second inning began and Hendricks looked like the guy we’ve known over the last three years. Soft contact, strikeouts on changeups, the whole shebang. After Yairo Munoz doubled with one out in the second, Hendricks retired the final 17 Cardinals he faced. He struck out eight and got seven ground-ball outs and looked utterly dominant.
Meanwhile, the Cubs were getting themselves back into the game. Anthony Rizzo, leading off the third, smashed his 15th home run of the season [VIDEO].
That one, too, soared high into the St. Louis night, almost identical to Zobrists’s:
That tied the game. Rizzo’s homers tend to come in bunches, and that’s his third in his last four games. Since moving to the leadoff spot: .411/.500/.696 (26-for-53) with five doubles, a triple, three home runs and nine walks. The Cubs are 9-6 with Rizzo leading off. Also, the homer was Rizzo’s 180th as a Cub, giving him sole possession of 12th place on the all-time Cubs list. Next up: Alfonso Soriano (181) and Hack Wilson (190).
The fifth inning was decisive in this game. With one out, David Bote hit a ground ball that bounced off pitcher John Gant. Third baseman Jedd Gyorko picked it up and threw to first, but Matt Carpenter didn’t have his foot on first base [VIDEO].
You know, I usually like the ESPN crew but they were way, uh, off base on this one. It was pretty clear that Carpenter’s foot was not on first base when the ball settled in his mitt.
Anyway, Rizzo hit into a force play and Zobrist doubled him to third. Then Jason Heyward hit a routine ground ball to second that should have ended the inning, but Munoz booted it [VIDEO], allowing Rizzo to score and giving the Cubs the lead. Javier Baez followed with a double [VIDEO] that scored both Zobrist and Heyward, making it 5-2. Props to Zobrist, who had a four-hit night. He’s now hitting .304/.391/.438, having essentially the same year he had in 2016, but with more rest.
(Note: For some reason most of the ESPN highlight videos aren’t embeddable.)
Hendricks completed the seventh and then was removed in favor of Carl Edwards Jr. after throwing 107 pitches. Hopefully, this is the Hendricks we see for the rest of the season.
CJ allowed a hit and a walk, but got out of the inning without being scored on.
Pedro Strop was Sunday’s designated closer, and he really couldn’t have been more efficient, retiring the Cardinals in order on only eight pitches for his fifth save. He had some help from Bote [VIDEO] on a nice pickup and throw on a slow roller by Ozuna. And let me just get this out there: I don’t think Ian Happ makes that play. I’d like to see Bote get more playing time at third base while Kris Bryant is on the disabled list.
The win was the Cubs’ 34th this year coming from behind, which leads the major leagues. It’s great that they can do this, but I wouldn’t mind seeing games in which they take a big early lead and just keep it, either.
The game was delayed by rain for about an hour and 15 minutes, but thanks to Hendricks, was played at a pretty good pace once it did get started. Even so, the Cubs’ flight to Pittsburgh didn’t arrive there until after 3 a.m. Eastern time. Good thing the ballclub has Monday off to get rested.
The win moved the Cubs back to 1½ games ahead of the Brewers in the N.L. Central, as Milwaukee lost to the Giants Sunday afternoon. They lead the Pirates (who also lost Sunday) by seven games and the Cardinals by eight, and they won’t see the Cardinals again until the final three games of the regular season, September 28-30 at Wrigley Field. By then, we all hope the Cubs will have wrapped up another division title.
The Cubs, as noted, will have Monday off (the Brewers will take on the Dodgers in Los Angeles Monday night) and then begin a brief two-game set against the Pirates in Pittsburgh Tuesday. Jon Lester will go for the Cubs and Jameson Taillon for the Pirates. Game time Tuesday is 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.
That game will begin three hours after the non-waiver trading deadline, which is at 3 p.m. CT Tuesday afternoon. Will the Cubs make another deal before then? Stay tuned!