Well, except for the performance of Brandon Kintzler. I’ll get to that, but let’s talk about the good stuff first.
Jose Quintana started off very well. He allowed two hits and a walk over the first three innings, throwing just 34 pitches. And the Cubs took a 3-0 lead in the second, on an RBI single by Ian Happ and this long home run from Daniel Murphy [VIDEO].
Murphy, who always hit well at Wrigley Field as a visitor, is definitely finding it to his liking as a home-team player. His homer was his only hit Saturday, but was his second in as many games.
As good as Quintana was in the first three innings, he was that bad in the fourth. He threw 36 pitches in that inning, gave up three hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly that reduced the Cubs’ lead to 3-2. Q wasn’t bad the next inning, allowing a bloop single in the fifth that was erased on an inning-ending double play. But when he issued a leadoff walk in the sixth, Joe Maddon had seen enough and pulled him after 89 pitches (only 49 strikes). Here’s a solid evaluation of where Q stands in the Cubs rotation:
Let's put the trade to the side for a moment and just evaluate Q. He's showing us he's good for 5/6 solid innings and needs a quick hook when he's fatiguing the third time through. Which reminds me of all the criticism Joe took early in the year for pulling him in these moments.— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) August 25, 2018
By the time Quintana was lifted, the Cubs had a four-run lead. Willson Contreras led off the fourth with a double, and Kyle Schwarber, who’s been in a terrible slump, was next [VIDEO].
Schwarber’s 23rd of the year gave the Cubs a 5-2 lead. Fun, or maybe not-so-fun, fact:
Kyle Schwarber homers off Luis Castillo.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 25, 2018
23 HR this season. All off right handers. #Cubs
Anyway, in the fifth, it was Javy time [VIDEO].
Javy’s 28th made it 6-2. An RBI single by Anthony Rizzo in the sixth made it 7-2, and then the Cubs really opened it up in the seventh, helped along by a couple of walks, some sketchy defense by the Reds (two errors) and then Javy again [VIDEO].
Baez, who had also been in a slump, now has this little streak going:
#Cubs Baez has hit safely in 6 straight games and is batting .462 with 2 doubles, 3 HRs and 8 RBI. He leads NL with 97 RBI— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 25, 2018
RBI aren’t the be-all and end-all of statistics, as you know, but the last Cub not named “Bryant” or “Rizzo” who had a 100-RBI season was Alfonso Soriano, in 2012. The last Cubs player not an outfielder or first baseman who did so was Aramis Ramirez, in 2008. So when Javy reaches the century mark in RBI, give him some applause. He deserves it.
Now we’ll get back to Brandon Kintzler, who I’m pretty sure Joe wanted to throw two innings and finish the game. He couldn’t even finish one inning, as he gave up two singles to lead off the eighth. After a strikeout, he served up a pair of home-run pitches, a three-run shot by Curt Casali and a solo homer by Preston Tucker.
Seriously, this isn’t good. Coming into Saturday’s games, those two had combined for four home runs this year in 117 at-bats. Tucker’s home run went a long, long way:
Barrel: Preston Tucker (5) [CIN] off Brandon Kintzler [CHC]: 108.0 mph, 23 degrees (Home Run - 442 ft)— MLBExitVelocity (@MLBExitVelocity) August 25, 2018
Yikes. Kintzler hasn’t been very good since he came over from the Nationals. Fortunately, even after that the Cubs had a four-run lead, which Jorge De La Rosa preserved in fine fashion. He recorded the final five outs on 12 pitches, sealing the Cubs’ fourth win in a row.
One more notable thing from this game was Ben Zobrist channeling Jason Heyward in right field on this fine catch in the seventh [VIDEO].
Zobrist is having just an outstanding season, both at the plate and in the field. He seems much younger than his 37 years, and Maddon has done well spotting him in the lineup and giving him enough days off to keep him fresh. And speaking of defense [VIDEO]...
Daniel Murphy, channeling his inner Javy! Murphy’s been a very good fit so far and has done well in the field, including that slick catch. Here’s Murphy on hitting:
Murphy has a .407 career batting average at Wrigley. Could it be his dark brown eyes? I've seen something before that said people who have darker eyes see the ball better during the day and lighter eyes struggle a little bit. I'm pretty sure my eyes are pretty dark." #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 25, 2018
Murphy’s right about that, I have heard that is an actual factor in seeing the ball better during day games. Whatever works!
So, the Cubs improve to a season-high 22 games over .500 at 75-53. The last time they were more than 22 games over .500 was the second-to-last day of the 2017 season, when they were 92-69. They’ll try to match that on Sunday as they go for the sweep, and we await the results of Brewers vs. Pirates and Cardinals vs. Rockies Saturday evening to see if the Cubs can gain on their nearest competitors. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs Sunday afternoon and Homer Bailey for the Reds. Game time again is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage Sunday is via WGN.