These are the Cubs we’ve been waiting for, for nearly the entire 2018 season.
Outstanding pitching from Kyle Hendricks. A varied offense that included hitting with RISP and home runs, and taking advantage of the other team’s errors. All that added up to a 9-0, three-hit shutout win over the Reds, sweeping the series and giving the Cubs a five-game winning streak.
Hendricks got through the top of the first 1-2-3 on 13 pitches and then the offense got to work. Daniel Murphy led off with a single, and then Javier Baez hit a ground ball that Jose Peraza fielded and threw to second, pulling Scooter Gennett off the base. The call was “safe,” and it stood after review. A fielder’s choice by Anthony Rizzo put runners on first and third with one out, and Willson Contreras’ ground out scored Murphy to make it 1-0.
Billy Hamilton fell down and Heyward’s ball went over his head for an RBI triple. I don’t think Hamilton would have caught the ball anyway, but on third base, Heyward scored the third run of the inning on an RBI single by David Bote.
Turned out that would be all Hendricks would need. This was vintage Hendricks, getting strikeouts on his changeup and inducing weak contact. He threw seven shutout innings, allowing just two singles and a walk, and no Reds runner got past first base off Kyle. It was one of his best outings of the year and if this is the Hendricks we see the rest of the season, good things are going to happen. About Cubs pitching in recent games:
#Cubs starting pitchers: 1.67 ERA, 0 HR allowed over last 10 games— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 26, 2018
Meanwhile, the offense got to work to increase that 3-0 lead. With two out in the third, Heyward singled and Bote came to bat [VIDEO].
That ball cleared the bleachers AND Waveland Avenue:
For Bote, it was an unusual home run:
David Bote finally hit a homer that DIDN'T tie the game or give the Cubs a lead.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 26, 2018
But he DID homer off a pitcher by the name of Homer with HOMER on the back of his jersey, so there's that...
Always nice to have games where you can have fun like this. The Cubs added a run in the fifth on an RBI single by Heyward, his third hit of the game, to make it 6-0, and put up a three-spot in the seventh. Anthony Rizzo doubled to lead off the inning, his second double of the game, and one out later moved to third on Heyward’s fourth hit of the afternoon. Reds reliever Robert Stephenson struck out Bote, and while Kyle Schwarber was batting, threw to first base... but no one was there, and that was a run-scoring balk.
That made it 9-0. More on Schwarber:
Schwarber HR. His 24th this season.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 26, 2018
All 24 off righties. #Cubs
Tommy La Stella followed Schwarber, batting for Hendricks, and grounded out. I mention this only because TLS’ next pinch hit will tie the franchise record for pinch hits in a season. That’s 20, set by Thad Bosley in 1985 and tied by Dave Clark in 1997. La Stella is now 19-for-61 (.311) as a pinch-hitter with seven walks and a HBP, so he has a .387 OBP as a pinch-hitter.
Randy Rosario finished up the game uneventfully with two scoreless innings, though he did allow a leadoff double to Dilson Herrera leading off the ninth. That’s the only Reds baserunner who got past first base Sunday afternoon. Rosario did his job well — that job was to save the rest of the bullpen.
An excellent afternoon for the entire ballclub, and they are beginning to win the games they are “supposed” to win, for whatever that means.
The Cubs also made this announcement earlier in the day:
#Cubs will go with 6 man rotation and insert Montgomery into mix. He'll start Thursday vs Braves— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 26, 2018
So that will give all the starters an extra day of rest down the stretch, and by next Saturday they’ll have some bullpen reinforcements as rosters can expand that day. This also moves Jose Quintana to Friday, the first game of the Phillies series, a good thing since Q has been pounded previously by Braves hitters.
The sweep was very satisfying not only for its significance in the pennant race, but because the Reds had swept the Cubs in a similar four-game series in Cincinnati in June. I’m sure it felt good to Cubs players to return the favor. The Cubs are now at a season-high 23 games over .500 at 76-53, which matches their high-water mark from 2017. The last time they were more than 23 games over was the last day of the 2016 season, when they finished 45 games over at 103-58.
It was oppressively hot and humid at Wrigley Field Sunday afternoon and many folks in the bleachers wound up spending some time underneath the stands, or even taking off early. Game time temp was 93, and the humidity made it feel even hotter than those 95-degree days at the ballpark in early July.
The Brewers won their game against the Pirates Sunday and the Cardinals defeated the Rockies. That leaves things status quo in the N.L. Central standings, with all three teams winning the Cubs continue to lead the second-place Cardinals by four games and the third-place Brewers by 4½. The Cardinals head home to face the Pirates beginning Monday, and the Brewers begin a road trip in Cincinnati. Hopefully, the Reds play better at home than they did at Wrigley.
And the Cubs begin a series against a team they are “supposed” to beat. They’ll have to get through the Mets’ two best pitchers in the first two games of the series, but the Cubs also have two of their top arms ready to go. Monday, it’ll be Jon Lester facing Noah Syndergaard. Game time Monday is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage Monday is via NBC Sports Chicago.