Max Scherzer. Jacob deGrom. Aaron Nola.
Those are three of the best pitchers in baseball, and it’s very likely one of those three will be the N.L. Cy Young Award winner.
And now the Cubs have won games started by all three of those men. Sunday’s was probably the most impressive, with three home runs off Nola in an 8-1 Cubs win that took the series in Philadelphia and gave the Cubs a 3-1 beginning to a long 11-game road trip.
Daniel Murphy began the Cubs’ homer parade in the third inning. It didn’t go that far — but far enough:
Anthony Rizzo joined the power parade in the fourth [VIDEO].
This is so weird. Nola has given up multiple homers just 10 times in 88 career starts. Every time he's started on September 2nd, he's allowed two homers -- 2015, 2017, and 2018.— Ben Harris (@byBenHarris) September 2, 2018
And then Javier Baez ruined that note by joining in the long-ball fun in the sixth inning [VIDEO].
That was the third homer Nola allowed on the day, just the second time in his big-league career (88 starts) that he’d allowed three home runs. And as you see above, that was Javy’s 30th home run and 100th RBI, reaching a pair of milestones with one hit, and it also accomplished this feat:
Javier Báez: first player in #Cubs history with 30 HR, 5 triples, 20 SB & 100 RBI in a season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 2, 2018
Following Baez’s homer, Rizzo walked, and then Kyle Schwarber nearly struck out on a 1-2 foul tip that Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro just couldn’t hang on to.
Schwarber’s RBI triple made it 4-0. Schwarber, whose first big-league hit was a triple, now has as many triples in the last two games as he had from 2015-2017 combined (two), and he’s got three for the season.
While all this power display was going on, Jon Lester was mowing down Phillies. He wasn’t striking them out, as Nola was doing to the Cubs while homers weren’t being hit off him (Nola wound up with 11 Ks before Schwarber’s triple chased him), but he kept hitters off balance and also had some good defense behind him. That began with the very first Phillies hitter of the game, Roman Quinn, who hit a ball that got past Schwarber in left field. Quinn, who has good speed, tried to take third.
Seriously, Roman? Has no one told you not to run on Kyle Schwarber [VIDEO]?
That set the tone for Lester and the Cubs. Jon wound up scattering seven more hits (eight total), didn’t walk anyone, and struck out seven over six shutout innings. That gives Jon a 1.52 ERA over his last four starts (23⅔ innings), with only four walks allowed and 21 strikeouts. So, not only are the results good for Jon, but the peripherals are catching up with the other numbers. The final out recorded by Lester was on this terrific catch by Ian Happ [VIDEO].
Justin Wilson, who’s been really good lately — and that’s an excellent sign for the postseason — retired the Phillies in order in the seventh.
Javy joined the triples parade — Happ had also hit one — in the eighth, and scored on a single by Rizzo to make it 5-0. The last time before Sunday where a Cubs team hit three triples in a game was April 24, 2002, a 10-4 win over the Giants at Wrigley Field. Then Happ doubled with the bases loaded in the eighth and the rout was really on at 7-0. It increased to 8-0 on a sacrifice fly by Albert Almora Jr.
Jorge De La Rosa threw a 1-2-3 eighth. He’s been very effective since the Cubs signed him and ought to be considered for a spot on the postseason roster. Brandon Kintzler allowed a run in the ninth to ruin the shutout, but the Cubs still gave the Phillies only four runs in 29 innings in this series, just outstanding.
The little brouhaha caused by umpire Joe West when he confiscated Phillies pitcher Austin Davis’ “cheat sheet” during Saturday’s game was solved early Sunday:
Update: Teams have been informed that players can use reference cards as long as they do not delay the game. Austin Davis’ card did not violate 6.03(c)(7). https://t.co/iIVALY9DSh— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) September 2, 2018
As usual, Joe Maddon said exactly the right thing about this little kerfuffle:
#Cubs Maddon told it's OK for Phillies to use the scouting card was confiscated from Davis on Sat. Joe: "It's permissible -- I didn't understand why it wasn't permissible. As long as it's not attached to some kind of device that can alter or doctor the ball, it's no big deal."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 2, 2018
Of course Maddon is right, and West needs to just stop doing this sort of thing. It’s embarrassing.
Fun fact: On August 19, Rizzo had just 49 runs scored, after scoring 94+ each of the last three years. I thought his runs total would be down this year, but after Sunday he’s now scored 14 runs in his last 13 games, and with 26 games remaining he might still have a shot at scoring close to 80 runs. Overall his numbers should be very close to his career norms, even after his horrific April.
The win brought the Cubs to a season-high 26 games over .500 at 81-55, and the Brewers will keep pace, having defeated the Nationals 9-4. The Cardinals and Reds were tied late in their contest in St. Louis. The Brewers will remain five games behind the Cubs and the Cardinals will be either 4½ or 5½ behind, depending on what happens in their game.
Now the Cubs move on to an important series at Miller Park in Milwaukee against the Brewers beginning Monday afternoon. Cole Hamels will go for the Cubs against Zach Davies for Milwaukee. Davies is coming off a long DL stint due to a back injury; he hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since May. Game time Monday is 1:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage Monday will be via WGN. Monday’s game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CT.