Welcome back. When last we looked back, the Cubs had won four straight to close out the week, culminating with a sweep of the Braves who would go on to win the NL West. With those wins, the Cubs had a 7½-game lead on the NL East. The Mets had also finished their week with four straight wins (by a total of five runs!) and, despite a 22-23 record, were now knocking on the door for second place in the division behind a fading Pirates club.
This week, the Astros come to town for two games and the Reds would follow with three. The Reds series is an interesting one though. We’ll look at three games, but one of those games would be played to a tie, ultimately being replayed. Another was rained out but then there was a game played on Monday to start the next week. A very odd series indeed.
Game 50, June 3: Cubs 4, Astros 2 (34-16)
After an off day Monday, the Astros came to town for two. Bill Hands and Denny Lemaster squared off in the first one. The Astros scored a run in the first to take the early lead. They held that lead until the fourth inning when the Cubs scored two. A Joe Morgan homer in the sixth tied the game at two. But the Cubs plated two more in the sixth. They held on for a fifth straight win and Hands saw his record move to 5-5. He completed the game, his fourth on the season (one shutout).
- Superhero: Bill Hands (.302). 9IP, 7H, 2B, 2R, 7K
- Hero: Jim Hickman (.137). 1-4, 2RBI, K
- Sidekick: Ernie Banks (.118). 1-3, BB, R
- Billy Goat: Billy Williams (-.202). 0-4, R, DP
- Goat: Don Kessinger (-.002). 1-4
- Kid: Randy Hundley (.019). 2-4, RBI, 2K
Game 51, June 4: Cubs 5, Astros 4 (35-16)
Fergie Jenkins and Tom Griffin each went the distance despite a 5-4 game. The Cubs scored first with a run in the second. Then the Astros put four on the board against Jenkins and the Cubs in the fourth. But the Cubs came right back with four of their own in the bottom of the inning. The score stayed right there over the final five innings. Jenkins moved to 8-2 with the win. This was his ninth complete game (four shutouts). He also had a nine inning, non-complete game. All of that in just 14 starts.
- Superhero: Randy Hundley (.342). 1-1, HR, 2BB, R, 3RBI
- Hero: Fergie Jenkins (.282). 9IP, 7H, 3BB, 4R, 8K
- Sidekick: Ernie Banks (.122). 2-4, HR, 2R, 2RBI, K
- Billy Goat: Willie Smith (-.114). 0-4, 3K
- Goat: Don Kessinger (-.089). 0-4, K
- Kid: Glenn Beckert (-.062). 0-4
Game 52, June 6: Cubs 14, Reds 8 (36-16)
After another off day on Thursday, the Reds were scheduled for three games. In the first one, Ken Holtzman received fantastic run support and picked up his ninth win (9-1). The Cubs scored early and often in this one, scoring three in the first, three in the third and four in the fourth to jump out to a 10-1 lead. Holtzman did allow one in the fifth and then left without recording an out in the sixth as the Reds cut it to 10-5. But the Cubs added four in the eighth and put it back out of reach. That was a good thing because the Reds did score three more in the ninth. Phil Regan threw the final four innings for his fifth save. The Cubs had 17 hits.
- Superhero: Ernie Banks (.248). 2-4, HR, HBP, R, 3RBI
- Hero: Phil Regan (.105). 4IP, 4H, 1BB, 3R, 3K
- Sidekick: Billy Williams (.086). 2-4, HR, BB, 3R, 4RBI
- Billy Goat: Willie Smith (-.013). 0-2, K
- Goat/Kid: Don Young (.000). 2-4, HR, BB, R, 2RBI; Nate Oliver (.000). 1-2, R, K
Game 52.5, June 7: Reds 5, Cubs 5 (36-16)
This was a new question for me. How to handle a tie? The two teams played eight plus innings before the rains came. The game was never finished. But it was counted as a full game. Statistics were entered. Ergo, there were Heroes and Goats. The Cubs scored three in the first to take the early lead. The Reds got one back in the fourth, but the Cubs added two more in the sixth. Hands was looking for his second win of the week, but he couldn’t get it done. The Reds scored one in the seventh and three more in the eighth. One final note, the Cubs didn’t get to bat in the ninth, even though the Reds did. What weird world is this? Obviously, if the Reds had scored and the Cubs hadn’t gotten to bat, the game would have reverted back to the tie that existed at the end of the eighth. As it is, the Reds scoreless ninth does count in their stats.
- Superhero: Bill Hands (.194). 7IP, 7H, 2BB, 3R, 5K
- Hero: Ernie Banks (.146). 1-3, HR, BB, R, 2RBI
- Sidekick: Ron Santo (.097). 2-4, 2B, R, RBI
- Billy Goat: Ted Abernathy (-.172). ⅓ IP, 2H, 0BB, 2R, 1K
- Goat: Dick Selma (-.107). ⅔ IP, 1H, 0BB, 0R, 0K
- Kid: Nate Oliver (-.081). 0-4, R
Sunday’s game was rained out. So, four games were played and the Cubs were a perfect 3-0 with one disappointing tie. That pushed the Cubs out to a seven game winning streak. That pushed the Cubs to 36-16, a season high 20 games over .500. The Cubs came into the week with a 7½-game over the Pirates. After winning on Tuesday, that lead reached 8½ games. But with only two games played the remainder of the week, despite two wins, the lead shrunk back to eight games.
That happened because the Mets played six games and won them all. That pushed their winning streak to 10 games. They won those 10 games by a total of 16 runs. There were three walk-off victories, including 1-0 in 11 innings and 1-0 in 15 innings against the Dodgers. They allowed just 18 runs in those 10 games. They played just about 11 games’ worth of baseball over those 10 games with eight extra innings completed. Six one-run wins in 10 games. One has to wonder how many fortunate bounces there were that made up that streak. Without it, where might the Mets have been?
Week 9 Hitter Feature: Adolfo Phillips
Usually, we take a look at a player who had a significant impact on the week, be it positive or negative. In this instance, we take a look at a player who didn’t play. Instead, Willie Smith was inserted in the lineup on a more regular basis. The results? Smith who’d been having a fantastic season as a pinch hitter struggled under regular playing time. At the end of play on May 27, Smith had started just two games for the Cubs, but owned a 1.010 OPS (actually down from 1.119 a few weeks earlier). Between May 28 and June 7, Smith started five games and saw his OPS drop down to .883. That playing time came at the expense of Adolfo Phillips.
Phillips was Panamanian. He was signed by the Phillies in 1960. By 1964, he debuted in the major leagues with them at the age of 22. He didn’t get significant playing time until 1966 after he was traded to the Cubs. He was traded along with Fergie Jenkins for Bob Buhl and Larry Jackson. One of the things I read about Phillips was that he was extremely torn about being traded by the Phillies. He had anxiety about fitting in with teammates in Chicago as well as with Leo Durocher.
Still, in 1966 he played in 116 games for the Cubs and posted an even .800 OPS. He stole 32 bases (in 47 attempts) and scored 69 runs. In 1967, he posted a career high 17 homers in 541 PA for the Cubs, including a three homer game. He stole 24 more bases (in 34 attempts) and posted an .842 OPS. He was intentionally walked a major league leading 29 times (and 20 more in 1968). In 1969, he broke his hand when he was hit by a pitch in spring training. He missed the start of the season and didn’t have his first plate appearance until April 22, game 15 of the season. By May 12 he was sporting a line of .048/.375/.048.
From May 13 to May 25, he hit safely in eight of nine games (starting eight of them), including seven straight. Over that stretch he had a line of .400/.516/.600. In the subsequent game, he went hitless in two at bats, was taken out of the game early and then never started another game for the Cubs. Why bench a player immediately after a seven-game hitting streak? Just another oddity from the Leo Durocher era.
Phillips played 649 games over eight major league seasons, with the overwhelming majority of the playing time being for the Cubs. He compiled a .753 OPS in 2,173 PA. He stole 82 bases (in 126 attempts). Durocher once said that he felt that Phillips was faster than Lou Brock. Certainly, his .343 lifetime OPS was propped by 57 intentional walks. He did show some pop, hitting 59 homers. The Cubs traded Phillips to the Expos on June 11 for Paul Popovich.
The story of Phillips’ career also includes ulcer surgery, punching an opposing team’s third-base coach during a game and several years bouncing around between different organizations in the minor leagues at the end of his career.
Week 9 Pitcher Feature: Bill Hands
Bill was signed as an amateur free agent by the Giants before the 1959 season. He didn’t reach the major leagues until 1965 and that was only for a total of four games and six innings of work (despite two of them being starts). In 1965, Hands was traded to the Cubs along with Randy Hundley for Don Landrum and Lindy McDaniel.
In 1966, Hands made 26 starts and also saved two games. He was 8-13 with a 4.58 ERA. But in 1967, he started to put things together. He was 7-8 but had a 2.46 ERA in 150 innings of work, largely out of the bullpen (11 starts in 49 appearances). IN 1967, he made 34 starts for the Cubs and had a 2.89 ERA and was 16-10. In 1969, he threw an even 300 innings, winning 20 games for the Cubs (20-14) with a 2.49 ERA.
In all, he started 213 games (276 appearances) for the Cubs over seven seasons. He compiled a 92-86 record and a 3.18 ERA over 1,564 innings. Those were without question the best years of his career. In all, he started 260 games (374 appearances) had an 111-110 record and a 3.35 ERA. He pitched for four teams (including those four games for the Giants). He last played in the majors in the 1975 season for the Rangers, though he was traded before the 1976 season to the Mets. He never appeared in a regular season game for the Mets.
Looking Ahead: Week 10 will start with the make-up game on Monday with the Reds. The Cubs will then travel to Atlanta for three more games with the Braves. Then they’ll play four games in three days in Cincinnati. So that will be eight games in just seven days. Played in three cities. The schedule also includes a doubleheader against the Pirates the following Tuesday, and so the Cubs would be in a stretch of 12 games in 10 days in four cities.