The Cubs defeated the Astros 2-1 Wednesday evening, salvaging the final game of their series, on yet another solid outing by Kyle Hendricks and solo home runs by Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant.
But before I get into the details of this win, we need to discuss what happened in the fourth inning when Albert Almora Jr. fouled a ball into the stands down the third-base line.
Almora hit a fourth-inning line drive into the stands down the third-base line, where it struck the young girl. She was picked up by a man who appeared to be with her, and he dashed up the stairs with the child at Minute Maid Park.
”The young fan that was struck by a foul ball during tonight’s game was taken to the hospital,” the Astros said in a statement. “We are not able to disclose any further details at this time. The Astros send our thoughts and prayers to the entire family.”
A photo taken by The Associated Press showed the girl conscious and crying as she was whisked away. Sources told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers that the initial report on the girl’s condition was positive.
Almora immediately put his hands on his head and took a couple of steps toward the stands after the girl was struck. He then fell to his knees near the plate and was consoled by teammate Jason Heyward and manager Joe Maddon.
You could tell Almora was deeply affected by what happened, though it was obviously completely accidental. There’s postgame video from Almora at the link above, talking about what happened, and he was clearly still emotional about it after the game.
After the bottom of the fourth inning, Almora went over to the area in the stands to find out more information:
After Albert Almora Jr. struck a young fan with a foul ball, in between innings he went immediately over to that section to ask about the situation. You can see he is overwhelmed with emotion as him and the security guard have a moment. This is just a terrible & sad situation. pic.twitter.com/Yh3wWmDjhx— Cubs Live (@Cubs_Live) May 30, 2019
Here’s another view of the hug between Almora and the security officer:
And more from Almora, postgame:
Almora: “As soon as I hit it the first person I locked eyes on was her... just praying. I’m speechless ... being a father with two boys. ...God willing I’ll be able to have a relationship with that family the rest of my life.”— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) May 30, 2019
Almora: “Puts life into perspective.”— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) May 30, 2019
I'm glad people recognize what a good person Almora is. Anyone would be shaken, of course.But he's about as nice as they come in that clubhouse.Never a bad moment being around him. Ever. I often joke with him, he's the 3-time defending champion for being accommodating with press— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) May 30, 2019
I’ve always been a fan of Albert Almora, but tonight pushed that to a whole new level. What an incredible, compassionate heart.— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) May 30, 2019
This is a perfect example of when baseball ceases to matter. This video gives me chills. So grateful to hear the little girl will pull through. https://t.co/qi7b0JGnXW
Like everyone else, I hope everything is okay with this little girl.
Now, about the game, though as Almora said, all of this does put baseball and life in perspective.
Kyle Schwarber, leading off the game, homered on Wade Miley’s third pitch. [VIDEO]
It was Kyle’s second leadoff homer, and 10th of the year. That gave the Cubs five players in double figures in homers, and we’re not quite to the end of May.
Kyle Hendricks began carving up Astros hitters after that. A two-out double in the first inning was all they got in the first two frames and in the third, Kris Bryant made it 2-0 [VIDEO].
Looks like KB is just fine after missing two games following Sunday’s collision with Jason Heyward at Wrigley Field. And if you were wondering why Bryant was at DH, with Javier Baez at third and David Bote at second base, Joe Maddon had the only logical explanation:
Javier Baez, playing with a bruised right heel he suffered May 19, started at third to limit his range after serving as the DH in the previous two games.
Addison Russell made his third consecutive start at shortstop, but Maddon firmly stated the team’s plans at that position in the wake of a report two weeks ago that the Cubs considered moving Baez off shortstop.
“He’d be playing short (Wednesday) if his foot was fine,” said Maddon, adding that Russell would have started at second and David Bote at third.
Put your tinfoil hats away. KB will likely be back at third Friday in St. Louis, with Baez moving back to shortstop. Russell and Bote will likely share a lot of second-base time going forward, that is, unless Daniel Descalso remembers how to hit baseballs.
Anyway, after KB’s home run, Alex Bregman doubled and Michael Brantley singled him to third, where Bregman scored on a sacrifice fly by Josh Reddick, making it 2-1.
In the fifth, Tyler White led off with a double, and the next hitter, Tony Kemp, grounded to Bote at second. Instead of taking the sure out at first, Bote fired right to Baez at third, who tagged White out trying to advance. That might have been the play of the game, because the next hitter, Jake Marisnick, flied to center. Had White made third, he likely would have scored the tying run. Instead, the Cubs maintained the 2-1 lead.
The Cubs didn’t come close to scoring the rest of the way. Hendricks, uncharacteristically, hit two Astros batters in the seventh, but struck out Marisnick to end that threat. Then he issued a two-out walk in the eighth, but got Yuli Gurriel to fly to right to finish that inning. Hendricks finished his eight-inning outing allowing just four hits and striking out seven. Kyle is the only MLB pitcher this year to have four starts of at least eight innings. Only one other starter (Hyun-Jin Ryu) even has three such starts in 2019. Also:
Kyle Hendricks in 6 May starts:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 30, 2019
1.81 ERA, 44.2 IP, 28 Hits, 5 BB, 37 K, 0.739 WHIP#Cubs
Steve Cishek, who had not pitched since last Friday, entered for the save opportunity. It took just 12 pitches for him to retire the Astros in order for his fifth save and the Cubs victory.
One note about the Cubs’ two homers in this game (they had 10 in the series by seven different players):
#Cubs have hit 2 or more home runs in 8 straight games, which ties their franchise record from June 25-July 2, 1961— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 30, 2019
The major-league record for such things is nine straight games. It’s been done five times, most recently by the 2016 Cardinals. The Cubs will have a chance to tie that mark against the Cardinals this weekend, in their ballpark.
My takeaway from this series: The Astros are really good! They haven’t lost a series at home this year, and the Cubs did give them tough games in the two that Houston won. Wednesday’s Cubs win was just the fourth time this year that the Astros have been held to one or fewer runs in their home park.
Perhaps the Cubs will visit MMP again in October.
In the meantime, the Cubs will enjoy their off day Thursday after a stretch of 16 straight games. The Brewers had Wednesday off, so the Cubs increased their division lead over Milwaukee to one full game (two in the loss column). They lead the Pirates by four, the Cardinals by five and the Reds by six.
Friday’s game in St. Louis will feature Yu Darvish for the Cubs and Miles Mikolas for the Cardinals. Game time Friday is 7:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.