Baseball is weird, man.
They completely turned the tables in a rematch series this past weekend at Wrigley Field, completely dominating the Cardinals and sweeping the three-game set, completed Sunday with a 5-1 win in which they did nearly everything right.
After a 1-2-3 first inning from Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs got right to work. Kyle Schwarber, who seems to be getting more comfortable in the leadoff spot with every passing day, worked a seven-pitch walk and went to third on a single by Kris Bryant. Anthony Rizzo grounded to first and Schwarber scored the game’s first run.
The Cubs gave that right back in the second inning, though, thanks to a wild throw by Bryant (on a tough play, it was a tough error to give), a sacrifice bunt and a double by Kolten Wong.
The game went 1-1 into the fifth. Hendricks made a rare mental mistake when he failed to cover first base on a ground ball to Rizzo. That put runners on first and third with two out, but Hendricks then got Paul DeJong to ground to Bryant to end the inning.
That’s when the Cubs offense got to work. Jason Heyward lined a single to left to lead off the bottom of the fifth, his second hit of the game. (Heyward since May 19: .302/.405/.476, 19-for-63, three home runs.) He was sacrificed to second by Hendricks, Kyle’s second sac bunt of the game.
Bote’s well-placed single to left-center gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead, and Schwarber was the next hitter [VIDEO].
That was a well-placed hit, Kyle’s second of the game. Adam Wainwright, who had shut down the Cubs in St. Louis a week earlier, then left the game with what was later described as “left hamstring tightness.”
The Cardinals threatened in the sixth. Paul Goldschmidt doubled off Hendricks to lead off the inning and Marcell Ozuna singled him to third. Dexter Fowler then grounded to Rizzo [VIDEO].
Goldschmidt was going on contact and Rizzo threw him out. Hendricks then got Wong on a fly to center and made a nice defensive play on a dribbler by Harrison Bader to end the inning.
Hendricks completed seven innings, allowing eight hits and one run, striking out three and walking none. It wasn’t his best outing; he clearly didn’t have his best stuff Sunday night. Some of his changeups, usually a strikeout pitch, obviously weren’t going where he wanted them to. But the mark of a good pitcher is to win when he doesn’t have his best stuff, and Hendricks did exactly that in this game, throwing 68 strikes in 98 pitches. It all seemed to work for Kyle:
Sinkers and changeups accounted for 82 of 98 pitches logged by Hendricks tonight. Hendricks was focusing on fastballs up and offspeed down and in chase spots.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 10, 2019
Hendricks praised Contreras' pitch calling: "He could feel what the hitters were doing better than I could today." pic.twitter.com/CuORSpQzii
And here’s just how good Hendricks has been recently:
Kyle Hendricks last 8 starts:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 10, 2019
1.99 ERA, 58.2 IP, 42 Hits, 6 BB, 50 K, 0.818 WHIP #Cubs
The Cubs extended the lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh. Albert Almora Jr. batted for Hendricks and reached on an error. He went to second on a missed pickoff attempt by Carlos Martinez and advanced to third on an infield out.
On the video clip, you can hear ESPN’s Matt Vasgersian say of Schwarber, “Man, is he hot.” Here’s how hot:
Updated Kyle Schwarber stats from the leadoff spot after another big game Sunday night:— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) June 10, 2019
.258/.349/.562 (.911 OPS), 16 RBI, 20 R in 23 games.
Also, Kyle during his current seven-game hitting streak: .423/.500/.769 (11-for-26), three doubles, two home runs, four walks, only five strikeouts. Joe Maddon has noticed:
Joe Maddon said this is as good as he's ever seen Kyle Schwarber - better than 2015 and better than the World Series return.— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) June 10, 2019
I can’t disagree with that. Looks like Kyle will be leading off for the Cubs for the foreseeable future.
Steve Cishek threw a scoreless eighth and the Cubs plated one more run in the bottom of the inning. Welcome to the Cubs Wrigley Field home run club, Carlos Gonzalez [VIDEO].
CarGo’s first Cubs homer was his third of the season, 234th of his career and 10th overall at Wrigley Field. Not a lot of style points for this one, but it counts just the same:
#STLCards 1 @ #Cubs 5 [B8-2o]:— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) June 10, 2019
Carlos González homers (3): fly ball to LCF (solo)
Hit: 357.42ft, 98.2mph, 26.48° , OPPO
Pitch: 97.1mph Four-Seam Fastball (RHP Carlos Martínez, 1) pic.twitter.com/RQzUDGDU2g
This, though, regarding CarGo, could be important:
Theo, on Carlos Gonzalez earlier this week: "With a player of his caliber, you're always intrigued if a change of scenery can spur a revival."— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 10, 2019
CarGo has a single and a homer for the Cubs tonight. Sample size alert, but he's hit 18% above league average since coming to Chicago.
And now the Cubs head to his former home park for a three-game series. Expect CarGo to get a lot of playing time in this upcoming set in Colorado.
With that run, the game was taken out of a save situation and so instead of Pedro Strop entering to start the ninth, it was Carl Edwards Jr. jogging out of the bullpen to begin the inning. Here’s where the complaint department door gets opened just a bit, because CJ did not have a good outing. He walked two, and one of the outs he recorded was on a nice running catch by Almora of a long drive to center field by Bader.
The second walk created a save situation, so in came Pedro, and he wrapped things up with just one pitch [VIDEO].
If you keep score, that’s a rare one to write down, a 6-1 putout. Javier Baez was in short right field in the shift and got the ball that eluded a diving Rizzo and threw to Strop for the out to complete the sweep. The Cubs outscored the Cardinals 17-6 in the series and outscored their opponents 41-21 in the seven-game homestand in winning six of the seven games.
The Brewers also swept their weekend series over the Pirates, so the Cubs (37-27) and Brewers (38-28) remain in a virtual tie for first place. The Cardinals now trail the Cubs by 5½ games, the Pirates are seven games back and the Reds are now eight behind. While the Cubs play the Rockies in Denver, the Brewers will have their hands full with a two-game set against the Astros in Houston.
And speaking of the Cubs’ road trip, this trip’s theme is apparently... cowboy hats:
Or maybe... something else:
Good to see these guys having fun, both on and off the field.
The series in Denver against the Rockies begins Monday night at 7:40 p.m. CT. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs and German Marquez goes for the Rockies, in a pitching rematch from last Wednesday at Wrigley Field. TV coverage Monday will be via NBC Sports Chicago.