All the Cubs needed, apparently, to get back on the right track was to return home to Wrigley Field.
They exploded for a five-run sixth inning in Monday’s snowout makeup game and crushed the Angels 8-1, snapping their three-game losing streak.
Things didn’t start out that way, though. For the first few innings it looked like a replay of Sunday’s game. Angels “opener” Cam Bedrosian and Trevor Cahill retired the first nine Cubs in order. But Jon Lester nearly matched him. David Fletcher led off the game with a single and advanced to second on an error by Kyle Schwarber (tough error, Addison Russell should have blocked the ball). Lester then retired the next 12 Angels in order, then hit a batter leading off the fifth. That runner was erased on a double play, slickly turned by Javier Baez at short. Baez looks like he’s moving laterally much better than on the road trip.
Meanwhile, the Cubs pushed a run across in the fourth inning. Schwarber singled to lead off the inning, then Kris Bryant laid down a perfect bunt to put runners on first and second. Schwarber took third on a fly ball by Anthony Rizzo, and scored on a forceout by Baez [VIDEO] to make it 1-0.
Carlos Gonzalez, making his Cubs debut, then singled for his first Cubs hit, but no further runs scored.
In the sixth, Cahill singled with one out, but again Lester induced a double-play ball to end the frame.
At last, the Cubs offense got going in the bottom of the sixth. Bryant walked to lead off the frame, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Baez laced a double down the left-field line, just fair, scoring KB to make it 2-0. CarGo drew a walk, and Willson Contreras singled to load the bases. The Angels then pulled Cahill for Justin Anderson. The first batter Anderson faced was Jason Heyward, and he came through [VIDEO].
J-Hey’s double down the right-field line made it 4-0 Cubs, and Addison Russell added a sacrifice fly to make it 5-0. Lester drew a walk. I’m going to pause here to give Jon Lester a tremendous amount of credit for making himself a better hitter than he was when he came to the Cubs, when he couldn’t hit almost literally at all. He has quality at-bats almost every time up, and that one was outstanding, fouling off a couple pitches after a 3-0 beginning, then getting the walk.
That ball was perfectly placed, and made it 6-0.
As sometimes happens when a pitcher goes too long between innings on the mound, sitting in the dugout and then running the bases, he’ll lose his rhythm, and that’s what happened to Lester. Two hard-hit balls among the first three hitters and a hit batter loaded the bases with one out, and Jonathan Lucroy sent a ball toward the right-center field gap. But CarGo was there! [VIDEO]
So we learned today that CarGo can still go get the ball in the field. That was an outstanding play and it literally saved two runs. One run scored on the out, and Lester eventually finished the inning, seven strong innings with four hits and one walk allowed with six strikeouts. I have been telling people not to worry about Lester during his bad stretch, because he seems to have one of these every year, and he always pulls out of those and pitches well again.
In the seventh, with one out, Javy turned on a first-pitch slider [VIDEO].
Baez’ 14th made it 7-1, and Contreras didn’t want to be left behind [VIDEO].
Carl Edwards Jr. took over for the eighth and threw an easy 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts, 10 strikes in 12 pitches. CJ has been really good over his last five outings, throwing 5⅔ innings, allowing one hit and one walk (0.353 WHIP), one unearned run and striking out six. This is the CJ the Cubs have needed all along. If he can keep this up, that solves a big part of the bullpen issue.
Dillon Maples threw a scoreless ninth and his reward is likely to be a trip to Des Moines, because he’s probably going to be optioned back to Iowa when Pedro Strop is activated from the injured list, probably Tuesday. Maples has also done a good job recently. Last five outings: four innings, one hit, four walks (1.250 WHIP), seven strikeouts. He’ll undoubtedly be back later in the summer.
Speaking of summer, even though it’s June, it wasn’t summer at the ballpark, with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees, way below average for this time of year. At least the sun was shining. The win gave the Cubs a 6-5 record in interleague play for the year. Nine interleague games remain (four vs. the White Sox, three vs. the Athletics and two vs. the Mariners, seven of those nine at Wrigley Field).
And I don’t know what’s so great about that Mike Trout guy. He went 1-for-4 and struck out twice and misplayed a ball in center field.
A tip o’ the cap to Albert Pujols, who played his 93rd and likely last-ever game at Wrigley, since he has two years left on his contract and the Cubs won’t play the Angels again until 2022. Pujols, who got booed every time he batted (I don’t get that, he’s been a worthy opponent and is a sure Hall of Famer), went 0-for-4 on the afternoon.
Lastly, it should be noted that despite the losses over the weekend, Cubs pitching has allowed two or fewer runs in four of their last five games, the exception being the rain-delayed loss on Saturday. So in general, I think Cubs pitching is doing just fine.
The Cubs moved to within a game of the first-place Brewers with the win, and will open a three-game series against the Rockies Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Jeff Hoffman gets the call for Colorado. Game time Tuesday is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.
And CarGo will, perhaps, play his first game against his former team. You’d think that would inspire him. So far, so good on that signing.