All was well that ended well Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field when Kyle Schwarber’s deep drive to left field in the 10th inning landed in the basket [VIDEO].
Lots of things happened on the way to Kyle’s home run, so let’s rewind to the beginning.
Alec Mills, recalled from Triple-A Iowa to make this start, got the first two outs of the game on five pitches. One of those outs was on an outstanding sliding catch [VIDEO] by Albert Almora Jr.
And then Eugenio Suarez did what he’s been doing all year off Cubs pitching — smashed another home run, his fifth of the year against the Cubs. Not-so-fun fact:
Most career HR vs #Cubs, active players— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 17, 2019
57 Albert Pujols (185 games)
38 Ryan Braun (177 games)
34 Joey Votto (183 games)
23 Andrew McCutchen (160 games)
20 EUGENIO SUÁREZ (82 games)
20 Jay Bruce (141 games)
And then, inexplicably, Mills started hitting batters. He hit the next two men he faced after Suarez, Nick Senzel singled in the second run of the inning and the next hitter was Jose Peraza [VIDEO].
The third run of the inning scored, but Senzel was tagged out at the plate. Almora and Javier Baez made perfect throws to new Cubs catcher Martin Maldonado for the out. If not for Almora’s defense, the Reds could have scored five or six runs in that first inning.
The Cubs went out 1-2-3 in the first. Anthony Rizzo led off the second with a single and Robel Garcia then cut the deficit to one run [VIDEO].
Garcia is one of the best stories of the year so far:
Over the last six seasons, there have been FOUR #Cubs to hit 3 or more HR in their first 9 career MLB games— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 17, 2019
Robel García 2019
Willson Contreras 2016
Jorge Soler 2014
Javier Báez 2014
There was a bit of controversy in the game in the bottom of the fourth. With one out and Rizzo on first, Garcia hit a ground ball toward Derek Dietrich at second base [VIDEO].
Len and JD were correct in their analysis. The runner has to try to avoid the fielder, otherwise it’s obstruction, correctly called by the umpires.
After that rough first inning, Mills settled down. He did hit two more batters (one in the second, one in the sixth), which tied a major-league record for most HBP in a game. The last Cub to do it was John Lackey in 2017. All in all, it was a successful outing for Mills: six innings, five hits, three runs, only one walk (although there were all those HBP!), six strikeouts. At 81 pitches, I thought he could have gone another inning.
Kris Bryant tied the game up with two out in the bottom of the sixth [VIDEO].
The Cubs bullpen did an excellent job after Mills was lifted. Brandon Kintzler, Pedro Strop, Craig Kimbrel and Steve Cishek threw four shutout innings, allowing three hits and a walk. I must say, though, that Kimbrel still does not look like the Kimbrel of old. He threw only 10 strikes in 24 pitches, and his velocity topped out at 95-96 instead of the 97-98 he’s typically thrown in the past. He doesn’t seem to have command of his pitches and got out of the inning with fly balls to center field. The inning turned out to be harmless, but Kimbrel appears to still be a work in progress.
One of the outs in the 10th inning was fun:
Here's Heyward high-fiving the fan down the right-field line. Unfortunately, no down-low, too-slow was included. pic.twitter.com/hTEvJ7aV5L— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 17, 2019
The Cubs couldn’t score in the seventh, eighth or ninth, despite having RISP in both innings. And in the ninth, Almora failed to run right away after striking out when the ball got away from Reds catcher Kyle Farmer. Garcia, who had singled and taken second on an infield out, went to third. But if Albert had run right away, he’s likely safe and there are runners on first and third with one out. At that point it’s possible the Cubs could have won on a fly ball or any number of ways.
Anyway, that brings us back to the beginning of this recap and my “all’s well that ends well” comment. On a day when the Cubs commemorated the beloved 1969 team’s 50th anniversary, the game ended with a ball hit into a place that didn’t exist at Wrigley Field that year, the basket on top of the bleacher wall that wasn’t installed until May 1970.
The Brewers crushed the Braves 13-1 Tuesday evening and moved back into second place in the N.L. Central, as the Cardinals lost to the Pirates. The Cubs’ division lead thus goes back to 2½ games over Milwaukee, and St. Louis trails by three.
The Cubs go for the series win Wednesday at Wrigley Field. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs and Sonny Gray goes for the Reds. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.