Well, that was better. Much better.
Kyle Schwarber hit a grand slam and a three-run homer, setting a career high with seven RBI, and the Cubs demolished the Brewers 11-4 at Miller Park Sunday afternoon.
Feel better now? Even a little? Of course you do.
The first inning of this game went scoreless, and then the Cubs loaded the bases on singles by Javier Baez and Jason Heyward, and a walk drawn by Ian Happ.
The homer, Schwarber’s second career slam, landed in the second deck in Miller Park.
Two innings later, Kyle struck again, after a walk drawn by Javy (his first in over a month!), a force play and another walk by Happ.
Kyle Schwarber: first #Cubs player with a 3-run HR & grand slam in the same game since Derrek Lee 7/2/2009 vs Brewers— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 28, 2019
The Cubs are cruising! It’s 7-0 entering the bottom of the fifth and Jose Quintana is mowing down Brewers.
Here’s where the complaint department door gets opened just a bit. Q let the first three Brewers reach base, then after a strikeout, a single, a sac fly and a double by Christian Yelich made it 7-3, with runners on second and third and Ryan Braun coming to bat.
Q was lifted after 76 pitches, 29 of which came in the fifth inning.
Brad Brach entered the game. This sight was not welcoming; Brach has had his troubles this year. But Brach got Braun to ground to third and the inning was over, with the Cubs still holding a four-run lead. (Incidentally, Brach, for getting one out on four pitches, was awarded the “win” in this game, since Q didn’t finish five innings, showing once again how useless individual pitcher wins are in modern baseball.)
The Cubs got right to work on increasing the lead. After two were out, Happ walked for the third time. That’s a useful skill — hey, Joe, why not try him at leadoff? Happ didn’t have a hit in the three game-series, but still has an OBP of .364, with four walks in 11 plate appearances. Anyway, Schwarber then grounded into the shift and was called out, but it was overturned on review [VIDEO].
That was fortuitous. The inning would have been over. Instead, Victor Caratini batted for Brach, and the Cubs had their seven-run lead back. [VIDEO]
That ball: Crushed!
Now it’s 10-3 entering the bottom of the sixth and I was still nervous, because, well, the Cubs bullpen has been awful this whole month.
But Kyle Ryan entered and was, in fact, quite good. The Brewers got a baserunner in the eighth thanks to an error by Robel Garcia, and one out later, Ryan was lifted for Brandon Kintzler to face Braun. Braun doubled in the unearned run to make it 10-4, but Kintzler finished out the rest of the inning without incident.
This seems significant:
#Cubs have 10 runs... all via the home run.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 28, 2019
But who cares, because THEY HAVE 10 RUNS.
They really do need to find ways to score without a home run.
And they did, in the ninth inning, their first run scored on other than a HR in four games. The final Cubs run scored as a result of another managerial challenge. Schwarber was hit by a pitch to begin the ninth, and one out later went to third on a single by Garcia. Willson Contreras grounded into what was called a double play on the field, but on review, it was clear that Contreras beat the throw, and Schwarber scored the 11th run. Let the record show that the umpiring crew of Gary Cederstrom, Ryan Additon, Adrian Johnson and Marty Foster did not have a good series either calling balls and strikes or on the basepaths. Cederstrom and Foster are generally good umpires, but the other two are relative newcomers and neither did well in this set.
Derek Holland threw the ninth and retired the Brewers 1-2-3, and that’s significant because two of the three hitters he faced (Orlando Arcia, Tyler Saladino) were righthanded. I wouldn’t necessarily do this on a regular basis, but perhaps Holland can be eased into a relief role that’s more than just a LOOGY.
At this writing the Astros lead the Cardinals heading to the bottom of the ninth in their game in St. Louis. If that 6-1 score holds up, the Cubs and Cardinals will be tied for first place entering their three-game set which begins Tuesday evening. The Brewers will trail both by one game. All three teams have Monday off.
This was a nice win, but the Cubs should have done better than 2-4 on the first two legs of this nine-game trip. A series win in St. Louis — and it is doable — will go a long way toward righting the Good Ship Chicago Cubs as we enter August.
The Cubs have another off day in the middle of this trip, and they surely need it. They’ll spend it in Chicago before heading to St. Louis, where Yu Darvish will start Tuesday evening against Cardinals veteran Adam Wainwright. Game time Tuesday is 7:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago (and on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Cardinals market territories).