The win, combined with the Brewers’ 12-2 loss to the Pirates, put the Cubs back in first place in the N.L. Central by half a game.
The Cubs wasted no time taking the lead. Javier Baez doubled to right with one out in the first inning, and Kris Bryant batted next [VIDEO].
As Len Kasper noted on the broadcast, Eloy Jimenez had no idea where Bryant’s flare was and perhaps lost it in the sun. Baez scored to make it 1-0.
The Sox tied the game in the third an an RBI single by Jose Abreu, but other than that Jon Lester was solid through the first four innings.
Then the Cubs blew the game open against Lucas Giolito in the fifth. Giolito walked the bases loaded and Kyle Schwarber hit a little loopy flyball to short left [VIDEO].
Check out the look on Schwarber’s face after he hits the ball. Within a couple of seconds it goes from, “Dang, where did I hit that ball?” to “Oh, man, I better get running!”
Kyle Schwarber said he "freaked out for a second" after making contact on the Giolito pitch with the bases loaded in the fifth. Had no idea where the ball went. Initially thought he hit a nubber to third base and was about to be on the wrong end of a triple play.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 7, 2019
Not only was it not a triple play, two runs scored and Schwarber wound up at second with what was likely one of the shortest doubles of his career.
Baez, up next, ran the count to 3-2 and then smacked a ball perfectly down the left-field line [VIDEO].
The second straight two-run double made it 5-1 Cubs. That hit chased Giolito, and I don’t know what’s so great about that guy:
Lucas Giolito this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 7, 2019
2 starts 8.1 IP 12 ER 12.96 ERA
vs everyone else
15 starts 91.2 IP 23 ER 2.26 ERA
Evan Marshall relieved Giolito and Anthony Rizzo was the next hitter [VIDEO].
Rizzo’s RBI single made it 6-1. The Cubs managed to load the bases again on a walk to Willson Contreras, but Jason Heyward struck out and Robel Garcia hit into a double play. Don’t be too hard on Robel for that, though, because the ball was hit like a rocket — directly at Yoan Moncada at third base, where he had an easy double play. Garcia, serving as DH, walked twice and struck out, a decent evening at the plate.
And here is the key to that five-run fifth:
Maddon said the biggest takeaway from the five-run fifth was how the Cubs' hitters didn't chase and forced Giolito into the zone.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 7, 2019
"When you're facing good pitchers, you must have them get you out in the zone and not outside the zone. That's how you become elite." pic.twitter.com/ELN9zISaMo
Lester threw into the seventh inning and likely would have finished it except for some sketchy defense. David Bote was charged with an error when he tried to short-hop a grounder by Charlie Tilson, and two batters later Moncada doubled down the line. Baez was charged with an error as he tried to throw Tilson out at the plate, with Moncada taking third. Steve Cishek relieved Lester at this point and got Abreu to ground out, with Tilson scoring. Both runs in the inning were unearned.
Bote made up for that with this slick play to begin the eighth [VIDEO].
That helped Pedro Strop complete a 1-2-3 eighth. The Cubs didn’t score in the ninth, despite a two-out double by Bryant, and Craig Kimbrel then entered for the save.
He began the inning by throwing 98, 97 and 97 miles per hour to pinch-hitter Zack Collins, who was playing in his seventh major-league game. Collins had no chance against the experienced Kimbrel and struck out. Kimbrel then hit Tilson, struck out Leury Garcia and walked Moncada. That brought Abreu up as the tying run.
Abreu struck out on a breaking pitch, but there was still one thing left to do as the ball got away from Contreras, who threw Abreu out at first to end it. Here’s Kimbrel’s entire ninth inning [VIDEO], showing good life on both his fastball and breaking stuff as he posted his second Cubs save.
This was the first time that we saw the “real” Kimbrel, the guy who can throw 97-plus with consistency and also fool hitters with breaking stuff. This was his fourth appearance for the Cubs, and I had the sense that perhaps he’d been brought to the big-league roster a bit too soon. Now he seems as if he’s into the flow of the season. He threw 19 pitches Saturday, likely a few more than he’d have liked to, but he can probably go again Sunday if needed, with four off days to follow.
The game slogged on for three hours, 26 minutes, in part because of that long Cubs fifth inning, also because of the nine walks issued to Cubs hitters, but also because of Sox manager Rick Renteria’s by-the-book lifting of relief pitchers for the platoon advantage. He did this four times in this game (and had one further mid-inning pitching change when Giolito was removed for righthander Evan Marshall). I mean... it worked because the platoon-advantage pitcher got the outs the Sox were looking for, but man, does that slow the pace of the game down. It’s possible, if MLB goes ahead with the proposed “every reliever must face at least three batters unless the inning ends” rule change for 2020, that Ricky Sunshine won’t be able to do this next year.
The nine walks the Cubs drew were their most in a nine-inning game since May 6 and gave them a season total of 343. That’s 3.85 walks per game, a pace for 624 for the season.
The crowd on the South Side was pretty mellow for a Saturday night, the Sox fans mostly taken out of the game by the Cubs’ five-run fifth. I didn’t notice any issues near me, though several Sox security folks stationed nearby left a couple of times to deal with problems elsewhere.
A win for the Cubs Sunday would keep them in first place over the All-Star break no matter what the Brewers do, would also take the season series from the White Sox, and would also even up the all-time series with the South Siders at 61 wins each. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Ivan Nova goes for the Sox. Game time is 1:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage Sunday will be via NBC Sports Chicago (with the Sox broadcast on WGN). The game preview for this afternoon’s contest will post at 11:30 a.m. CT.