Because baseball, of course.
So of course, Thursday afternoon featured zero home runs and a single run that scored after an error and a double play might have ended that inning, with the Cubs coming out on top 1-0, sweeping the three-game series and moving their record at Wrigley Field to an amazing 44-19 (.698).
Both Kyle Hendricks and former Cub Jeff Samardzija were dealing over the first three innings. Samardzija retired the first nine Cubs and the only Giant to reach off Hendricks in that time frame was Brandon Belt, on a one-out double in the second inning.
(Incidentally, Hendricks and Samardzija were never Cubs teammates. Shark was traded to the Athletics July 5, 2014. Hendricks made his major-league debut five days later, in a sense replacing Samardzija in the Cubs rotation.)
Hendricks allowed another hit in the fourth, but got out of the inning with a double play.
In the bottom of the fourth, Jason Heyward lofted a ball to center field. The strong wind (16 miles per hour) blowing in took it away from center fielder Kevin Pillar and it dropped in front of him. Truth be told, Heyward should have been on second base — the ball hung up for a long time. He settled for a single. Nicholas Castellanos hit what should have been a double-play ball, but Brandon Crawford booted it.
That’s two misplays by two of the best defensive players of recent years. It looked like the Cubs had an inning going. Kris Bryant, though, hit into a double play, with Heyward taking third.
Anthony Rizzo gave the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].
That was a nice piece of hitting, shortening up (as Len Kasper noted on that clip) and lining a single just out of the reach of Crawford.
In the top of the fifth, we had a bit of humor in the outfield. Belt hit a fly ball to medium-deep left-center. Heyward and Kyle Schwarber converged on the ball [VIDEO].
That was awesome. Heyward appeared to lose the ball in the sun, but Schwarber was there to make the catch, and then they hugged things out. You can hear the laughter from the crowd.
Hendricks kept dealing. After the fourth-inning single he retired seven straight, allowed another single — by Samardzija — then retired five more in a row. That brought praise from a national writer who wasn’t even at the game:
I love watching Kyle Hendricks pitch.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) August 22, 2019
I’m with you, Marc Carig — he’s long been my favorite Cub. And here’s a description of one of Kyle’s changeups:
Good grief that Kyle Hendricks changeup was covered in filth.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) August 22, 2019
Actually it was rolled in filth powder, and also had a liquid filth center. Sort of like a cherry cordial.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) August 22, 2019
Love those descriptions. Hendricks threw seven innings, allowed three hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out seven. About that walkless outing:
Hendricks has walked two or fewer in 23 consecutive starts. That's the longest such streak by a Cubs pitcher since 1984 (Scott Sanderson, 24).— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 22, 2019
The Cubs got a leadoff walk by Bryant in the seventh, the only walk of the game, but he was erased on a double play. Credit to Samardzija, who also had an excellent outing: seven innings, two hits, one run, four strikeouts. That run was earned, even with the error in the inning, because you can’t assume there would have been a double play on Crawford’s error. Thus:
Samardzija charged with the most unearned earned run in history #SFGIants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) August 22, 2019
With Hendricks out of the game, Brandon Kintzler entered to begin the eighth. Pillar hit a sharp grounder down the third-base line that had “double” written all over it — but Bryant made this outstanding play [VIDEO].
Kintzler allowed a two-out triple to Crawford, and good thing the wind was blowing in:
Brandon Crawford's triple off the ivy is bounding across Sheffield Ave. if he hits it either of the two previous days. Giants sending Vogt to pinch hit with two outs in the eighth. Huge spot.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) August 22, 2019
He’s right. The strong wind kept the ball in the park, and Kyle Ryan came on and the Giants, who had announced Stephen Vogt as a pinch-hitter, replaced him with Austin Slater. You used to see that much more often, a team burning a pinch-hitter to get a platoon advantage. With modern short benches, it’s rare. Ryan struck out Slater anyway to end the inning [VIDEO].
Looks like Slater was sitting on a breaking pitch and Ryan sneaked a 92 mile per hour fastball by him, a real nice piece of relief work.
The Cubs were retired 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth, and with Craig Kimbrel having worked two days in a row (and three of four), Joe Maddon did not go to his closer, instead leaving Ryan in to face Mike Yastrzemski, who had struck out three times previously. Ryan retired him on a ground ball to short and then Rowan Wick was summoned.
Wick, who posted his first big-league save just last Saturday, has been used in many more high-leverage situations recently. He rose to the occasion again, striking out Buster Posey and getting Alex Dickerson on a comebacker. Here are both the outs Wick recorded. [VIDEO].
Wick has definitely worked himself into a primary setup role and right now, I’d have him as Kimbrel’s backup closer. Looks like Joe is thinking that way.
It was the Cubs’ first 1-0 win of the season — in fact, the first 1-0 game they had participated in all year. It’s just the 25th 1-0 game of the 2019 season. To give you an idea of how run-scoring is up in 2019, we are about 78 percent through this year. 25 1-0 games would be a pace for about 32 such games for this season. There were 55 1-0 games last year.
Further, it was the first game the Cubs won at Wrigley Field where they had two or fewer hits in more than four years. The last one was April 8, 2015 against the Cardinals, a 2-0 win in which they also allowed four hits to the visitors. But this is even more impressive:
That's the first #Cubs 1-0 win with 2 or fewer hits and no extra-base hits since July 13, 1936 vs Giants... the New York Giants.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 22, 2019
Props to Hendricks, who has been otherworldly at Wrigley Field this year, and indeed for his entire career:
Kyle Hendricks at Wrigley Field— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 22, 2019
2019: 11 starts
1.79 ERA in 75.1 innings
Career: 77 starts (78 games)
2.59 ERA in 476.2 innings#Cubs
The win gave the Cubs yet another sweep at Wrigley Field, their fifth of the season. The Cardinals will host the Rockies tonight in St. Louis; pending that, the Cubs lead the Cardinals by a full game, and have also again matched their season high at 11 games over .500.
Lastly, the weather finally cleared and it was gorgeous at Wrigley all day, with unlimited sunshine, a nice breeze off Lake Michigan and temperatures in the mid-70s, a perfect day. The complaint department door is closed and locked tight.
Friday, the Nationals come to town to open a three-game set (after they have to play a night game in Pittsburgh tonight, and I hope that game goes into long extra innings). Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and Anibal Sanchez gets the call for Washington. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be on ABC7 Chicago (and nationally on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Nationals market territories).