Now if that game wasn’t a microcosm of the Cubs’ 2019 season, I don’t know what would be.
Timely hitting when they needed it. Taking advantage of the other team’s errors. A power display.
And... a starting pitcher who couldn’t get out of the fifth inning. Relievers who kept getting themselves in jams, then out of them. The tying run at the plate in the ninth inning after the Cubs had built a nine-run lead. They weren’t really going to blow this, were they... ?
One play set the tone for this game. With one out in the first inning, Nicholas Castellanos was hit by a pitch and Kris Bryant singled. Javier Baez was the next hitter and he hit a ground ball to shortstop Amed Rosario, usually a dependable fielder. The inning might have been over... except Rosario threw the ball away. Castellanos scored and the Cubs offense pounced all over Noah Syndergaard.
Schwarber’s double made it 2-0 and Baez took third. Addison Russell drove them both in [VIDEO].
Just like that it was 4-0, but the Cubs were not done in that inning, thanks to Ian Happ [VIDEO].
Seven batters into this game, the Cubs had a 6-0 lead. If you were rubbing your eyes in disbelief, join the club.
The Mets put a run across in the bottom of the first, but it appeared to be just a blip in a blowout. Bryant doubled to lead off the second. I use the word “double” advisedly [VIDEO].
Wow, that was some really bad fielding. The Cubs took advantage when Schwarber came to bat one out later [VIDEO].
Now it’s 8-1, and I was shocked that Mickey Callaway left Noah Syndergaard in to take this pounding. It got worse for Noah in the third. Victor Caratini led off with a single, and two outs later, it was Castellanos’ turn to go deep [VIDEO].
Castellanos continued his hot hitting with the Cubs:
Nicholas Castellanos this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 29, 2019
With Tigers: HR #9 came in Game #79
With Cubs: HR #9 came in Game #25
It’s 10-1 at this point. Syndergaard finished the third inning, but it was still the worst start of his career. And the Cubs hadn’t put this kind of beatdown on a single pitcher in over a decade:
Noah Syndergaard is the first pitcher to allow 10 or more runs vs #Cubs in over 10 years.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 29, 2019
The last had been Charlie Morton of the Pirates on 8/14/2009.
And these home runs had all been quite timely:
Each of the last 6 #Cubs home runs (and 9 of their last 11) have had at least one runner on base.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 29, 2019
I’ll repeat: It’s 10-1. Kyle Hendricks was cruising. What could possibly go wrong?
Plenty, as it turned out. Hendricks started getting hit hard in the fifth. A double (that hit off the very top of the wall in left field) with one out and two Mets home runs made it 10-4. Hendricks gave up another hit, got the second out, then hit a batter. Another hit scored the Mets’ fifth run and brought Joe Maddon out to pull Hendricks in favor of David Phelps. Five pitches into the first at-bat against Phelps it was 10-6 on yet another hit.
10-6. It’s only the fifth inning. Yikes.
The Cubs offense, which had pounded away at Syndergaard, was stifled by the Mets bullpen. From the sixth through the ninth inning, they had just one baserunner, pinch-hitter Tony Kemp, who bunted his way on base but was caught stealing to end the seventh inning. It was so bad that Brad Brach, who could barely get anyone out when he was a Cubs reliever, threw two scoreless innings, this after posting a 12.27 ERA and .389 opponents BA in his previous five outings. Double yikes.
The Cubs bullpen was ... well, they won the game, but not after some nervous moments. Kyle Ryan threw a scoreless sixth. He allowed a leadoff single that was erased on a double play. Steve Cishek retired the first two hitters in the seventh, then put two men on base before Rowan Wick relieved him and got a fly ball to center to end the inning.
Wick should have been out of the eighth without trouble, too, but Baez made a throwing error to allow Todd Frazier to reach base. Jeff McNeil doubled him to third. After a strikeout, a ground out scored the Mets’ seventh run. Another fly out ended that inning, but now it’s 10-7.
Well, situations like this are why the Cubs signed Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel, of late, has begun to look like the guy they thought they were getting... but not when the ninth inning began. He allowed a single to Wilson Ramos and walked Rajai Davis. So now the tying run is at the plate. Triple yikes.
Kimbrel got Rosario to hit into a force play, struck out Juan Lagares (on a nasty breaking pitch!) and then Todd Frazier hit a lazy fly ball to right and the Cubs had their win. Here are the three outs Kimbrel recorded in the ninth [VIDEO].
Not pretty, but a win is a win, and so the Cubs moved back to within two games of the Cardinals for first place in the N.L. Central, as St. Louis had lost earlier in the day.
Also, Kimbrel’s last seven outings: 6⅔ innings, six hits and two walks allowed (1.200 WHIP), one run allowed (1.35 ERA), 10 strikeouts, five saves, no blown saves.
The Cubs now have a chance for their first sweep of a three-game road series since they swept the Marlins in Miami in April. (They swept a two-game set in Seattle at the end of April/beginning of May.) So that means the only road sweeps this year are against teams whose names begin with “M.” Perhaps they can complete the “M” trifecta tonight against the Mets.
Joe Maddon on this game:
Maddon after the 10-7 win: "This ballpark has gotten really small since I saw it last. It's incredible how the ball flies here now....We got 2 out of 3 already. We want to finish it off tomorrow."— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) August 29, 2019
One last note: The Cubs’ record away from Wrigley Field is still bad at 27-39 even with four straight road wins. Their road run differential, though, is +1 (323 runs scored, 322 allowed). Hopefully, that plus number will continue to go up.
The final game of this series, and of the brief three-game road trip, will be Thursday night at 6:10 p.m. CT. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and Jacob deGrom will go for the Mets. TV coverage of the series finale will be on ABC7 Chicago, and nationally on MLB Network (outside the Cubs and Mets market territories).