Well now, that was unexpected.
The Cubs came into Thursday night’s game having to face the reigning N.L. Cy Young Award winner, Jacob deGrom, who was having a terrific second half (1.04 ERA in eight starts since the All-Star break). It was going very difficult to complete a three-game sweep.
And then Victor Caratini stepped up and took over this game, smashing two home runs (his second two-homer game of the season) and the Cubs did indeed finish the sweep with a convincing 4-1 win over the Mets.
The Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the first. Jon Lester put the Cubs behind 1-0 when J.D. Davis homered off him with two out in the bottom of the inning.
That was Victor’s eighth homer of the season.
Lester was in constant trouble, but kept working his way out of it. He allowed a two-out single and walk in the second, but got Jeff McNeil to line to left. A double by Wilson Ramos and a walk with two out in the third got Jon in trouble again, but he got Todd Frazier on a lazy fly to center. He threw a 1-2-3 fourth and fifth, which was good because he had run up a pretty high pitch count in the first three innings. That allowed Jon to complete the sixth inning, in which he allowed a one-out single, but Jon’s 97th pitch of the night ended that frame [VIDEO].
A strikeout and a strong throw by Jonathan Lucroy to catch Michael Conforto stealing wrapped up Lester’s night: six innings, one run, four strikeouts, a solid if unspectacular start.
Meanwhile, 15 straight Cubs were retired by deGrom after Caratini’s home run, which stood as the Cubs’ only hit with one out in the seventh. Kris Bryant hit a ball that shortstop Amed Rosario couldn’t handle that went for a single, and Javier Baez followed with another single.
Look at the shots into the Cubs dugout after Victor’s ball landed in the second deck. You’ve been looking for “fire”? That, my friends, is fire. The Cubs are clearly pumped up about the homer and the chance to sweep the series. Also, check out the launch angle and height on that one:
And, that was an impressive achievement against a very good pitcher:
Victor Caratini gives the Cubs the lead with his second homer of the game, both off Jacob deGrom.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) August 30, 2019
He is the first @Cubs player to have a multi-homer game off the reigning Cy Young winner since Ernie Banks had two against Mike McCormick on May 26, 1968.#EverybodyIn
Players to homer twice in a game off Jacob deGrom in his career:— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) August 30, 2019
Victor Caratini, tonight
Mitch Garver, April 9
Giancarlo Stanton, 7/6/16
Mark Teixeira, 4/24/15
Then it was up to the bullpen to preserve the lead. Tyler Chatwood entered to throw the seventh. Now be honest: You get a little nervous every time you see him take the mound. Sometimes he’s been really good this year. Other times, not so much. This time... really good. He struck out Juan Lagares, got Joe Panik to fly to center, and struck out Rosario for a 1-2-3 inning with only 12 pitches thrown (nine strikes). This was a high-leverage setup situation and it would be great if Joe Maddon could trust Chatwood in similar situations the rest of the year.
It was Brandon Kintzler’s turn in the eighth, and Pete Alonso reached on a two-out throwing error. Now, nothing against Caratini at first base, but Anthony Rizzo probably catches that throw. We take for granted how many infield errors Rizzo saves at first base. He might not be able to play Friday; hopefully he’ll be back in the lineup Saturday. Kintzler got out of the inning with a force play, Javier Baez flipping to Addison Russell at second and you could almost hear Javy think, “I’m taking the short route here.”
The Cubs got two runners on in the ninth, but Russell hit into a double play to end the inning, so it was up to Craig Kimbrel for the second straight night. He ran full counts on all three hitters, running up a pitch count of 20, but retired them all. Here’s the final out [VIDEO].
So the Cubs had their sweep, a satisfying one, and have now defeated the Mets seven straight times in Citi Field. They also once again matched their season high of 11 games over .500 at 72-61 (the fifth time they’ve been at that season high) and gained half a game on the first-place Cardinals, who had the night off. They trail St. Louis by 1½ games and are four games up on the third-place Brewers, who come to Wrigley Field for a three-game series beginning Friday afternoon.
And after a dreadful run on the road, the Cubs have now won five straight games away from Wrigley Field and have a road run differential of +4. Overall they’ve won eight of their last 11.
Thus the complaint department is definitely closed and locked up tight this morning.
The Cubs have a tough turnaround from this night game to Friday’s day game, but were at least helped out by the quick game time (2:35, the seventh-fastest Cubs game of 2019). Jose Quintana (who, hopefully, headed back to Chicago early) will start for the Cubs Friday against the Brewers against Chase Anderson. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via WGN (and nationally on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Brewers market territories).