I just cannot imagine a better weekend of baseball at Wrigley Field, can you?
The weather was perfect: Unlimited sunshine, pleasant temperatures around 80 degrees, gentle breezes off Lake Michigan, low humidity.
And the Cubs baseball was nearly perfect, as they led the Brewers at the end of all 27 innings played over the weekend and scored runs on home runs and otherwise in a solid offensive display. Combined with excellent pitching by Yu Darvish, that led to a 7-2 win Sunday which gave the Cubs a three-game sweep.
Darvish was touched up for a home run in the first inning by Christian Yelich — which could have been worse if not for a double play which immediately preceded it — and then the Cubs offense got to work.
Jason Heyward got that run back on the first pitch thrown by Adrian Houser. [VIDEO]
That was Heyward’s second leadoff home run in this series and 17th of the year.
J-Hey then gave the Cubs the lead in the second inning. David Bote singled with one out and was sacrificed to second by Darvish. Heyward rendered the sacrifice irrelevant [VIDEO].
The triple made it 2-1, and had me thinking about a cycle for Heyward, since he had the two toughest hits (homer, triple) in the first two innings. He struck out, hit into a force play and popped up in his other three plate appearances, but a 2-for-5 day with a pair of extra-base hits and two RBI is a fine afternoon’s work. Since Heyward was moved to the leadoff spot: 5-for-20 (.250), but with a double, triple and two home runs along with a pair of walks. So that’s a .318 OBP... and a .700 SLG for a 1.018 OPS. Small sample size (only four games), to be sure, but I think Heyward should be left in the leadoff spot, for now, anyway.
Anyway, after Heyward’s triple, Nicholas Castellanos made it 3-1 [VIDEO].
That was a nice bit of hitting, an opposite-field single. The Cubs were doing a lot of oppo hitting in this game, a real good sign for this offense, I think.
Darvish wound up throwing five innings, allowing five hits and just the one run, with no walks and eight strikeouts. He threw 93 pitches largely because of some long counts and many foul balls, but I thought this was another excellent outing. Here’s how good Darvish has been lately:
Yu Darvish since July 1:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 4, 2019
2.78 ERA in 35.2 IP, 2 BB, 44 K#Cubs
That’s really, really good. Oh, and he did all that while not feeling well:
Maddon said there's been a bug going around the Cubs' clubhouse. Darvish pitched while feeling ill on Sunday. That played into him leaving the game after five innings. Darvish didn't speak with media after the game under the circumstances.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 4, 2019
Kyle Schwarber increased the lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth [VIDEO].
That was Kyle’s 25th of the season. He had a fine day at the plate, adding a single, walk and HBP to the home run.
Derek Holland was summoned to throw the sixth, which featured three lefthanded hitters for Milwaukee. This is exactly why Holland was acquired. He did allow a leadoff single and a hard-hit out, but struck out two and had a nice scoreless inning.
The Cubs plated one more run in the bottom of the inning to make it 5-1. Tony Kemp led off with a single, advanced to third on an infield out and another hit, and scored on Heyward’s fielder’s choice.
Tyler Chatwood entered to throw the seventh and had a 1-2-3 inning, helped out by this nice diving catch by Heyward [VIDEO].
In the bottom of the frame, the Cubs put the game away. Anthony Rizzo led off with a single and was forced at second by Javier Baez. Schwarber then was hit by a pitch and Victor Caratini walked to load the bases. Kemp hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Baez, and next up was Bote [VIDEO].
Chatwood served up a home run to Brewers rookie Trent Grisham, his first big-league homer, leading off the eighth, but otherwise put together a nice three-inning, two-hit, five-strikeout outing. Since he finished the game and threw three innings, Chatwood gets a save for his effort, his second of the season. That also saved the rest of the bullpen for the upcoming series against the A’s.
Here’s how dominant Cubs pitching was in this series, in which they outscored the Brewers 17-5:
#Cubs pitchers struck out 15 and walked none today:— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 4, 2019
- Most Ks by Cubs pitching in a 9-inning game this year
- Most Cubs strikeouts without a walk since 7/30/02
- Cubs starters have not issued a walk in six straight games for the first time since at least 1905 pic.twitter.com/6DyKazrkJs
In addition to all that, it was the 36th nine-inning game in Cubs franchise history (since 1908, as far back as baseball-reference’s database goes) in which the pitching staff recorded at least 15 strikeouts. (If you’re interested, here’s the entire list.)
The Cubs now lead the Brewers by four games in the N.L. Central standings and are 7-5 against them this season. They improved their record at Wrigley Field to 39-18, the second-best home record in the National League (Dodgers, 42-15). Since the All-Star break they are 10-2 at Wrigley Field. The mystifying thing, of course, is: Why can’t they do this on the road? That is the problem the Cubs are going to have to solve, and soon.
In the meantime, we await the result of the Cardinals/A’s game, which is still going at this writing. Oakland is leading 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning. If that score holds up, the Cubs’ lead over the Cardinals will increase to 1½ games.
And, the Cubs will await the arrival of the Athletics to begin a three-game series at Wrigley Field, with the first game Monday evening at 7:05 p.m. CT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Chris Bassitt will go for the A’s. TV coverage will be via WGN (and there will also be a national broadcast on ESPN, available outside the Cubs and A’s market territories).