You probably could have made a pretty good wager this past spring training if you had told someone: “The Cubs are going to break their franchise home run record this season, and Nico Hoerner will hit the record-breaker.”
They’d have looked at you like you were crazy, but that’s exactly what happened. Hoerner’s three-run homer in the sixth inning was the third of the day and the Cubs’ 236th of 2019, breaking the franchise record of 235 set in 2004. Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist and Victor Caratini added round-trippers to the festivities and the Cubs once again pounded Pirates pitching in a 14-1 romp on a beautiful late-summer afternoon at Wrigley Field.
There are times when a team does what the Cubs did Friday, when they scored 17 runs, and then the bats go silent the next day. That didn’t happen Saturday, and this Cubs team looks totally energized. And this is absolutely the perfect time for that to happen, on a long homestand with critical games as the time remaining in the 2019 season grows short.
No one scored in the first inning, and then the Cubs got to work in the second. A single by Zobrist, a force play, another single by Hoerner, a sacrifice by Kyle Hendricks and Anthony Rizzo being hit by a pitch loaded the bases for Nicholas Castellanos.
Hendricks was breezing along through the first three innings. He allowed three hits and no runs through three, and then Zobrist came to bat with one out in the bottom of the third [VIDEO].
That ball might have had a little help from the wind, but Ben will certainly take it. It was his first home run in more than a year, since August 18, 2018, also against the Pirates, and his first at Wrigley since August 5, 2018, off Padres closer Kirby Yates.
It’s 5-0 now and really, Hendricks didn’t need any more runs. He allowed a run in the fourth on two singles (one of which resulted from a review overturning an out call on the field), an infield out and a sacrifice fly and the Cubs offense took that as a personal affront. In the bottom of the inning, Castellanos doubled again (No. 52!) and KB tied the franchise record with the Cubs’ 235th of the year [VIDEO].
That was Bryant’s 29th of the year and third in his last five games. It’s now 7-1, but the Cubs were not finished having offensive fun.
Zobrist walked and two singles loaded the bases for Hendricks, who bunted foul on strike three for the second out of the fifth inning.
That’s when things started to get a bit ridiculous. You know how Pirates manager Clint Hurdle likes his pitchers to throw inside. Some call that headhunting. The next two batters (Castellanos and Bryant) were hit by pitches, loading the bases, and (apparently) warnings were issued. The problem here is, I think, that the Pirates pitching staff is now populated with young hurlers who don’t have the kind of command needed to do that without hitting batters. And with the score 9-1, maybe they shouldn’t? The Pirates staff has now hit more batters than anyone in the National League but the Marlins. On the other hand, the Cubs staff is third.
A pitch to Kyle Schwarber got away and Rizzo tried to score, but he was thrown out.
Hendricks completed the sixth inning having allowed seven hits and one run, with no walks. He only struck out two, but got his usual weak contact. He probably could have gone another inning, but with another Cubs offensive explosion in the bottom of the inning, why do that? Kyle threw 82 pitches (59 strikes) and his next start should be against the Cardinals in the first game of that key series, next Thursday.
Oh, about that offensive explosion? That was the record-breaker. Zobrist was hit by a pitch — no ejections resulted — with two out, and that brought up Nico [VIDEO].
That was the record-breaker, and no, you did not tell anyone that Nico would hit the record-breaker. No one did. The Cubs still have 14 more games to add to that total. They became the sixth team this year to break their franchise home-run record (Yankees, Astros, Twins, Dodgers, Padres are the others — so far). That made it 13-1 and resulted in wholesale changes in the Cubs defensive lineup. Every lineup position was turned over and even Daniel Descalso got to play an inning in the field, the first time he’s done so since his return from the injured list.
Also, about Hendricks:
He’ll have one more Wrigley start this year, the aforementioned Thursday date with the Cardinals.
Things got silly in the ninth inning. Warnings had been issued, and so when Dillon Maples hit two Pirates with one out in the ninth, he and Joe Maddon were ejected. There’s not really any choice here, but the umpires had issued the warnings, and so they went. Maples’ command simply wasn’t there, I don’t think either was intentional, given that they were both on offspeed pitches (slider, curveball).
All that accomplished was a long delay while Derek Holland warmed up. Holland recorded the last two outs and the Cubs had their win, their third in a row. One more note about Joe’s ejection:
Looks like Joe Maddon was also ejected, which means that interim bench coach Chris Denorfia (filling in for Mark Loretta) is now the acting manager for the Cubs in the 9th.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 14, 2019
Denorfia is getting the most out of his Quality Assurance Coach title today.
The last time the Cubs scored at least 14 runs in consecutive games was September 13, 2017 and September 14, 2017, both against the Mets. Interestingly, the run totals were the same, and in the same order, as this year: 17, then 14. Those two wins were the second and third of what eventually became a seven-game winning streak. This year’s wins are the second and third of what’s now a three-game streak. Here’s hoping the Cubs win more than seven straight this time, because Game No. 8 since that began would be the series opener vs. the Cardinals.
Oh, and the poor Pirates:
The Pirates have allowed 14+ runs in consecutive games for the first time since June 23-24, 1950.— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) September 14, 2019
Those games were against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie Robinson hit cleanup.
Fun Nico Hoerner numbers:
Nico Hoerner had 3 RBI today. He's already had two games with *4* RBI in his 6-game career, too.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) September 14, 2019
His 3 games with 3+ RBI are the most for any player in his 1st 6 career games (since RBI became official in 1920).
Just also wanted to note Castellanos getting to 52 doubles. Can he hit eight more in the last 14 games to get to 60? He has 15 in 41 games as a Cub. It’s certainly not impossible. No one has hit 60 doubles in a season since 1936.
The Cubs definitely seem rejuvenated, and they’re on a good roll right now, now 49-24 at home. In the N.L., only the Dodgers have more home victories (56). The Cubs will try to complete the series sweep Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Jose Quintana will start for the Cubs and Trevor Williams goes for the Pirates. Game time again is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage Sunday will be via WGN.