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Cubs 16, Pirates 6: Sweep, but at a potentially high cost

The Cubs’ big win was tempered by the injury to Anthony Rizzo.

Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs crushed the Pirates 16-6 Sunday afternoon, another big blasting of an inferior pitching staff, for their fourth straight win. That’s great, of course, but the happiness about the three-game sweep must be tempered by worry over the ankle injury suffered by Anthony Rizzo, covered here in this article earlier this afternoon.

We don’t yet know exactly how serious this is, though it certainly didn’t look good (more on that later), and won’t until Rizzo has an MRI Monday. At the very it looks like least he could miss a week. At worst, that’s going to end his 2019 season.

I don’t need to tell you that in addition to his on-field performance, Rizzo is the heart and soul of this baseball team, the acknowledged team leader, and losing him for any amount of time is going to hurt. Bad.

Let’s put that aside for a moment and look back at yet another big win.

Jose Quintana put the Pirates down 1-2-3 in the first and then the Cubs offense got to work. Rizzo led off with a walk, Nicholas Castellanos doubled and Kris Bryant put the Cubs on the board [VIDEO].

That was No. 30 for Bryant, giving him the second 30-HR season of his career, and it also broke a tie with Ernie Banks for the most homers in a Cub’s first five seasons.

So it’s quickly 3-0 and the Cubs are looking good. Q allowed two hits leading off the second, but a nicely turned double play by Rizzo, Nico Hoerner and Quintana helped get him out of the inning.

The top of the third was when the disaster happened. Erik Gonzalez led off with a double and Trevor Williams laid down a bunt.

Here’s the video of Rizzo’s injury and I warn you right now: It’s not pleasant to look at. If you are at all squeamish, don’t click on this video link (or click on the play button).

To me, the amazing thing is that he was actually able to get a throw off, even though it was off-line, after falling like that.

All we can do is hope that Rizzo is okay.

The injury seemed to completely rattle Quintana, who allowed three more hits immediately following the bunt — which was originally ruled an error, but changed:

So at least there was that. The Pirates wound up with a five-run inning before Q was mercifully removed for Brad Wieck, who struck out the only two batters he faced to end the inning.

And then... the Cubs offense came alive. Bryant, redux [VIDEO].

That was just the second pitch of the inning, and it’s 5-4. Kyle Schwarber and Ben Zobrist singled, and Victor Caratini’s sacrifice fly tied the game. Jason Heyward walked, putting runners on second and third, and Williams was removed. Both starting pitchers recorded seven outs before they were pulled from this game.

Nico Hoerner struck out, and then Tony Kemp was sent up to bat for Wieck [VIDEO].

For a moment I thought Kemp might have a shot at an inside-the-park home run, but his triple was well-struck and gave the Cubs a 7-5 lead.

Kemp scored moments later on one of the weirdest plays I have ever seen. [VIDEO].

Apparently, Clint Hurdle thought either Zobrist or Heyward missed third base and wanted an appeal play. He called plate umpire Dan Bellino over to note which runner he was appealing, and pitcher Michael Feliz stepped off the rubber to make an appeal throw.

You have probably seen this happen a few times. The play almost never works, the runner’s called safe, and play continues.

I have watched baseball for a long, long time. I have never seen a pitcher make an error on an uncontested throw like that. Ever. When that happens, the ball is in play, and Kemp scored easily.

It’s an old phrase, but true: “Watch baseball long enough, and you will see something you have never seen before.”

And so, it’s 8-5, and the Cubs seemed energized again.

The Pirates got a run off Tyler Chatwood in the fourth to make it 8-6, but the Cubs would not let that stand, no siree.

Castellanos doubled leading off the fourth, his second of the game and 54th of the year. Remember, no one has hit 60 doubles in a season — for any team — since 1936. It was also his 17th double as a Cub. That ties him for sixth on the Cubs with Willson Contreras and David Bote. In 42 games played. Nick The Stick is just a doubles machine.

One out later, Schwarber singled him in [VIDEO].

And it didn’t take long for Schwarber to score the 10th run. Zobrist doubled down the right-field line to advance Kyle to third and Caratini hit his second sac fly of the game [VIDEO].

The Cubs weren’t done! This crazy hitting weekend continued in the fifth. Hoerner led off with a single. Chatwood hit the ball hard, but Bryan Reynolds made a nice catch which is worth watching [VIDEO].

Too bad, because he would have scored on Ian Happ’s home run [VIDEO].

It’s 12-6 now, in case you’ve lost count. Chatwood threw three solid innings — to me, that would deserve the “win,” if you still care about such things, but because Wieck was the “pitcher of record” when the Cubs took the lead in the third, he gets it. That’s one more reason individual pitcher wins are meaningless. For Wieck, I guess he cares because it was his first, so there’s that.

The Cubs kept pouring on the runs. In the sixth, Caratini doubled and Heyward sent him home [VIDEO].

13-6 after six, and the hits just kept on coming. Castellanos singled with one out in the seventh, and one out later, Schwarber put one in the seats [VIDEO].

15-6... and one more to go. Joe Maddon, as he had done the previous two days, started emptying his bench in the eighth, a good thing to get some of the regulars some rest.

Jonathan Lucroy was among the subs, entering at first base. And with one out in the eighth, he hit a baseball a very long way [VIDEO].

Good heavens:

And, of course:

Here’s a lot more about the records the Cubs set this weekend.

  • The Cubs’ 14 homers set a franchise record for a three-game series (H/T: Ed Hartig).
  • The Cubs’ 47 runs marked their most in a three-game set since July 23-25, 1894 vs. Pittsburgh (48 runs) (H/T: Ed Hartig). and it marked the most by any MLB team since Seattle scored 47 runs in a three-game set at Toronto, April 14-16, 2000.
  • The Cubs have scored at least 14 runs in three straight games for the first time since June 1-4, 1930 vs. Pittsburgh (16) and at Boston (15, 18) and are the first team in MLB with at least 14 runs in three straight games since the Detroit Tigers, August 10-12, 1993 vs. Baltimore (15, 15, 17).
  • The Cubs have scored at least 10 runs in a N.L.-best 21 games this season. That makes this their most such games in a season since 1935 (24 games).

Now. Let’s remember who this was against. The Pirates’ pitching staff is pretty much horrendous. They were trotting out guys all weekend wearing numbers in the 70s. It looked like a spring-training game.

However, let’s also say that this is the kind of thing a good, contending team should do against a staff like that. It will not be as easy against the Reds, who have good pitchers and also, good hitters, and in particular Eugenio Suarez (who hit his 46th and 47th home runs Sunday) has just destroyed Cubs pitching this year (.381/.423/.825, 24-for-63, eight home runs). Stop Suarez and you’ve stopped most of the Reds offense.

The Brewers got a grand slam from Ryan Braun and hung on to beat the Cardinals 7-6. Many of us in the bleachers were following this on MLB Gameday and let me tell you, that is likely the first and only time Cubs fans will cheer a homer (or anything, for that matter) from Braun. Thus the Cubs move to within two games of first place in the N.L. Central. They’re 1½ games behind the Nationals for the top wild-card spot, as Washington won Sunday.

So now who do we root for? The Cards and Nats begin a three-game series Monday in St. Louis. Personally, I think we have to root for the Nats. If the Cubs can then take care of business vs. the Reds, they could enter the series against St. Louis Thursday closer to first place, or perhaps even in first place.

First things first. A three-game set vs. the Reds opens Monday evening at Wrigley Field. Cole Hamels will start for the Cubs and Sonny Gray goes for the Reds. Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT, TV coverage on NBC Sports Chicago, and you wanted intense baseball in September? You got it.

Lastly — here’s hoping for the best for Rizzo. The Cubs need him. Here’s the latest:

Let’s hope Joe is right. If Rizzo is out for any length of time, others will have to step up. They did, big time, on Sunday.