You know how it sometimes seems as if the other team always, always, always gets the breaks? When your team’s bloops drop inches foul, the other guy’s inches fair?
That’s how it felt for the Cubs over the last couple of tough losses to the Brewers, and over the first six innings of Monday’s game against the Mariners. More baserunners, more guys in scoring position, more outs, no runs.
Kyle Schwarber’s bouncing ball with the bases loaded in a tie game hit first base and bounced away for a bases-clearing triple, the biggest hit the Cubs have had in quite some time. You might not be able to tell in that clip, but Wrigley Field was LOUD after that hit, seemingly releasing pent-up energy that had been stored for a long, long time.
Schwarber’s hit was the key blow in the Cubs’ 5-1 win over the Mariners on a beautiful Labor Day afternoon at the ballyard.
This game started out depressingly like the last two. Kyle Hendricks was breezing through the Mariners lineup, allowing just two baserunners (and just two balls hit out of the infield) over the first four innings.
Meanwhile, the Cubs had RISP in each of those first four innings, twice with only one out but could not score. One of those baserunners was Anthony Rizzo in the third inning, hit by a pitch from Justus Sheffield. That, my friends, broke a Cubs franchise record that had stood for over a century:
Anthony Rizzo is now the Cubs' all-time hit-by-pitch leader with 138. Congrats?— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 2, 2019
Frank Chance held that record (137 HBP for Cubs) since 1912.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 2, 2019
Rizzo was hit again in the fifth and advanced to second on a walk, but was stranded. If you’re keeping score (and I was), that’s nine men left on base in the first five innings. Yikes.
Hendricks got touched up for a run in the fifth. Dylan Moore hit a double down the left-field line that just hit barely fair, and Dee Gordon doubled to right to score him. Are we going to see hard-luck Hendricks again? These numbers are astonishing:
Thru 6 innings today, Cubs have scored just 82 runs in Kyle Hendricks' 26 starts this season, an average of 3.15/game.— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) September 2, 2019
Only 2 pitchers in baseball (MIA's Alcantara and KC's Keller) receive less run support per start than Hendricks and MIA/KC are 2 of the worst offenses in MLB.
And so are these, in a more positive way, for Hendricks:
Cubs postgame notes: Hendricks walked two or fewer batters in 25 consecutive starts, the longest single-season streak— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) September 2, 2019
by a Cub since Bill Hands did so in all 34 starts in 1968.
David Phelps, who has been very good since his acquisition from the Blue Jays in July, threw a scoreless seventh.
And then, the Cubs offense finally got to work after 24 consecutive scoreless innings. Jason Heyward led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk. After Nicholas Castellanos struck out, Kris Bryant walked (Heyward had stolen second while Bryant was batting).
Rizzo’s hit tied the game, and he and Bryant advanced on a throwing error. You can see in the video clip how pumped up Rizzo is. That’s great to see.
Albert Almora Jr. was sent up to hit for Robel Garcia and was given a Manfred, and that loaded the bases for Schwarber, and that’s where we came in.
With Schwarber on third and one out, Addison Russell added one more to the Cubs’ big inning [VIDEO].
It was a contact play, and a good throw probably gets Schwarber at the plate, but the throw was wide to the first-base side and he slid in safely to make it 5-1.
Duane Underwood Jr. threw the eighth, allowing one hit in a scoreless frame, and newly-acquired Brad Wieck (pronounced “Wick” just like Rowan Wick) entered for the ninth. He had a 1-2-3 inning that was made entertaining by this pitch to Kyle Seager:
Looks like Brad Wieck fooled Seager a little... pic.twitter.com/cXh4gE8CCc— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 2, 2019
That was a really nice curveball, right at the top of the zone. Seager might have been fooled by Wieck’s 6-9 height. Then Wieck got Tom Murphy on a popup and he struck out former Cubs minor leaguer Ryan Court to end it.
This just might be a winning strategy:
After being acquired by Cubs, Brad Wieck stepped into the team's pitching lab and started working on a spike curveball. Similar to what the Cubs did with Rowan Wick.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 2, 2019
The Cubs' new strategy: Trading for pitchers named Wi(e)ck and teaching them spike curves.
Wick and Wieck both have talent. Wick’s been very good in high-leverage situations and Wieck could turn into a good situational lefty if he masters that curveball.
So the Cubs had a satisfying win before a full house at Wrigley, just what they needed. The Cardinals won their afternoon game against the Giants, so the Cubs remain three games out of first place. All the Cubs can do is win their game; they can’t control what happens to the Cardinals until they play them two weeks from this weekend at Wrigley Field. Hopefully, they’ll have closed the gap by then, and it would appear that the seven games remaining between the Cubs and their biggest rival will decide the N.L. Central.
This is what you asked for, right? Meaningful baseball in September? Well, you certainly have it now.
The Cubs will wrap up interleague regular-season play for 2019 and go for the two-game sweep (and a four-game sweep for the season) over the Mariners Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field, weather permitting (looks like it will, though there’s a slight chance of storms). Jon Lester will go for the Cubs and Felix Hernandez, who’s a shadow of his former self, starts for Seattle. Game time Tuesday is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.