Can the Cubs just play the Mariners every day for the rest of the year? I’m sure they wouldn’t mind sticking around Chicago, a great city to visit, and rescheduling all the games shouldn’t be too difficult...
Of course, this can’t happen, but you’ll forgive me for wanting that. The Cubs smashed three home runs Tuesday evening in a 6-1 dismantling of the Mariners. They swept the two-game series and took all four games they played vs. Seattle this year, outscoring them 28-7.
Jon Lester had a rough first inning, loading the bases on a single and a pair of walks with one out, but wiggled out of it with a fly to center and a called strikeout that probably wasn’t (pitch 6):
The Cubs will take these when they can get them, of course. (Still, bring on the robot umpires.) Lester’s 29-pitch first inning wasn’t pretty.
After the first inning finished sleepless, er, scoreless, Lester retired the Mariners 1-2-3 in a nine-pitch second, and then the Cubs offense got to work. Willson Contreras, who injured his hamstring a month ago running the bases, decided he’d rather have a leisurely trot around them [VIDEO].
That laser beam of a hit: Crushed!
Willson Contreras, on his home run tonight: "That gave me chills. It was a special moment for me, because I know that I got hurt a month ago and I battled my way back. To be able to step into the box and hit a homer in my first at-bat coming back, it was awesome."— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 4, 2019
Also, Sara Sanchez was in the bleachers with us Tuesday evening. You can only imagine how excited she was about this home run.
Lester hit Mallex Smith to lead off the third, and then got out of that with an unusual double play [VIDEO].
Watch Lester raise up his arms calling for the ball to complete the unusual 9-1 double play.
The Cubs made it 2-0 in the bottom of the third. Ben Zobrist, who had been greeted by a warm ovation when he made his first plate appearance in the first, led off the third with a walk. Kyle Schwarber doubled Ben to third and Nicholas Castellanos scored him with this sacrifice fly [VIDEO].
The Cubs’ first two runs were off Felix Hernandez, whose career future is in doubt due to injuries. Only 33 — two years younger than Lester — let’s remember that from 2009-15 he was possibly the best pitcher in baseball, “King Felix,” winning a Cy Young Award, finishing in the top four in voting three other times, and throwing a perfect game in 2012. He’s likely made his last-ever appearance at Wrigley Field.
Lester got into a bit of trouble again in the fourth. The bases were full of Mariners with two out on a single, walk and single, but Lester struck out pinch-hitter Tim Lopes (no relation to Davey) to end that inning.
The Cubs blew the game open in the fifth. Zobrist led off the inning with a bunt single.
The stakes were obviously much higher then, but Zobrist was trying to energize an offense that had been shut out twice in a row by the Dodgers. It worked then — the Cubs won the game 10-2, and eventually the series. And it seemed to work again Wednesday evening. Schwarber singled and then Castellanos put a baseball in the bleachers [VIDEO].
It’s 5-0 now, and I have fun facts for you!
Nicholas Castellanos this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 4, 2019
12 HR in 31 games with Cubs
11 HR in 100 games with Tigers
6 HR in 17 games at Wrigley Field
3 HR in 49 games at Comerica Park
The Castellanos Effect— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 4, 2019
The Cubs had a .252/.325/.460 slash line in the month of August. That line drops to .239/.317/.425 when you remove Castellanos' production.
Lester gave up a couple more hits in the sixth, and finished his evening with six scoreless innings, six hits allowed, three walks and nine strikeouts. That was his best outing at Wrigley Field since before the All-Star break. Could it be that being reunited with Contreras, who he likes to throw to, made the difference?
Steve Cishek threw a scoreless seventh and then the Cubs tacked on one more run, thanks to Schwarber [VIDEO].
Fun fact time!
33 home runs by Kyle Schwarber is most by a #Cubs lefty since Billy Williams had 37 in 1972— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 4, 2019
In fact, Billy Williams is now the only Cubs lefthanded hitter to have more home runs in a season than Schwarber. He also hit 42 in 1970. Kyle’s got a shot at surpassing the 37 from 1972. More Kyle:
Dating back to Aug. 1, Kyle Schwarber has slashed .287/.392/.678 for the Cubs. Tonight, he walked, singled, doubled and belted his 33rd homer of the season.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 4, 2019
The Mariners got on the board in the eighth on three singles with two out. The third single — by BCB favorite Daniel Vogelbach — resulted in a tag play at second base that ended the inning, though not until after a challenge from the Mariners. Then the Cubs challenged whether the run had scored before the tag [VIDEO].
This screenshot looks a bit ambiguous:
Tag is already on, runner clearly not on home yet. pic.twitter.com/DOGdqaMD0m— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) September 4, 2019
So, the “out” call at second was confirmed, but the run was allowed to stand.
Kyle Ryan and Rowan Wick finished up the ninth inning without incident and the Cubs had a victory moving them again to a season-high 12 games over .500.
Unfortunately, all the teams that the Cubs are chasing or being chased by (Cardinals, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies) also won Tuesday evening, so the standings remain the same: the Cubs are three games behind St. Louis for the division lead, four games ahead of Milwaukee, 3½ games behind Washington (who won a ridiculous game after being behind by six runs entering the ninth inning) and 2½ ahead of Philadelphia.
Regarding Ben Zobrist’s evening: Apart from the excellent greeting he received on his return to big-league play, he had a good game. He walked in addition to the bunt single, scored two runs and put a nice tag down on that play in the eighth. Joe Maddon says Ben will get more playing time in the upcoming series in Milwaukee.
The Cubs, along with the Brewers, will have a rare Wednesday off day before those teams begin that series in Miller Park Thursday evening. The Cardinals, Phillies and Nationals will be in action Wednesday, so the Cubs have a chance to gain on all of them.
Thursday’s series opener in Milwaukee will feature Jose Quintana for the Cubs and Chase Anderson for the Brewers, a rematch of last Friday’s contest at Wrigley won in convincing fashion by the Cubs. Game time Thursday is 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago (and on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Brewers market territories).