serendipity[ ser-uh n-dip-i-tee ]
an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident
Whether or not that’s an “aptitude,” it happened to me Wednesday evening. I don’t yet have access to Marquee Sports Network on my Comcast/Xfinity cable system as a deal has yet to be completed between the two, but just for the heck of it, I fired up MLB.TV on my phone and clicked on the Cubs/Twins “LIVE” button.
Magic! Or something like it. There was the Cubs/Twins game on Marquee, live on my phone. I don’t know whether MLB.TV put the game there in the Chicago market on purpose (Because it was a practice game, maybe?) or whether it was there by accident, but after thinking I wouldn’t be able to watch Wednesday night’s game, there it was. Serendipity.
Ian Happ led off the bottom of the first inning with a single and it didn’t take too long after that for Anthony Rizzo to create some TV excitement [VIDEO].
Way up into the right-field bleachers past one of the new advertising tarps, that ball was crushed!
Six pitches into the game, the Cubs had a 2-0 lead. Eleven pitches later, Willson Contreras made it 3-0 [VIDEO].
Jon Lester spent the first three innings mowing down Twins hitters — and make no mistake, that’s a powerful lineup — before Contreras hit a ball even farther than he had the first time [VIDEO],
Hit off the top of the batter’s eye suite in center field, that ball went even farther than Rizzo’s:
All three of those home runs were off our old buddy Homer Bailey, who Cubs hitters used to love to torment when he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds. Bailey has a lifetime ERA of 5.20 in 21 career starts against the Cubs and lucky Cubs, they might get to see him again in September, when the Twins will be back at Wrigley, if the season gets that far.
Former Cub Mark Grace, who was on the broadcast for an inning or so, let us all know that “Homer” is a bad name for a pitcher, like we haven’t heard that silly joke a million times before. Grace then segued into something that has always been his trademark as a broadcaster, telling a random story about his career. This time, it was about how he could never hit Mets reliever John Franco. Why does this matter to any of us? Seriously, Grace, though beloved by many Cubs fans, is just bad on the air. Marquee ought to limit his exposure.
Lester had allowed just one hit and two walks when he was lifted after 66 pitches with one out in the fifth, clearly a pre-arranged pitch limit. Dillon Maples relieved him, and as you know, I have an irrational like for Maples and his sometimes-unhittable slider.
That irrational like got tested in this game. Maples just wasn’t good. He allowed a single, then threw two pitches Contreras couldn’t handle that were ruled passed balls, issued a walk and threw another one in the dirt that went for a wild pitch. In the end his personal ERA wasn’t hurt because of the passed balls, but two runs scored for the Twins while he was in the game. I was hoping Maples would get his command and control issues taken care of and he’d make the 30-man roster, but that outing did not help his cause.
The Twins pushed across a third run in the seventh off Kyle Ryan, who was making his first outing after reporting to summer camp late. Relievers Casey Sadler, Duane Underwood Jr. and Brad Wieck all threw scoreless innings. Underwood was particularly impressive:
Underwood strikes out Jake Cave and Marwin Gonzalez and ends a 1-2-3 eighth with a flyout to right off bat of Max Kepler. The righty's had an impressive camp.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 23, 2020
Against Twins, topped at 97 mph. Flashed one knuckle-curve for a called strike. And here's a look at a changeup for a K. pic.twitter.com/BLGQMo1o3y
Then, Wieck struck out Alex Avila and Josh Donaldson in the ninth as part of recording the save in a 4-3 Cubs victory.
The Cubs will have Thursday off before starting things “for real” Friday evening against the Brewers. I’ve confessed previously to being skeptical MLB can pull off this 60-game season, but for now they’re going ahead with it and I hope everyone involved stays safe and healthy. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Brandon Woodruff will go for the Brewers. Game time Friday is 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee. There will also be a national broadcast on ESPN — please note the ESPN broadcast will be blacked out in the Cubs market territory.