Tyler Chatwood has become a meme among many Cubs fans in his two-plus years with the team. “Chat-walk,” they called him after he led the major leagues in walks in 2018 despite throwing only 103⅔ innings. Even though he had an improved 2019 season, many fans couldn’t forget all the walks.
Chatwood was slotted into the 2020 rotation mostly by default, with Cole Hamels departing and Jose Quintana injured.
The signing just might work out, more than two and a half years after it was originally made.
Chatwood threw six strong innings, allowing just three hits, two walks and a run with eight strikeouts, and the Cubs put together a varied offense to defeat the Brewers 9-1 on a hot, humid Chicago July afternoon and thus win their opening series of 2020. Two out of three ain’t bad, as the Meat Loaf song goes, and if the Cubs can meatloaf their way through this 60-game season, they’ll have a high seed for the expanded playoffs.
A double by Kyle Schwarber, a wild pitch and a groundout by Jason Heyward gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Then they blew it open in the fourth. Schwarber led off the inning with a walk and Willson Contreras brought him home [VIDEO].
Brewers starter Freddy Peralta walked Jason Heyward and that was enough for Craig Counsell, who brought in Corey Knebel. That didn’t help Milwaukee, as Nico Hoerner drove in the Cubs’ third run [VIDEO].
That was a nicely-placed single up the middle for Nico, who at least right now appears to be earning the bulk of playing time at second base.
Victor Caratini and Ian Happ followed with RBI singles off Knebel and the Cubs had a 5-0 lead.
Chatwood was touched up for a run in the fifth, but overall his outing was very good. He threw 51 strikes in 84 pitches and was generally in command of his fastball, which is what he needs to do in order to succeed. This was a very good outing, his longest since April 21, 2019, when he threw six similarly good innings against the Diamondbacks. He was helped out by this fine catch from Happ in center field [VIDEO].
After scoring the first five runs with well-placed singles and productive outs, the Cubs decided to play long ball over the last two frames.
Willson Contreras, off Bobby Wahl in the seventh [VIDEO].
That ball: Crushed, off a hanging curveball!
Then our old buddy Justin Grimm came into the game. Good for Grimm for making the Brewers roster — even better for the Cubs! Grimm walked Josh Phegley and then Happ made it 8-1 [VIDEO].
Anthony Rizzo wrapped up the Cubs scoring with an oppo solo blast [VIDEO].
Games for Anthony Rizzo to reach two home runs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 26, 2020
The complaint department door would be completely closed and locked for the night except for the performance of Casey Sadler, who was making his Cubs debut. One of the reasons the Cubs signed Sadler was his good walk rate (2.5 per nine innings in 33 games last year, 2.3 per nine innings in 203 minor-league games). So what does he do? Of course, he walks two of the three hitters he faces. He was lifted for Kyle Ryan, who got out of the inning on two pitches with a double play, nicely turned by Kris Bryant [VIDEO].
Ryan also threw a 1-2-3 eighth, and he’s going to be a key man in this bullpen with the new three-batter rule, a lefthander who can retire hitters from both sides of the plate.
Jeremy Jeffress threw a scoreless ninth and the Cubs had their nicely-played win.
You know, the Dodgers and Yankees and Nationals and even the Rays get more attention than the Cubs do, but this Cubs team still has some really good players. They’re going to have to get solid outings from the back end of their rotation and good bullpen work and play good defense in order to win — but they are fully capable of doing that.
A good test of all that is coming up, a four-game series against the Reds in Cincinnati beginning Monday evening. Interestingly, as noted on the TV broadcast, the Cubs will not travel Sunday night, as they normally would for a road series, but instead fly out Monday morning. This is to limit hotel exposure, one fewer night in the hotel than they would under normal circumstances — not to mention saving the team money.
Jon Lester will start for the Cubs Monday against Cincinnati’s Wade Miley. Game time is 5:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage is on Marquee Sports Network.