This quote sums up the Cubs’ 8-5 win over the Reds Tuesday:
David Bote said Anthony Rizzo always has a message for Javy Baez before the shortstop's first at-bat of a game: "Do that thing that the fans love."— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 29, 2020
Javier Baez almost always delivers on that request. Tuesday, he dominated the victory with a pair of home runs and some slick defense, but there were also other bright spots in this game.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the third. Jason Kipnis hit a ball to right-center and... where is it, Shogo Akiyama? [VIDEO]
Kipnis wound up with a triple and scored on a single by Nico Hoerner. In the fourth, after singles by Jason Heyward and David Bote, Kipnis delivered an RBI single for a 2-0 lead.
The Reds tied it up in the bottom of the fourth on a two-run homer by Nick Castellanos, but really that was the only mistake Alec Mills made in six solid innings of work. Mills allowed just two hits and struck out three and had some help on defense from Javy [VIDEO].
Kyle Schwarber had previously made this slick sliding catch [VIDEO].
More on Mills later, but the Cubs took the lead back in the fifth, continuing to score one run per inning. Javy doubled and was singled in by Schwarber. And in the sixth, they extended the lead to 4-2 after a pair of walks, a groundout and a sacrifice fly by Hoerner.
The Cubs’ seventh-inning run was courtesy of Javy [VIDEO].
Now it’s 5-2 and Mills has thrown just 77 pitches. Personally, David Ross, I’d have let him at least start the seventh inning. He was cruising and the bullpen’s been mostly a disaster and...
Casey Sadler entered to throw the seventh. He got through that inning, then allowed a leadoff homer to Curt Casali in the eighth. By then, the Cubs had plated yet another run, this one on a big fly by Bote [VIDEO].
Kyle Ryan had relieved Sadler and allowed a couple of hits, but also induced a double-play ball, so his inning went into the books as scoreless. Thus it’s 6-3 Cubs heading to the ninth. Anthony Rizzo led off with a single and one out later, it was Javy Time again [VIDEO].
That ball was crushed!
Fun Javy fact:
Javy Báez: 2nd career game with 10+ total bases. He also had 11 on 6/26/2018 at LA Dodgers #Cubs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 29, 2020
So now it’s 8-3 Cubs heading to the bottom of the ninth. What could possibly go wrong?
You should know me well enough by now that when I ask that question, plenty could go wrong. Ryan Tepera struck out the first two Reds in the ninth. Looking good! Then he walked Aristides Aquino. Uh-oh. Bad things happened Monday when Cubs pitchers started issuing walks, and this situation continued that meme. Tepera served up a home run to Freddy Galvis. Fortunately, with two out and no one on base and a three-run lead, Tepera did have some margin for error, and he struck out Casali to end the game.
As I said, I think I’d have tried to get one more inning out of Mills, because this bullpen has just been awful. Here’s how good the Cubs’ rotation has been through five games:
First time through the rotation, Hendricks, Darvish, Chatwood, Lester and Mills have combined for a 1.80 ERA and 0.63 WHIP in 30 innings. They racked up 26 K vs. 5 BB with 14 hits allowed.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 29, 2020
Per Cubs, via historian Ed Hartig, the 14 hits allowed by the Cubs' rotation is the fewest in the first five games of a season for the franchise since at least 1901.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 29, 2020
The bullpen? Not so much. In four games (they obviously didn’t pitch Friday in Kyle Hendricks’ CG shutout): 15 innings, 15 hits (more than the rotation in half the number of innings!), 14 walks, 19 strikeouts, 9.00 ERA, 1.933 WHIP... pretty awful. This is going to have to change, and soon.
But a win’s a win, however it comes. And for “Millsy,” it was a satisfying outing:
Mills:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 29, 2020
"In my heart I always felt like I belonged. It was just a matter of them giving me the job. Me earning it and then them giving it to me. Obviously what happened with Q is unfortunate, but I just want to take this and run with it and make them make the tough decision."
I had mentioned in the game preview that Mills is kind of “Kyle Hendricks lite.” He doesn’t have great velocity, but in this game, like Hendricks, he was always around the zone and inducing weak contact. Ten of the 18 outs he recorded were groundouts. If he can keep doing this, he’s an outstanding No. 5 starter.
This MLB season is in jeopardy of not being completed, but as long as it’s going the Cubs are going to have fun with it:
Javy Baez, on how much fun the Cubs are having as a group through the first five games:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 29, 2020
"That's been a big thing here in that clubhouse. We're having more fun than anything, I think. Rizzo has been crazy, trying to make us be together. And it's working."
Not too much togetherness, though, guys, OK? I still see more high-fiving than there should be and lack of social distancing in the dugout. The Cubs seem as if they’re mostly taking the health protocols seriously, and of course you want to celebrate good performances with your teammates, but this is a time when they’ve got to be more careful.
It’s also worth noting that Rizzo is an excellent team leader and has been for several years now. He generally has a great understanding of the moment, and I hope he’s urging all the Cubs players to take good care during the pandemic, especially since he’s a cancer survivor.
The Cubs will go for three straight over the Reds Wednesday evening (and four in a row overall). Kyle Hendricks gets the start against Reds righthander Sonny Gray. Game time is again 5:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be on Marquee Sports Network.