He’s also always appeared to be a standup guy, never made excuses for the rough times, always worked hard and played solid defense, and appears to be well-liked by his teammates.
That’s why it’s so easy to root for him and be happy for him and the team when he has a big game, as he did during the Cubs’ 7-1 win over the Indians Tuesday night. Heyward went 3-for-4 and his three-run homer broke the game open in the sixth inning. The win improved the Cubs’ record to 11-3 and their .786 winning percentage currently leads MLB.
The game didn’t start out as a potential blowout. Jon Lester held the Indians offense down early, pitching efficiently over the first few innings. The Cubs took the lead in the second inning. Willson Contreras singled, Ian Happ walked, and up came Heyward [VIDEO].
J-Hey’s RBI single made it 1-0.
Meanwhile, the Indians pitching staff was holding the Cubs offense down, too. Adam Plutko, an emergency starter after Cleveland’s scheduled starter Mike Clevinger was quarantined due to his unauthorized leaving of the team hotel in Chicago over the weekend, threw four efficient innings and Oliver Perez threw a scoreless fifth. Fun fact about Perez:
Nice to see Oliver Perez still on the mound. He may be the final pitcher in #MLB that I batted against. He is appropriately graying and using 12 different pitching motions. Hang in there! #Cubs #Indians— Doug Glanville (@dougglanville) August 12, 2020
As far as I can tell, Doug Glanville is right. The only active pitcher older than Perez is Rich Hill, who debuted in 2005, and the only other active pitcher who pitched as far back as 2004 (Glanville’s final season) is Zack Greinke, who Glanville never faced. FWIW, Glanville went 1-for-3 against Perez the only time the two faced each other — a leadoff home run hit August 6, 2002, a game that eventually went 16 innings.
Anyway, the Cubs broke the game open in the sixth. They loaded the bases on a walk to Kris Bryant, a single by Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber being hit by a pitch. Contreras made the score 2-0 [VIDEO].
Ian Happ was next, and smacked one of his two hits on the night up the middle to make it 3-0 [VIDEO].
Many times after a Cubs home run, I’ll say “That ball was crushed!” This one... wasn’t:
It was kind of golfed over the wall in right field, barely making it. But they count just the same, and Heyward’s second homer of the year made it 6-0. J-Hey began the evening hitting .190/.231/.270 (7-for-37) and ended it batting .244/.279/.390, an OPS improvement if 168 points in one game. Hopefully this is the beginning of a hot streak for Heyward.
Meanwhile, Lester threw six outstanding innings, allowing just three hits, two walks and a run, with four strikeouts. He doesn’t throw that hard anymore (fastball at only 89 miles per hour, per Fangraphs) and his K rate is just 4.8 per nine innings. But he appears to have learned how to “just get guys out,” to borrow the phrase we use for Kyle Hendricks. It’s great to see.
Ryan Tepera threw a scoreless inning and Colin Rea threw two, combining for just one hit allowed. That’s also great to see, as the Cubs bullpen has overall been pretty lousy this season. The team relief ERA is still high, at 6.80, but that’s down more than three runs over the last few games. Meanwhile, Cubs starters rank third in MLB with a 2.73 ERA, and Cubs bats made Cleveland’s starter ERA jump from 1.99 to 2.24 in one game. Tuesday’s game was the first time the Indians had allowed more than four runs in a game this season, in 18 games played. Well done, Cubs offense!
Jason Kipnis, in his first game in Cleveland as a visiting player, went 1-for-3 with a walk. Before the game, the Tribe played a tribute video for him:
The Indians just played a long video montage of Jason Kipnis highlights on the big screen. Players from both teams stopped to watch and applauded at the end. Kipnis tipped his cap to the empty stands.— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) August 11, 2020
Strange for his homecoming to be without fans, but still a really cool moment.
Video of that cap tip:
Give the Cubs a lot of credit. They are having a lot of fun in what must be a very difficult situation, playing baseball while also doing their best to stay healthy during the pandemic. The Cubs appear to be taking MLB’s protocols seriously and have so far avoided any positive tests among players.
Lastly, it was a gorgeous evening for baseball in Cleveland:
This brief two-game series will conclude Wednesday evening with Kyle Hendricks facing Carlos Carrasco. Game time is an hour earlier today than Tuesday, 5:10 p.m. CT (game preview here at 3 p.m. CT) and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.