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Cubs 6, Cardinals 3: Let’s get Happ-y

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It took a while, but the Cubs posted a satisfying win over their division rivals.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Total game time of Monday’s 14-inning doubleheader: four hours, 36 minutes

Total game time of Tuesday’s nine-inning single game: four hours, nine minutes

Wait, what? It took almost as long to play nine innings Tuesday as 14 innings Monday?

Yes, and that actually wound up being a good thing, because the patient Cubs saw 207 pitches from Cardinals hurlers (in only eight innings!) in completing a 6-3 win over the visitors from St. Lous Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field. It was the third-longest nine-inning game by time in Cubs franchise history. Only this Cubs/Cardinals game last September 21 (4:24) and this Cubs/Brewers game May 11, 2000 (4:22) have been longer among nine-inning Cubs games all-time.

Yu Darvish, who has been a revelation since the middle of 2019, gave up some Cardinals hits through the first three innings, but managed to wriggle his way out of trouble each time. Ian Happ gave the Cubs the lead in the bottom of the third [VIDEO].

That was Ian’s fifth home run of the season, tying Anthony Rizzo for the team lead. Happ, installed at the leadoff spot in Kris Bryant’s absence, had himself a night:

Personally, I’ve always thought Rizzo was the best possible leadoff hitter the Cubs could use. But Happ is certainly making a case for remaining in the leadoff spot even when KB returns to the lineup. You can’t argue with a .439 on-base percentage, and I hope David Ross keeps Happ up top.

The Cubs increased their lead to 2-0 in the fourth. Willson Contreras walked and Jason Heyward ripped a ball into the right-field corner [VIDEO].

Heyward also had a nice game, reaching base three times on two hits and a HBP. He’s now hitting .291/.375/.473 (16-for-55) and over his last 10 games: .379/.472/.724 (11-for-29) with two home runs.

Cardinals starter Daniel Ponce de Leon faced one more batter after Heyward, striking out David Bote, and then that was it for him. The Cubs drew two more walks off reliever Seth Elledge but scored no more in the fourth. The Cardinals made it 2-1 in the fifth off Darvish, but the Cubs got more runs in a hurry in the fifth. Javier Baez led off with a double and Kyle Schwarber then put a baseball in orbit [VIDEO].

Repeat after me: That ball was crushed!

Darvish completed his outing Tuesday evening with no further damage, so his line read: six innings, eight hits, one run, one walk, seven strikeouts, 98 pitches, 64 strikes. In the four starts this season since his mediocre first outing: 26 innings, 1.04 ERA, 0.804 WHIP, five walks and 29 strikeouts, .180 opponents BA, .468 opponents OPS. Since the All-Star break in 2019 Darvish has posted a 2.50 ERA in 18 starts. In that span he’s struck out 152 and walked only 12 in 107⅔ innings. He’s absolutely the dominant ace the Cubs had hoped for when he signed before the 2018 season.

The Cubs extended their lead in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Heyward and David Bote singled and that brought up Victor Caratini [VIDEO].

That ball hit the wall just below the basket, missing being a three-run homer by maybe six feet. Heyward scored and Bote stopped at third, but Jason Kipnis hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-1 Cubs.

That should be it for a happy recap, but the Cubs didn’t get great bullpen work from Casey Sadler or Dan Winkler. Sadler threw a scoreless seventh, but then walked the first two he faced in the eighth. Winkler entered and allowed an RBI single to Matt Carpenter, then issued another walk. He did then get Dylan Carlson to hit into a double play, but another run scored to make it 6-3.

After Winkler hit Dexter Fowler, bringing the tying run to the plate, Rowan Wick was summoned. Wick struck out Andrew Knizner to end the threat, and though Wick issued a one-out walk in the ninth, he struck out Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt to end the game. Goldschmidt, who used to torment Cubs pitching as a Diamondback, has continued to do so in the three games of this series, going 4-for-9 with two walks.

The Cubs drew eight walks Tuesday evening. That gives them 20 (!) in the 23 innings in this series and 97 in 22 games so far in 2020, an average of 4.41 per game. That pace for a 162-game season would be 714 walks, which would demolish the franchise record. They’ve walked at least three times in 19 of the 22 games in 2020 and currently rank sixth in bases on balls in MLB (though all the teams ahead of them have played more games). Despite ranking 21st in MLB in batting average (.232), they rank fourth in OBP (.341) thanks to all the walks, as well as HBP. Cubs batters have been hit 22 times this season, second to the Mets (23).

This game showed how the Cubs can attack from various offensive angles. Two home runs — but also, the eight walks and everyone in the starting lineup reached base by hit or walk, and seven of the nine starters reached base at least twice. Thus, despite the length of the game and a bit of shaky relief, the complaint department is closed this morning.

The Cubs currently stand as the only NL Central team over .500 and lead the Brewers and Cardinals by 4½ games. They’ll wrap up the series against the Cardinals with a doubleheader Wednesday afternoon, again two seven-inning games, at 1:20 p.m. CT. At this writing, Alec Mills will start for the Cubs in Game 1 against Jack Flaherty for the Cardinals. No starters have been listed for either team for Game 2, though it’s still possible Adbert Alzolay will be in the mix for the Cubs. TV coverage Wednesday is via Marquee Sports Network.