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Adbert Alzolay, David Bote lead Cubs to doubleheader split with Cardinals

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The Cubs won the five-game set, three games to two.

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Adbert Alzolay, who showed flashes of brilliance in brief appearances with the Cubs in 2019, was recalled from the team’s alternate site in South Bend for a second-game start Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Alzolay came through with five solid innings, allowing two hits, one walk and an unearned run while striking out six. It took a seventh-inning rally by the Cubs, though, with a key two-run single by David Bote for just enough offense for a 4-2 win and a split of the doubleheader with the Cardinals.

Check out this nasty stuff Alzolay showed:

The Cubs put two runs across in the second inning. Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras walked and after Jason Heyward struck out, they were wild-pitched up to second and third base. That proved to be important on this Victor Caratini hit [VIDEO].

The two-run single put the Cubs ahead 2-0.

The Cubs were hitting baseballs hard all over the yard during this game, without much to show for them:

Ian Happ’s triple came with one out in the third, but he went home on a contact play on an infield ground ball and was thrown out at the plate.

Alzolay kept dealing, and was helped out by some outstanding defense in the fourth inning. With one out, Matt Carpenter sent a ball to the ivy, but was denied second base by Schwarber:

For anyone who thinks Schwarber is not a good outfielder, watch that clip on loop, over and over. He’s not fast, but he generally takes good routes and he has an excellent arm.

The Cardinals cut the lead to 2-1 in the fifth. Bote made a throwing error on a ground ball by Tyler O’Neill, and O’Neill wound up on second base. A groundout and a sacrifice fly scored O’Neill, the only run off Alzolay. Alzolay threw 44 strikes in 70 pitches and as shown above, had really good stuff and command all afternoon. He got props from one of the other South Bend guys:

In the bottom of the sixth, Jeremy Jeffress walked a pair, and Brad Miller, who absolutely wore out Cubs pitching this series (eight RBI) singled in the tying run.

But the Cubs came right back in the top of the seventh, loading the bases on three singles by Schwarber, Contreras and Nico Hoerner sandwiched around a strikeout by Jason Heyward.

Now think about that. In the first 13 innings of this doubleheader, the Cubs had four hits. And in the final inning, they also had four, including Bote’s game-winner.

Anyway, Bote came through [VIDEO].

Craig Kimbrel came into the game for his first save chance since August 4 — a game that had to be finished off by Kyle Ryan after Kimbrel gave up two ninth-inning runs — and showed much better velocity, dialing up his fastball to 98-99. That helped him be more effective with his curve, which he was able to throw for strikes, two called K’s and one swinging K. He looked like the Kimbrel the Cubs thought they were getting when they signed him last year, and posted his first save of the season. That was great to see and is really important for this bullpen going forward.

Of the first game of this doubleheader, a 9-3 loss, perhaps the less said the better. I did want to mention that the first inning, when the Cardinals took a 4-0 lead after Alec Mills loaded the bases on a HBP, a single and a walk, followed by a grand slam by Carpenter, reminded me very much of this game August 29, 2018, the second game ever started by Mills as a Cub.

Just as he did Wednesday, Mills loaded the bases that afternoon in the first, though he managed to record two outs before Todd Frazier hit a slam. The Cubs lost that one 10-3 and the results in Tuesday’s first game weren’t any better.

There were a couple of highlights. Happ got one of those runs back in the bottom of the first with a leadoff homer [VIDEO].

Happ’s blast was the Cubs’ only hit of the game until Josh Phegley homered with two out and a runner on base in the bottom of the seventh [VIDEO].

The homer was Phegley’s first hit as a Cub.

Another Cubs highlight had come in the third, on this play [VIDEO].

Happ made a nice throw to Javier Baez, but let’s be honest: Looks like Miller slid in safely under the tag. The Cardinals chose not to challenge, and it obviously had no impact on the outcome of the game.

The Cubs did have some other baserunners, in fact, they drew six walks and had two batters hit by a pitch. They loaded the bases in the second and third innings, but could not score. Eventually David Ross cleared his bench, which was a good idea to rest several starting players for Game 2.

This game ran a ridiculous length — 3:01 — for a seven-inning game, and as Len Kasper pointed out during the broadcast, there were five mid-inning pitching changes, which definitely slowed things down. That led to a discussion between Len and JD as to whether the new three-batter minimum had changed the pace of play at all. They seemed to think not, and though I haven’t looked at the numbers, it’s my sense that the rule has made zero difference in pace of play, just like almost all of Rob Manfred’s “pace of play” initiatives. The single biggest thing they could do to improve that — the pitch clock — they refuse to do.

Fun fact: The last time before Wednesday that the Cubs scored three runs on two hits was May 8, 1966, also the first game of a doubleheader, a win over the Mets at Shea Stadium.

The Cubs have Thursday off, and will next take on the White Sox at Wrigley Field in a three-game set beginning Friday. No probable pitchers are yet listed on either team’s website, but if the rotations for the Cubs and Sox hold, it should be Jon Lester vs. Dallas Keuchel. Game time Friday is 7:15 p.m. CT, and TV coverage will be on Marquee Sports Network. It’ll also be on NBC Sports Chicago with the Sox announcers, for those of you in the Cubs market territory who don’t have access to Marquee.