The Cubs’ 5-4 win over the Royals Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field, their fifth straight victory, had a little bit of everything — strong starting pitching again, some solid defense, a couple of home runs, and yet another bad Craig Kimbrel outing to dissect.
I’ll get to that, but let’s start at the beginning.
After a 1-2-3 first inning, Kyle Hendricks gave up three straight hits in the second, giving the Royals their first lead of the series at 1-0. After a visit from Tommy Hottovy, Hendricks retired the next three hitters without incident, and the Royals’ lead thus lasted about five minutes.
Willson Contreras led off the bottom of the second with a single, and he was followed to the plate by Jason Heyward [VIDEO].
That ball went a long, long way, almost hitting the RAV4 that’s on the back of the bleacher concourse:
#Royals 1 @ #Cubs 2 [B2-0o]:— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) August 5, 2020
Jason Heyward homers (1): fly ball to RCF (2-run)
Hit: 412ft, 106.7mph, 27°
Pitch: 82.9mph Slider (RHP Brady Singer, 3)
So the Cubs had a 2-1 lead. It was Heyward’s first home run of 2020 and though he’s still off to a slow start, his last four games: .333/.333/.467 (5-for-15) with the home run. Baby steps in the right direction!
The parade of Jasons gave the Cubs a 4-1 lead in the fourth. Heyward had his second hit of the game, a single to right, and one out later Jason Kipnis left the yard [VIDEO].
Kipnis’ second of the season went even farther than J-Hey’s:
#Royals 1 @ #Cubs 4 [B4-2o]:— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) August 5, 2020
Jason Kipnis homers (2): line drive to RCF (2-run)
Hit: 423ft, 104.1mph, 25°
Pitch: 92.6mph Four-Seam Fastball (RHP Brady Singer, 4)
Meanwhile, Hendricks had settled down into his usual good pitching pattern. He got touched up for one more run in the fifth on two singles and a sacrifice fly, but overall his outing was very good: seven innings, seven hits, two runs, no walks, three strikeouts.
Jeremy Jeffress, who’s become perhaps the Cubs’ most reliable reliever, threw a scoreless eighth and then in the bottom of the inning Willson Contreras put another run on the board that proved to be very, very important [VIDEO].
Willson’s second of 2020 was another 400-plus foot big fly:
#Royals 2 @ #Cubs 5 [B8-1o]:— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) August 5, 2020
Willson Contreras homers (2): line drive to LCF (solo)
Hit: 422ft, 105.5mph, 24°
Pitch: 84.2mph Slider (RHP Trevor Rosenthal, 1)
Now it’s 5-2, a three-run lead, and Kimbrel entered to throw the ninth. Admit it, you cringed. But at some point, Kimbrel’s going to have to figure out things in order to pitch in games. He’s not just going to sit unused in the bullpen.
The outing was bad, once again: Single, strikeout, double, now the tying run’s at the plate and David Ross has seen enough. Kyle Ryan was summoned to clean up the mess, and a groundout and a single plated two Royals runs. Pinch-runner Nick Heath stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error, so now the tying run’s 90 feet away, but with two out.
That’s when Kris Bryant came up with this outstanding play [VIDEO].
That ball wasn’t too far from heading to left field as a game-tying hit. Kudos to KB, and congrats to Kyle Ryan for his first career save. Here’s what Ross said about Kimbrel after the game [VIDEO].
Well, what else is he going to say? A good manager doesn’t throw his players under the bus publicly. Joe Maddon didn’t and David Ross isn’t going to. They just have to keep working through this, that’s all that can be done. Kimbrel threw five fastballs out of 11 pitches and touched 97 on all but one of them — so velocity isn’t the issue, it’s his apparent inability to locate and have command. This... isn’t good:
Kimbrel in 3 outings so far in 2020:— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) August 5, 2020
2 home runs
1 hit batter
1 wild pitch
6 runs (all earned)
The Cubs have to make two roster cuts before Friday when the limit goes from 30 to 28. It would not surprise me if Kimbrel spends some time on the injured list at that point.
Meanwhile, Heyward says he knows one reason this Cubs team is doing so well:
Jason Heyward believes the Cubs’ relentlessly rowdy dugout has played a role in the team’s 9-2 start. Here’s why... pic.twitter.com/uWuYA8qYxd— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 5, 2020
Of course, a team has to be talented to win, but do not discount the value of what Heyward’s talking about here. It matters.
This is the fifth time the Cubs have won at least nine of their first eleven games, previously accomplished in 1907, 1934, 1969 and 2016. Two of those years ended in World Series victories. The 1969 season, you know about; in 1934 the Cubs led early, but finished third, eight games out of first place. The 2016 Cubs lost game number 12 to go to 9-3, so this year’s team could be in even more exclusive company if they win Wednesday night in Kansas City.
The teams have traveled overnight to K.C. to continue this four-game set. Yu Darvish gets the start for the Cubs and Kris Bubic will go for the Royals. Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.