So let me get this straight.
Then the Cubs head to the South Side of Chicago to play the White Sox, who beat them handily at Wrigley Field last month and who have been one of the better teams in the American League this year... and score TEN runs and hit FIVE home runs in the first of the three-game series. The 10 runs Friday matches what they had scored in their last SEVEN games combined and the five home runs is more than they hit in their last TEN games (four).
Because baseball, I guess.
The Cubs’ 10-0 win over the White Sox Friday was welcome for a number of reasons, but the awakening of Cubs bats was wonderful to see. Let’s hope that’s the beginning of a long streak of good hitting.
Kyle Schwarber started the home run barrage in the second inning [VIDEO].
That was only the beginning of the fun. With two out and two runners on base in the third inning, Willson Contreras came to the plate [VIDEO].
The three-run homer gave the Cubs a 4-0 lead, the biggest lead they’d had since Monday. Oh, and then there was this:
You like bat flips? pic.twitter.com/tn2wWOmSdi— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 26, 2020
Even Statcast got involved in that bat flip:
High-end analytics makes a difference. pic.twitter.com/qPEl9jZWpb— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 26, 2020
The White Sox did not like that, not one bit. More on that later.
That one went a long way:
Note the velocity on that pitch, and then note this:
Entering tonight, the fastest pitch the Cubs had homered on this season was 96.1 mph.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) September 26, 2020
Tonight they've homered on: 97.4 mph, 98.9 mph, 99.5 mph.
Only other team with 3+ HR on 97.0+ mph pitches in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008): Indians, 8/15/19 against the Yankees (also 3)
Former Cubs prospect Dylan Cease throws hard and can hit 99+ on a consistent basis. But the balls don’t have a lot of movement on them and when that happens, they can fly out of the park. Cease might eventually be better suited to relief, but that’s the White Sox’ problem.
While all these home runs were happening, Yu Darvish was mowing down Sox hitters. Tim Anderson led off the first inning with a single, but the Sox had just two other hits off Darvish in seven outstanding innings — a third-inning double by Adam Engel and a fifth-inning single by Luis Robert. Darvish walked one, struck out five and Engel was the only runner past first base off him.
The Cubs put the game well out of reach in the sixth thanks to another homer, this one with one man on base, by Victor Caratini [VIDEO].
That was Victor’s first of the year and the score’s now 7-0 Cubs.
In the seventh with one out, Contreras was hit by Jimmy Cordero [VIDEO].
That resulted in the ejection of Cordero as well as Sox manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper.
I think you all know my position on deliberately throwing at hitters — and make no mistake, that was deliberate. Retaliation, whether for Willson’s home run or for the bat flip, is just plain wrong. Don’t want him to do that? Fine, make better pitches. Why did Willson do that?
"I didn't mean to throw it that high," Contreras said with a smile. Said his team "needed its swagger back," so he was celebrating with his teammates.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 26, 2020
Contreras took second on an infield out and scored on a throwing error to make it 8-0. A pair of walks and an infield hit loaded the bases in the eighth and Ian Happ’s sac fly made it 9-0.
The Sox, trying to save their bullpen, inserted infielder Yolmer Sanchez to throw the ninth. Willson took him deep on his first pitch [VIDEO].
We used to call games like this “laughers” and this one truly was, especially when later in the inning, Javier Baez stood in lefthanded against Sanchez [VIDEO].
That’s a pretty good looking swing, actually, Javy in the LH batter’s box. Len Kasper notes in that clip that Baez had done this once before. It happened August 8, 2019 and here was the result [VIDEO].
Switch-hitting Javy is fun, during blowouts like this, anyway. Baez was doubled off second base on an infield popup that was nearly dropped. He apparently forgot how many outs there were, but with a 10-0 lead it barely mattered.
Dan Winkler and Andrew Chafin finished the game with perfect innings in relief. As for Darvish:
Yu Darvish leads National League pitchers with 3.0 fWAR and 2.30 WPA. He trimmed his ERA to 2.01 on the season in 76 innings (second to only Kyle Hendricks' 81.1).— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 26, 2020
Darvish spent the night throwing nasty pitches like this one:
Yu Darvish, Wicked 90mph...Pitch. pic.twitter.com/sIvcPLcFIK— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 26, 2020
You can absolutely make an argument for Darvish for the Cy Young Award. He and several others (Trevor Bauer, Jacob deGrom among them) are all very, very close this year. It’ll be an interesting vote, to be sure. Darvish has just been outstanding since the middle of 2019. I’ve noted this before, but he absolutely is the ace the Cubs thought they were getting when they signed him. He is lined up on normal rest to start Wednesday’s first postseason game, although the Cubs could also go with Kyle Hendricks in Game 1 and give Darvish an extra day of rest.
That was just the kind of game this team needed, to prove to themselves that they’re still good hitters and take a lot of the pressure off. Hopefully the offense continues the rest of the weekend, and into October.
The Cardinals split their doubleheader with the Brewers Friday evening, so the Cubs’ division-clinching magic number was reduced to 1. A Cubs win or a Cardinals loss makes the Cubs NL Central champions for the third time in the last five years. Meanwhile, the Reds and Marlins both clinched postseason spots by winning Friday evening, so there’s now just one NL postseason spot up for grabs. The Giants, at 29-29, currently inhabit that spot, but the Brewers, Phillies and Mets still have an outside chance. The Giants are in if they win their last two games. Otherwise all that remains is seeding, which could still change for several teams in both leagues over the next two days.
Incidentally, if the Cubs clinch the division title Saturday or Sunday, the Cardinals can be no better than the No. 5 seed in the NL playoffs. If that’s the case, St. Louis’ makeup doubleheader vs. the Tigers won’t be played.
The Cubs will look to make it two straight over the White Sox and clinch the division title Saturday. Jon Lester — who seems to always step up in big situations like this — will start for the Cubs and rookie Dane Dunning will go for the Sox. Game time is 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage is on Marquee Sports Network (and NBC Sports Chicago with the Sox announcers).