We have all been waiting for a game like this for a long time. Sure, the Cubs blasted home runs against the Reds in winning Sunday, and they won a messy game against the Pirates Tuesday, but I have been looking for the entire offense to contribute and not just score all their runs via the long ball.
That’s what we got Wednesday in an efficient 8-2 Cubs win over the Pirates, with the addition of a solid (if unspectacular) road outing for Kyle Hendricks. Kyle has struggled away from Wrigley Field since last year and so it’s good to see him put together this kind of game on the road.
The Pirates took an early, second-inning lead on a solo home run by Colin Moran off Hendricks. That, fortunately, would be the only run The Professor allowed.
It took till the fourth inning for the Cubs offense to begin to solve Joe Musgrove, who’s been tough on Cubs hitters his entire career. But Musgrove had missed almost a month with a tricep injury, and he ran out of gas in that inning. Willson Contreras led off with a single and Anthony Rizzo doubled him to third.
Javier Baez cleared the bases [VIDEO].
That was a hanging breaking pitch from reliever Nick Tropeano — the first pitch Tropeano threw! — and Javy hit it a long, long way:
Hendricks managed to complete six innings, and while he wasn’t in the strike zone as much as usual (102 pitches, 59 strikes), he allowed just six hits and two walks, striking out six. He’s averaging more than six innings per start (eight starts, a NL-leading 50 innings), and with his next outing at home, this one’s a good sign. He did throw these two nasty changeups:
Kyle Hendricks, Filthy 81mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/k6wNFsoPZb— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 3, 2020
Kyle Hendricks, Wicked 79mph Cut Changeup. pic.twitter.com/n50VpvioD0— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 3, 2020
Despite those, Kyle isn’t happy with the way his changeup feels right now:
Kyle Hendricks threw a season-low 18 changeups vs. PIT, but got 4 of his 6 strikeouts on it. Hasn't been feeling it.— Russell Dorsey (@Russ_Dorsey1) September 3, 2020
"My changeup just isn't feeling good. Last outing and this outing, it's just not coming out of my hand right. Really gotta work on it in my side."#Cubs
If those are the kinds of changeups Kyle can throw when it “isn’t feeling good,” imagine how good he’ll be when he can get it right.
The Cubs tacked on two more in the seventh. Nico Hoerner led off with a single. One out later, Contreras singled and advanced to second when Pirates left fielder Anthony Alford threw to third (where he had no chance of getting Hoerner) rather than second.
Three pitches later, the Cubs had two more runs courtesy of Rizzo’s single that split two Pirates infielders [VIDEO].
The Pirates added a run in the last of the seventh on a solo homer off Ryan Tepera, but the Cubs put the game away in the eighth. With one out, David Bote walked, and an out later, Ian Happ singled.
Alford did a good job of trying to sell that as a catch, but as you can see, review clearly showed the ball was trapped. That scored Bote; Happ went to third and Contreras was placed at second base.
An error by Kevin Newman gave the Cubs two more runs [VIDEO].
Duane Underwood Jr. and the just-recalled Jason Adam finished up the eighth and ninth without further ado and the Cubs had their third straight win.
I don’t want to disparage the Pirates, but it’s clear they’re not a very good team. These are the sorts of games that good teams ought to win, and despite some of their troubles the Cubs are, in fact, a good team. They’re going to have to deal with the injuries to Tyler Chatwood and Jose Quintana and cobble together a rotation for the rest of the year. That will be especially important for the five-game series against the Cardinals coming up this weekend. Looks like Adbert Alzolay will get his chance:
Before that, though, there’s business for the Cubs to take care of Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh as they go for a series sweep, weather permitting. Alec Mills will start for the Cubs and JT Brubaker will go for the Pirates. Game time is 12:35 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Pirates market territories).