I told you, told you, TOLD YOU the Cubs weren’t as bad as they had shown over the 2021 season’s first 13 games.
Maybe 13 was the good-luck number, because in Game 14 the Cubs smashed six home runs and scored 13 runs in a 13-4 crushing of the Braves.
In the Cubs’ previous six games they had scored a total of 11 runs, so they outdid that by a pair. The six homers fell one short of the franchise record of seven, which hasn’t been done since 1977 — and all of that on a chilly, but sunny Wrigley afternoon when the wind was mostly blowing in.
The Cubs didn’t wait. With one out in the first inning, Willson Contreras off Huascar Ynoa [VIDEO].
Back-to-back doubles by Jason Heyward and David Bote made it 2-0 after two, and then the Cubs really got going in the third. Contreras, again [VIDEO].
Anthony Rizzo followed with a single and was forced at second. Joc Pederson walked and then Javier Baez came to the plate [VIDEO].
Javy’s three-run shot made it 6-0 and, as they say, the rout was on.
After a 1-2-3 fourth, the rout got even bigger in the fifth. Rizzo singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then he trotted home on Kris Bryant’s blast [VIDEO].
Now it’s 8-0, but the Cubs aren’t done in that inning. Keeping the team’s HBP parade going, Joc Pederson was hit, the team’s 14th in as many games. One out later, Heyward walked and then it was David Bote’s turn to go deep [VIDEO].
Things didn’t end up that way, but at the time the Cubs had wiped out nearly half their season negative run differential (-23 coming into the game) in five innings.
Trevor Williams breezed through the first five innings and then, perhaps due to the long fifth inning, got into trouble in the sixth on a single and a pair of walks. Ryan Tepera was summoned into a difficult situation, bases loaded, nobody out, but he induced a double-play ball and a fly out to end the inning on just five pitches. One run scored, charged to Williams, and let it be noted that Williams dropped an infield grounder down the third-base line that the Braves couldn’t play, and thus got the first hit by a Cubs pitcher this year. Cubs hurlers in 2021: 1-for-22 (.045) with 16 strikeouts. (Yes, I still hate this.)
The Cubs weren’t done scoring, though. Rizzo hit a ball into the right-field corner and Ronald Acuña Jr. tripped over his own feet, allowing the Cubs first baseman to make it to third with his first triple since 2019. Again he was able to trot home thanks to KB [VIDEO].
It’s now 13-1, and the Cubs have wiped out more than half that negative run differential.
Here’s where I open the complaint department door just a little. Shelby Miller was summoned to begin the seventh inning. I would guess that David Ross would have liked to see Miller throw two innings, maybe even finish the game. Unfortunately, Miller was awful, just as bad if not worse than in his first outing Wednesday in Milwaukee, where he faced five batters, retired none of them and four of them scored.
Saturday, Miller did manage to retire hitters, three of them, finishing the seventh inning, but in between he allowed three hits including a triple and walked a pair, laboring through 37 pitches before finishing up the frame.
Miller had a good spring training, and often, as we know, that doesn’t mean much. Despite decent velocity it appears Miller just doesn’t have it anymore. The Cubs sent Pedro Strop back to the alternate site despite a couple of good outings this past week. I think it’s time to say farewell to Miller and bring Pedro back.
Brandon Workman, Dan Winkler and Jason Adam completed the last two innings without further incident.
This team is capable of hitting like this, often. Why they didn’t do so over the season’s first 13 games will be an eternal mystery. Are they going to score 13 runs every day? Of course not, but I don’t think they’ll go through a six-game span scoring a total of 11 again, either. In a weak NL Central this is still a potential contending team. The six home runs hit by the Cubs Saturday account for 30 percent of their season total of 20. There will be more, many more — you can quote me on that.
I wanted to give a shout-out to Sean Kazmar Jr. of the Braves, who was just recalled from Atlanta’s alternate site before the game. Kazmar has spent the last 12 (!) years in the minor leagues after playing in a few games for the Padres in 2008, including playing at Triple-A Gwinnett in the Braves system for the last seven (!) years. He’s 36 and was hoping for one more big-league shot. This is perseverance:
If Sean Kazmar Jr. plays for the Braves today (again, @JeffPassan 1st reported he's being called up), it'll be 12 yrs, 206 days since his last MLB game.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) April 17, 2021
Per @EliasSports, that'd be the longest stretch between MLB games since 1950, beating out Minnie Minoso & Satchel Paige.
Kazmar did get into the game, pinch-hitting in the fifth inning. He hit into a double play [VIDEO].
Props to him for sticking it out and making it back, even if it’s just for a few at-bats.
Sunday, the Cubs will make their first appearance on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball facing the Braves in the rubber game of this series. (It should be noted that in every series this season the Cubs have gone into the last game with a chance for a series win.) Kyle Hendricks is scheduled to start for the Cubs. Just-recalled Bryse Wilson was announced after the game as Atlanta’s starter:
Bryse Wilson confirmed for Sunday night start for #Braves in series finale at Wrigley.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) April 17, 2021
Game time Sunday is 6:08 p.m. CT. Hopefully, Saturday’s offensive outburst will be the beginning of a long run for these Cubs hitters.