One thing is for certain for the 2021 Chicago Cubs.
They are not going to win many games if they don’t start hitting.
Five hits Monday. One hit Tuesday. Three hits in a 4-2, 10-inning loss to the Brewers Wednesday afternoon.
Eight hits in three games, seven total runs, somehow the Cubs managed to win one of those games, but that sort of thing isn’t going to work all season.
The Cubs have only 20 hits in the six games so far this year. Even the Mets have more and they’ve played three fewer games, for heaven’s sake.
Anyway, the Cubs generally got good pitching on a day that felt more like June than April at Wrigley Field, except when it came to Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain, who homered in consecutive at-bats in the eighth and 10th, the latter with two runners on base to give Milwaukee the win.
Kyle Hendricks threw six solid innings, much better than his Opening Day start, lending credence to the idea that the cold weather last Thursday prevented him from locating his pitches the way he usually does. In this game, his changeup had excellent movement, resulting in the usual weak contact and strikeouts (six of the latter).
But Brandon Woodruff did Hendricks one better. He no-hit the Cubs through six innings, until Ian Happ led off the seventh with this single through the shift [VIDEO].
The next three Cubs were retired, so the game went to the eighth scoreless.
Fun, or maybe not-so-fun, fact about Woodruff’s no-hit bid:
From @ESPNStatsInfo : The Brewers are the 1st team with 2 no-hit bids of 6+ innings in the 1st 6 games of a season since the 1990 Padres. (Mil also did it on April 3 v Minny)— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) April 7, 2021
Cain led off the eighth with what would turn out to be his first homer of the game, off Alec Mills. Mills was replaced one out later by Andrew Chafin, who got out of the inning with a pair of strikeouts. Chafin’s been really good so far this year.
Joc Pederson got that run back with a leadoff homer of his own [VIDEO].
You can see Joc knew it was gone off the bat, and that ball... well, you know...
The home run was off Devin Williams. Last year, Williams was NL Rookie of the Year, in part because of numbers like this: He faced 100 batters in 2020 and allowed one home run. So far in 2021, he has faced 10 batters and allowed one home run (this one).
Craig Kimbrel came on to throw the ninth in a tie game. Sometimes, this isn’t good for closers but Kimbrel seems a man on a mission. He had another 1-2-3 inning, a strikeout and two groundouts and has retired all nine batters he’s faced this year, six by strikeout. This will be key to the Cubs’ season... if they can hit and actually get Kimbrel some leads to protect.
Anthony Rizzo walked with two out in the bottom of the ninth and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Kris Bryant was called out on strikes and so on to the placed-runner extras we went.
I’d seen some of these on TV last year but this was, of course, the first time I’d seen such a game in person.
I don’t hate this rule as much as I thought I would, but I would rather see teams play through the 12th inning without it — then if the game’s still tied, use it. I think that would be a fair compromise.
Anyway, the runner doesn’t come out onto the field until the defense warmup is over. Brandon Workman allowed a single allowing the Brewers runner, Daniel Robertson, to take third and then Cain hit his three-run blast.
Give the Cubs credit, they made it interesting in the bottom of the 10th. Bryant was the placeed runner, and after Pederson flied to left KB took third on a groundout by Javier Baez. Jason Heyward singled him in [VIDEO].
Okay, now it’s 4-2 and the tying run is at the plate, so maybe...
Willson Contreras, as a pinch-hitter, walked. So did Jake Marisnick, also pinch-hitting. Well, now the bases are loaded, the winning run is on base and the crowd is getting into it. You’d be surprised how loud 10,343 can sound (and many had already left).
Ian Happ had a chance to be a walkoff hero, but he lifted a fly to left to end it.
It’s really simple. The Cubs have to hit to win. Perhaps they will start doing that at PNC Park this weekend.
Before I tell you about tomorrow’s matchup, I wanted to give a shout-out to all the Wrigley Field gameday staff, who are doing an excellent job of making everyone at the games feel welcome. You will probably say you have seen a lot of unmasked people on TV and yes, that’s true. Enforcing the mask rule is a difficult task — staff is outnumbered, obviously. They are doing the best they can in asking people to stay masked for safety. Being outdoors, masked myself, and already fully vaccinated against COVID-19, I feel safe at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs head to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates in another weekend series. Thursday is the Pirates’ home opener, so they are playing an afternoon game, 12:35 p.m. CT starting time. Jake Arrieta will start for the Cubs and Tyler Anderson will go for the Pirates. TV coverage is on Marquee Sports Network, also on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Pirates market territories.
The Pirates just finished giving the Reds 35 hits and 30 runs in a three-game series. Afer six games of 2021, the Pirates’ run differential is -25. Perhaps the Cubs bats can wake up against that Pittsburgh pitching staff.