You could be forgiven, just a bit, if you squinted and saw “2016” on your calendar Friday night instead of 2021.
There was Jake Arrieta, dominating the opposition.
There was Kris Bryant, smashing a home run that helped lead the Cubs to a 4-2 win over the Tigers.
Of course, it’s not 2016, Arrieta’s back after three years in Philadelphia exile and Bryant might be in another uniform next year.
But those two are still very good players and, well, I think this is still a better team than it’s shown on some afternoons and evenings.
Friday night in Detroit, just about everything went the Chicago Cubs’ way.
Arrieta allowed a few baserunners in the early innings, but all were wiped out on double plays, so he faced the minimum 15 hitters through five innings.
In the third, after Willson Contreras singled with one out, Bryant gave the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].
The opposite-field shot didn’t make it over the wall by much, but it was enough to put the Cubs ahead 2-0. It was Bryant’s 10th of the season in the Cubs’ 37th game (his 35th). That’s the fastest KB has gotten to 10 home runs in any season:
2015: 60th game (68th team game)
2016: 44th game (45th team game)
2017: 39th game (42nd team game)
2018: 67th game (90th team game)
2019: 41st game (42nd team game)
And, of course, he hit just four in 34 games last year. He is currently leading the NL in OPS (1.069) and OPS+ (169) and the major leagues in doubles (14) and SLG (.667).
Two innings later, the Cubs increased their lead. Jason Heyward led off with a double and one out later, Bryant walked.
Anthony Rizzo then made it 3-0 Cubs [VIDEO].
Javier Baez was the next hitter [VIDEO].
That little bloopy single made it 4-0.
It looked like Arrieta might get through the sixth untouched, retiring the first two hitters on just five pitches. But then Jake Rogers and Robbie Grossman sent solo homers out of the yard to make it 4-2. This was reminiscent of something Fergie Jenkins once said, along the lines of “if you’re going to give up homers, make sure they’re solo shots.” (Paraphrasing, as I can’t find an exact quote.)
Personally, I thought Arrieta could have gone at least one more inning, as he’d thrown only 78 pitches in six innings. But David Ross apparently felt it better to let Jake ease back in after he’d returned from the thumb abrasion that kept him out for a couple of starts.
The Cubs bullpen did its job in stellar fashion. Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel (seventh save) retired all nine hitters they faced, and combined they threw just 29 pitches (25 strikes), striking out four. Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth, with high fastballs like this one [VIDEO].
All of this contributed not only to a Cubs win, but the shortest nine-inning game of the Cubs 2021 season, just two hours, 31 minutes. (The first game of the Dodgers doubleheader last week was 2:17, but of course that was a seven-inning game.)
Thus the complaint department door is closed and locked up tight after this efficient victory.
The Brewers and Cardinals both lost Friday evening so the Cubs trail Milwaukee by one game and St. Louis by four. There is a long way to go in the 2021 season, and I still believe this Cubs team has a lot of winning left in it. Another good sign from Friday’s game, Joc Pederson:
Joc Watch:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 15, 2021
Pederson has his 4th three-hit game in a span of six games. He now leads the Cubs in three-hit games this season.
Now batting .484/.500/.516 in 8 games since coming off the IL.
Pederson still has just three extra-base hits (one double, one triple, one home run), but Jim Deshaies said on the broadcast that he feels Pederson’s power will come. I concur.
The Cubs will go for two straight over the Tigers Saturday afternoon. Trevor Williams will start for the Cubs and Jose Ureña will go for Detroit. Game time is 3:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.