Looking at the Cubs’ lineup for Wednesday night’s game, the old “split-squad joke” meme occurred to me, as the lineup resembled one that manager David Ross might have put together to send to play a night game across the valley in Goodyear.
With all the injuries the Cubs have recently suffered, guys who had not previously produced were going to have to do so in order for the Cubs to keep up their winning ways.
And two of them in particular did just that. Trevor Williams threw six strong innings (and had two hits at the plate!) and David Bote smashed a two-run homer to lead the Cubs to a 4-1 win over the Pirates.
After rain delayed the start of this game about 30 minutes, Williams and Pirates starter Wil Crowe got to work. Neither team scored in the first inning, but the Cubs put three on the board in the second. Rafael Ortega, just recalled from Triple-A Iowa, walked leading off the inning, and then Bote gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead [VIDEO].
That ball went a long way!
The Cubs weren’t done in that inning, either. Eric Sogard and Williams singled. Sogard advanced to third on a fly ball, and Kris Bryant singled him in [VIDEO].
That gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead. If you’re a Star Wars fan you will appreciate this:
The best scoreline in baseball is back pic.twitter.com/qzFlFL9yV5— The Baseball Newsletter (@bbletter) May 27, 2021
Williams continued pitching brilliantly. Through five innings he had allowed just one hit (a first-inning triple that was misplayed in right field) and struck out six, by far his best performance of the year.
The Cubs added a run to their lead in the sixth. With one out, Sogard doubled and advanced to third on Williams’ second hit. (For the record, Williams became the first Cubs pitcher to have two hits in a game since Cole Hamels, September 28, 2019.) Sogard was then driven in, again by Bryant [VIDEO].
Nice piece of hitting there, going to right field with the outside pitch. KB had a three-hit night and is now batting .317/.405/.592 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI. His .997 OPS ranks third in the NL behind Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker.
Williams was touched up for a run in the bottom of the sixth, but finished off that inning with a double-play ball and a strikeout. Six innings, three hits, one run, no walks, seven strikeouts for Williams, 71 pitches, just an outstanding start. More, please.
The excellent Cubs bullpen took over and continued its shutdown ways. Tommy Nance, Dan Winkler, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel (11th save) threw three shutout innings, allowing two singles and a walk and striking out five. In so doing they established a new franchise record for consecutive scoreless innings by relievers, 32⅔, breaking the old mark of 30, set in August 1982, as noted in the game preview for this game.
Kimbrel did something peculiar in his inning. Ben Gamel had led off the inning with a double, and after Kimbrel retired the next two hitters, he got into a bit of a step-off-step-out game with Gregory Polanco. After a bit of this little dance, Kimbrel committed what Jim Deshaies termed an “intentional balk.” It appeared Kimbrel just didn’t want Gamel dancing around off second base behind him, so he balked him to third. It was the first balk of Kimbrel’s career.
Kimbrel proceeded to strike out Polanco on this nifty curveball [VIDEO].
Seeing Williams pitch the way he did in this game was very encouraging. The Cubs needed someone to step up and help out the rotation and this outing surely did. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come for Williams, who is an easy guy to root for.
The Cubs have now won consecutive road series for the first time since August 29-September 2, 2020, when they did so at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and have improved their road record to 10-13, which, while not great, is at least significantly improved from a 4-11 start. Overall they’ve won three straight and nine of 12 and remained half a game behind the Cardinals, who also won Wednesday. The Cubs are beginning to put a bit of distance between themselves and their pursuers in the NL Central, too. They are now ahead of the third-place Brewers by 2½ games and lead the fourth-place Reds by four games.
The Cubs go for the series sweep Thursday at Pittsburgh. If they can do so, they’ll come home to Wrigley Friday tied for first place, as the Cardinals are idle today. Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs Thursday and Tyler Anderson is scheduled to go for the Pirates. Game time is early — 11:35 a.m. CT — and TV coverage is via Marquee Sports Network. The game will also be on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Pirates market territories.
Today’s BCB game preview will post at 10 a.m. CT.