Early this morning I would not have given this game much of a chance of being played at all. Rain was forecast all morning, afternoon and into the early evening in Chicago, with blustery winds and temperatures not getting out of the 40s.
The rain, though, stopped in the late morning, and after that it was just cloudy. And cold — the boxscore says the game-time temperature was 50, but don’t believe that for a minute — and very, very windy. Again, the boxscore for the Cubs’ 1-0 win over the Reds did not tell the truth. It says the wind was blowing in at nine miles per hour — yeah, add about 20 to that number and you’ll get the real wind speed, with gusts higher than that.
The wind did not stop David Bote’s laser beam of a home run in the fifth inning, in and out of the left-field basket, the only run of the game.
It did wreak havoc with other parts of this Cubs win, though.
Adbert Alzolay finished up one out short of a quality start, recording two outs in the sixth inning, leaving with two runners on base. He wasn’t quite as sharp as he had been in other recent outings. This time, he issued three walks, a season high, and I suspect that he’d probably tell you it was hard to get his grip right on the very cold afternoon. The first of his walks was his first in his previous 90 batters, an impressive run.
Nevertheless, he wiggled out of jams in every inning except the fifth (a 1-2-3 frame). The Reds had RISP in every one of the first four innings, but Alzolay got out of those, many with fly balls knocked down by the wind.
Meanwhile, Cubs hitters were having a tough time with Reds righthander Vladimir Gutierrez, who was making his major-league debut. Gutierrez retired 10 of the first 11 Cubs he faced; the only one to reach in that span was Rafael Ortega, who walked with two out in the fourth.
Cubs batters were having trouble with the wind, too. Joc Pederson hit a ball with two out in the third that looked like it would drop in the left-field corner because Jesse Winker was shifted far into left-center, but Winker made a nice sliding catch [VIDEO] on a ball carried quite a distance by the wind.
In the fourth, the Cubs had two runners on with one out on a Javier Baez single and walk by Ian Happ, but Willson Contreras and Ortega struck out to end the inning.
Finally, leading off the fifth, Bote put the Cubs on the board [VIDEO].
That ball was a line-drive rocket:
Picking up the game in the top of the sixth with Alzolay in trouble with two out, David Ross went to Andrew Chafin, who struck out pinch-hitter Eugenio Suarez. Chafin got through the seventh unscathed after allowing a pair of one-out singles. He then got Tyler Stephenson to hit a grounder right at Eric Sogard, who turned a tag-throw-to-first double play.
Tommy Nance came on to throw the eighth, probably the highest-leverage inning Ross has used him for so far. Nance did great — three quick outs on just nine pitches. I don’t know whether the league will catch up to him, but Nance has been really, really impressive so far, with good velocity and a good selection of pitches. Who knows? Maybe the Cubs lucked into someone who’s going to be really good.
I don’t have video of Patrick Wisdom’s pinch hit at-bat in the bottom of the eighth, but he lofted a fly ball that would have been easily into the bleachers on any normal day. It was blown back far enough that it became a routine out in left field.
And so then it was Craig Kimbrel time, and Kimbrel also posted three relatively easy outs, a grounder to third, a strikeout and a comebacker for his 12th save, on his 33rd birthday. The last out was Winker [VIDEO], who’s been one of the better hitters in the National League so far this year
Cubs pitchers held Winker hitless, 0-for-5, in this game. And again, the bullpen did an outstanding job, throwing 3⅓ innings, allowing two hits and striking out three, extending their streak of not allowing an earned run to 38 innings.
The victory, the Cubs’ fifth in a row, was their first team shutout of 2021 and their first 1-0 win since September 18, 2020, over the Twins at Wrigley Field.
And, in winning, the Cubs again are temporarily tied for first place in the NL Central with the Cardinals, pending St. Louis’ game later this evening against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
Wrigley Field was open to 60 percent capacity Friday, which would have been about 24,000 or so, but the announced attendance was just 18,478, not surprising given the terrible weather. I’d say maybe 15,000 or so were in the house. Saturday’s second game of this series will be played in much better weather conditions:
Sunny, with a high near 56. Breezy, with a north northeast wind around 20 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.
Still a bit windy and cool for this time of year, but at least the sun will be shining. Zach Davies will start for the Cubs and Luis Castillo will get the call for the Reds. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.