So what’s so great about this Padres team, anyway?
They came to Chicago with the best record in the National League, winners of 16 of their last 20 games, and were facing a pitcher who had not thrown a big-league pitch since 2019.
And all the Cubs did was demolish them with five home runs and outstanding pitching from that pitcher, Kohl Stewart, winning the first of a three-game series 7-2.
The Padres scored first, in the second inning, thanks in part to a throwing error by Javier Baez. Stewart got out of a jam with a double-play ball and then Javy got to making up for that miscue in the third inning.
With two out, Kris Bryant hit a ball that Jurickson Profar dived for, but failed to catch. It rolled all the way to the ivy for a triple, KB’s first of the year.
That ball was absolutely demolished:
The lead was extended by a run in the fourth, courtesy of Patrick Wisdom [VIDEO].
Stewart completed the fifth inning and then was removed for a pinch hitter. He threw an efficient 64 pitches, allowed three hits and an unearned run, walked one and struck out a pair. That was almost certainly what David Ross was hoping for — a fine first outing as a Cub. He’ll get at least one more start and he’s certainly earned a longer look. Stewart was once a No. 1 draft pick — he was selected in 2013 by the Twins two picks after the Cubs took KB — so there’s talent there. He’s only 26. Maybe the Cubs found someone useful on the scrap heap.
Sergio Alcantara was the PH for Stewart, and he smacked a ball to right-center for his first Cubs hit. One out later, Bryant brought him home [VIDEO].
Well. Wil Myers got a beer shower going back to try to catch that ball, which landed in the basket. I don’t think that was intentional — the fan appeared to be trying for the ball — but it reminded me of this famous sequence of photos from the 1959 World Series:
Bryant’s homer made it 5-1. Keegan Thompson relieved Stewart and allowed a solo homer to Fernando Tatis Jr. that brought San Diego to within three runs. That was the first earned run Thompson had allowed this year; he’s now thrown 17⅓ MLB innings.
The Cubs weren’t done hitting home runs, either. With one out in the sixth, Wisdom again [VIDEO].
That was Wisdom’s first career two-homer game and he’s now hit three in his last five games. You know, Wisdom was also a former No. 1 draft pick (52nd overall, compensation round) by the Cardinals in 2012. There’s talent there and he can play multiple positions (third base, first base, corner outfield). When the Cubs’ injured position players begin to return, there’s a real case for keeping Wisdom around for a while. Again, Jed Hoyer and his scouts look like they found something good on the scrap heap.
Ready for another home-run highlight? Javy again, in the seventh [VIDEO].
Unlike the first, that was a majestic fly ball (check out the launch angle):
Andrew Chafin and Tommy Nance were the final Cubs pitchers of the game, both retiring hitters without incident. Well, there was an “incident” in the eighth, when Chafin induced what appeared to be an inning-ending double-play ball where the second out was overturned on review [VIDEO].
This wound up having no impact when Chafin struck out Tatis to end the inning.
I have to say, when I saw Nance throw in spring training, he seemed like the “guy who throws the last inning of games just because we need somebody.” But he has been very, very impressive in the major leagues. This gives Nance 6⅔ scoreless innings, with two hits and two walks allowed (0.600 WHIP) and eight strikeouts. He throws hard — you can see that last pitch come in at 97 — and seems to have good mound presence.
One more time: The Cubs found someone useful on the scrap heap. Good for Jed Hoyer’s baseball ops team. And again, when some of the Cubs injured pitchers are ready to return, Nance looks like a keeper.
The Cubs made a statement Monday afternoon, not intimidated by the team with the best record in the league, and won decisively. They end May with a 19-8 record. It is just the eighth time in franchise history that the Cubs have won at least 19 games in May, and the first time since 1977. Here are the other seven:
Let’s hope this excellent May continues into June. The Cubs are, again, currently tied for first place in the NL Central with the Cardinals, pending St. Louis’ game vs. the Dodgers in Los Angeles, which begins at 8:10 p.m. CT.
The Cubs have a chance at a series win Tuesday evening with Kyle Hendricks — who’s been great lately — on the mound. Ryan Weathers is scheduled to start for the Padres — a lefthander, and the Cubs are 12-3 vs. LH starters so far this year. Game time Tuesday is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.