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Cubs sweep doubleheader against Dodgers, because baseball

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You did not expect that. But it sure was fun!

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Admit it, you were one of those people who had given up on this doubleheader before it even began.

The Cubs were scheduled to face Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer, who had both been excellent in the young 2021 season, and facing them were Kyle Hendricks (who’d been just east of horrific this year) and Keegan Thompson, and many of you had probably never even heard of Thompson before Sunday, when he made his major-league debut.

And yet... baseball gonna baseball, and the Cubs got solid pitching from nearly everyone Tuesday as well as timely hitting and swept the doubleheader, 7-1 and 4-3, the second game going nine innings. Under 2021 doubleheader rules that was actually two “extra” innings. The afternoon and evening, played under chilly but tolerable conditions at Wrigley Field, was all highly entertaining. Lots to unpack, let’s get started!

The first batter Hendricks faced, Mookie Betts, reached on an error by Javier Baez. (This would become a theme later on.) But Hendricks induced a double-play ball and another grounder and got out of the inning, and then the Cubs offense got to work against Kershaw.

Kershaw struck out Willson Contreras, but then Kris Bryant bounced a ball into the left-field seats for a double. Anthony Rizzo drove him in [VIDEO].

Kershaw walked Javy. That’s actually news. It was just his second walk of the season in his 102nd plate appearance. Matt Duffy singled to load the bases and David Bote cleared them [VIDEO].

That missed being a grand slam by only 10 feet or so. Kershaw put another runner on base with a walk, but finally got out of the inning after throwing 39 pitches.

Hendricks put a couple of men on in the second, and when the Cubs came to bat in the bottom of the inning, Dennis Santana was pitching.

That means the Cubs were responsible for the shortest start of Kershaw’s career — he had never before had one where he recorded fewer than four outs. More on Kershaw’s outing:

Hendricks put two more on in the third but got out of it with a strikeout of Max Muncy and then the Cubs offense got to work again. Jake Marisnick was hit by a pitch and went to third on a single by Ildemaro Vargas. That’s when Santana threw a really wild pitch [VIDEO].

Marisnick scored and when Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes made a throw somewhere in the general direction of the plate that got away, Vargas kept running and scored to make it 6-0.

Hendricks got through six innings unscathed, despite giving up five hits, hitting a batter and issuing a walk. In the bottom of the sixth, Marisnick made it 7-0 [VIDEO].

The seventh inning became somewhat of an adventure for Hendricks. He retired Barnes on a foul popup. Usually that wouldn’t be too significant in a 7-0 game, but it was the first time in 2021, in 29 games, that a Cubs starter had recorded an out in the seventh inning. (Trevor Williams had previously faced a couple of batters in a seventh inning, but didn’t retire any of them.)

Keibert Ruiz pinch hit and homered off Hendricks, the only flaw in a really good outing for Kyle. The other thing that happened in the seventh was that the game was extended by some really bad fielding by Baez [VIDEO] on this grounder by Corey Seager.

That play could have been a game-ending double play; instead Javy was charged with two errors, giving him three for the game, the only bad note in a really solid win.

Hendricks, unflappable as always, induced yet another ground ball, this one by Justin Turner. This time Javy made the play, turning a DP to end the game.

It was really good to see Hendricks look like, well, you know, The Professor. Until Ruiz’ home run, just two runners had gotten past first base on Kyle, and this game, I believe, was a really good sign for his season. The offense was varied and took advantage of situations that presented themselves, one of the better wins of the year.

It would get even better in Game 2, which certainly gave fans quite a bit of entertainment value.

The first two Dodgers reached against Keegan Thompson, but he got Chris Taylor to hit a double play ball, and another grounder got him out of the inning. The Cubs couldn’t do much with Trevor Bauer, but they did draw two walks in the first and made him throw a lot of pitches.

Another Dodger runner in the second was wiped out on a second double-play ball from Thompson. The Cubs got a runner to second base in the second and third, but neither could score. Meanwhile, Bauer was getting booed almost every time he touched the ball. I heard a lot of fans shouting about Bauer’s outing at Wrigley in Game 5 of the 2016 World Series, the game that began the great Cubs comeback.

With two out in the fourth, Thompson was lifted with a runner on second. He got a nice ovation, and that was after a solid 61-pitch outing. Rex Brothers struck out Muncy to end the inning. Fun fact about Thompson:

In the bottom of the fourth, the Cubs took the lead, courtesy of Jason Heyward [VIDEO].

That was Heyward’s third of the season — and one of the things that Bauer hasn’t done well in 2021, as it was the eighth home run off him in 44⅓ innings this year. (That’s the equivalent to about 36 homers allowed in a 200-inning season.)

The Cubs eventually loaded the bases off Bauer in that inning, but Kris Bryant was called out on strikes on a 3-2 pitch with the crowd making a lot of noise. KB didn’t like the call, but:

Pitch 7, the called third strike — right down the middle. I have often complained about umpiring calls here, but in this game, plate umpire Stu Scheurwater did a very good job, I thought the zone was called well for both teams.

In general, though, the Cubs did a really good job on Bauer. He had walked eight in 40 innings in six starts before Tuesday. The Cubs walked four times in 4⅓ innings, very patient with Bauer. They must have had a good scouting report on him.

Ryan Tepera threw a scoreless fifth and was helped to that by this fantastic play by Ildemaro Vargas [VIDEO].

Anthony Rizzo smacked a ball that rang around the yard for a bit in the bottom of the fifth and he wound up with his second triple of the year, but he was tagged out at the plate on a contact play and the game moved on to the sixth, where Andrew Chafin threw a scoreless frame. The Cubs loaded the bases yet again in the bottom of the inning on two singles and a Dodgers error (irony, made during a Baez at-bat), but could not score.

And so, on to the seventh, with Craig Kimbrel on the mound. Kimbrel’s been very good this year, though a bit shaky lately, and oh, no, Max Muncy...

Muncy homered with one out in the seventh to tie the game, Kimbrel’s first blown save of 2021.

Heyward walked with one out in the bottom of the seventh, but Vargas hit into a double play, and we were on to the eighth inning, the first “extra” eighth inning in Cubs and Wrigley Field history. (The Cubs played four doubleheaders in 2020 with scheduled seven-inning games; all eight games went seven innings.)

Dillon Maples, who had been good in higher-leverage situations recently, entered to throw the eighth. It did not go well. The placed runner, Edwin Rios, went to third on an infield out and then Maples wild-pitched him home. The wild pitch became moot three pitches later when Justin Turner homered.

I kept thinking, during that inning, even after Maples issued a walk, that if the deficit could be held to two the Cubs would have a shot at least to tie things up. And Maples did that, striking out Seager and Taylor to leave it at 3-1 going to the bottom of the eighth.

Vargas was the placed runner. Marisnick grounded out and Tony Wolters struck out.

Javy brought the crowd to a roar [VIDEO].

A line-drive shot that was never in doubt:

Willson Contreras, the last position player available, batted for Maples and walked, putting the winning run on base, but Bryant popped up, and for everyone who wanted nine innings — here came the ninth!

Justin Steele retired the first two hitters he faced and then A.J. Pollock was issued an intentional pass. Barnes batted for Dodgers pitcher Mitch White, who had given up Javy’s blast.

Steele struck out Barnes and was pumped! [VIDEO]

Bottom of the ninth! Unexpected, but eventually, very welcome.

Bryant was the placed runner. Rizzo grounded out, advancing KB to third.

That brought up Bote, who had made six consecutive outs since his bases-clearing double in Game 1.

That all changed with one swing of the bat [VIDEO].

Bote, who has struggled early at the plate, seems to have a knack for these sorts of situations. This was his fifth career walkoff hit (two of which are home runs).

At the end of the clip you can see Bryant walk very slowly toward the plate, finally touching it and smiling at umpire Stu Scheurwater, a nice ending for him and the team.

The best thing to come out of the second game, besides the comeback win, was the performance of Thompson and Steele, both of whom were not intimidated by a strong Dodgers lineup. Could it be that the Cubs farm system has finally produced a couple of quality young arms?

The sweep, combined with a loss by the Reds (thanks, White Sox!), moved the Cubs up to third place in the NL Central. The Brewers also lost, so the Cubs trail them by three games and are 3½ behind the first-place Cardinals, who were rained out Tuesday.

I have been telling you that it was way too early to give up on this Cubs team. They have talent and it showed in this sweep. The NL Central is a competitive division, and I expect the Cubs to remain in contention. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have now lost five of six, eight of 10 and 12 of 16, just a reminder that baseball is a 162-game season and we still have a very long way to go.

The Cubs will go for a series sweep of the Dodgers Wednesday evening at Wrigley Field. Adbert Alzolay will start for the Cubs and Walker Buehler will go for the Dodgers. Game time is 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network. The game will also be on ESPN (no blackouts).