Maybe some of you don’t read, or maybe you skim, the pitcher writeups I provide in each day’s game preview.
I’m bringing this up today because I think I nailed this one regarding Cardinals starter John Gant:
... walks have been his downfall. He’s walked 37 this year, 6.1 per nine innings. The 37 walks in 54⅔ innings leads the major leagues. Thus I would recommend that the Cubs be patient hitters tonight.
And that’s exactly what the Cubs did in a 56-pitch second inning. They drew five walks in the inning, all but one scored, and that helped lead the Cubs to a 7-2 win over the Cardinals before a packed house of 39,095 at Wrigley Field, the team’s fourth straight win.
Kyle Hendricks made fast work of the Cardinals in the first inning, but served up a leadoff home run to Nolan Arenado in the second.
That’s when the Cubs got to work... watching Gant pitches go by. After Anthony Rizzo lined to short to lead off the inning, Willson Contreras drew a walk.
The Cubs weren’t done walking, though. Jason Heyward walked on a 3-2 pitch. Sergio Alcántara also drew a free pass, and then Gant walked Hendricks to load the bases, just the 10th base on balls Hendricks has been issued in 367 career plate appearances.
After Joc Pederson popped into short center, Kris Bryant drew the fifth walk off Gant, forcing in the third run. That was it for Gant, who threw 65 pitches, only 31 of which were strikes.
The first batter to face Cardinals reliever Jake Woodford was Javier Báez.
That made it 4-1, and Rizzo, at the plate for the second time in the inning, made it 5-1 [VIDEO].
Contreras popped into short left to end the inning, and here’s the inning summary:
Bottom of 2nd:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 13, 2021
Often, pitchers who have long times in between innings — and Hendricks also rounded the bases, though slowly, one base at a time, immediately gave the Cardinals one of those runs back, on a homer by Paul DeJong. A pinch single and a walk put the tying run at the plate, but Hendricks ended the inning with a fly to center and a fielder’s choice.
The Cubs went to work to increase their lead in the bottom of the third. With two out, Alcántara sent a ball into the seats [VIDEO].
In 29 at-bats as a Cub, Alcántara has nine hits, seven for extra bases (two doubles, three triples, two home runs). The rap on him in Detroit was that he was an excellent fielder who couldn’t hit. 29 at-bats is a very small sample size and I certainly wouldn’t expect a .763 slugging percentage from him for very long, but if Alcántara can even hit modestly well he’s an absolute steal — just 24 years old, a switch-hitter, can play second base and shortstop and a little bit of third base as well.
The Cubs added one more run in the fifth courtesy of Pederson [VIDEO].
Fun Joc HR fact:
Joc Pederson has homered in three straight games. Joins Willson Contreras (April 13-17) as the only Cubs to do that this season.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 13, 2021
Hendricks completed six innings, allowing just three hits, a walk and two runs. He retired the final 11 Cardinals he faced. It was one in a series of solid outings for Hendricks, who after a disastrous April now has a 3.12 ERA and 1.173 WHIP over his last eight starts covering 52 innings, with just seven walks in those eight starts. Those ERA and WHIP numbers are just about right on Hendricks’ career averages (3.21 and 1.121) and though the home runs are a bit concerning, at least he’s allowing them with the bases empty. Of the 19 homers Kyle has allowed this year, 13 are solo shots.
Fergie Jenkins used to say he didn’t necessarily mind allowing home runs, as long as there was no one on base. Fergie allowed 484 home runs in his Hall of Fame career, 310 (64 percent) with the bases empty. (No, I’m not saying Hendricks is as good as Jenkins was, only that he seems to be managing the home runs well enough.)
Anyway, the Cubs bullpen continued its usual stellar work with Dan Winkler (scoreless seventh) and Andrew Chafin (scoreless eighth). It’s now that I can open the complaint department door just a smidge, because just-recalled Trevor Megill was given the ninth inning. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with two out. Well, after the second walk it was a save situation, so Craig Kimbrel was summoned.
It took Kimbrel just three pitches to nail down his 17th save. Here’s the last out [VIDEO].
The Brewers also won Saturday, so the Cubs remain tied with Milwaukee for first place in the NL Central. The win raised the Cubs’ record to a season-high 10 games over .500 at 37-27 and oh, look, there are the Cubs and Brewers tied for the third-best record in the NL, surpassing the Padres (37-29) and just one game behind the Dodgers (38-26). Since dropping a pair in Cleveland May 11-12, the Cubs have the best record in the NL at 20-8. The Cubs’ current .578 winning percentage is roughly equivalent to a 94-win season.
The 39,095 at Wrigley Saturday wasn’t quite a sellout, but it was the largest announced crowd at the ballpark since September 21, 2019, when 40,071 filled the yard, also against the Cardinals.
The Cubs will go for the series sweep Sunday evening at Wrigley Field. Zach Davies will start for the Cubs and Carlos Martinez is scheduled to go for the Cardinals. Game time is 6:08 p.m. CT and this game will be the Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN.