Well, that was a neat little throwback of a game!
Both starting pitchers Sunday night threw into the seventh inning. That’s the first time that’s happened in a Cubs game since September 18, 2020, when Kyle Hendricks and Rich Hill (then with the Twins) did it at Wrigley Field.
Zach Davies continued his outstanding run of late and the Cubs took advantage of a key Cardinals error. That, and the usual Cubs bullpen excellence, led to a 2-0 win Sunday night and a sweep of the three-game series against the visitors from St. Louis, also the Cubs’ fifth straight win overall. Sweeping the Cardinals is always an excellent result, but this series was particularly well-played by the North Siders.
Davies breezed through the first three innings and Carlos Martinez did the same, retiring the first six Cubs hitters. The latter was helped by this terrific defensive play by Nolan Arenado [VIDEO].
Arenado made a couple other nice defensive plays in this game. You can clearly see why he’s won eight Gold Gloves.
The Cubs got to work in the third. Eric Sogard led off with a double just past Paul Goldschmidt at first base. The next two hitters were easy outs, Sogard advancing to third on a groundout. The batter after that, Joc Pederson, should have also been out, but ... [VIDEO]
Paul DeJong’s error scored Sogard to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Kris Bryant singled Pederson to third, and Anthony Rizzo then made it 2-0 [VIDEO].
Davies wound up retiring the first 13 Cardinals before Tyler O’Neill hit a ball off Patrick Wisdom’s glove at third base. That was ruled a hit — borderline, I thought, that could have been termed an error — and O’Neill was thrown out by Wisdom trying to take second base. Davies retired Yadier Molina on a ground ball, so he faced the minimum through five innings.
The Cubs couldn’t do anything with Martinez after the two-run third. In the fourth, Arenado showed off more Gold Glove defense [VIDEO].
Davies singled with one out in the fifth, but was stranded. In the sixth, Davies walked Matt Carpenter, who eventually wound up on second after a sac bunt by Martinez, the first Cardinals hitter past first base. Dylan Carlson led off the seventh with a double that blooped down the left-field line and into the seats just past the net. Davies got the next two outs, one on a really slick play by Sergio Alcántara, but then walked O’Neill. With the tying run on base, David Ross lifted Davies, who left to a well-deserved standing ovation. Ryan Tepera ended the inning on a ground-ball force play.
The Cubs got two runners on with two out in the seventh, but could not add to their lead. Tepera remained in the game in the eighth and got out of the inning scoreless despite a throwing error by Wisdom.
After the Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the eighth, it was Craig Kimbrel time again. He issued a one-out walk to Paul Goldschmidt. Then Arenado got completely fooled on a 2-2 curveball (pitch 6):
Arenado simply turned and walked away from the plate, realizing he had been completely duped by Kimbrel’s curve.
Then with the crowd standing and LOUD, Kimbrel put the finishing flourish on his 18th save with this K of O’Neill [VIDEO].
The Cubs have now won six straight home games and since May 4 are 16-3 at Wrigley Field. As Matt Vasgersian of ESPN said on the Kimbrel clip above, having fans in the park does seem to really make a difference for the Cubs. The team seems more fired-up than usual.
Fun Kimbrel fact:
In each of his last 7 appearances, Craig Kimbrel of the @Cubs has notched a save without allowing a hit.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) June 14, 2021
It's the third time in his career he has done that in 7+ straight appearances. No other pitcher has had more than one such streak since saves became an official stat in 1969.
I also can’t say enough about how good Zach Davies has been since May 1: 1.86 ERA, 1.179 WHIP, only one home run allowed in 48⅓ innings. In fact, re: Davies and home runs allowed this year:
Best HR/9 in NL (min. 60 IP), entering today:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 14, 2021
0.28 Corbin Burnes
0.30 Taijuan Walker
0.42 Jacob deGrom
0.44 Wade Miley
0.48 Trevor Rogers
0.59 Zach Davies
Pretty good company there. His number is now 0.53 after not allowing a home run Sunday.
There’s a school of thought that says that soft-tossers like Davies who rely on pinpoint command and location don’t throw well when it’s cold, because they have trouble getting a good grip on the ball during cold weather.
Evidence from this season:
Davies when temp is 50 or lower: two starts, 6.75 ERA, 2.125 WHIP
Davies when temp is 51 or higher: 12 starts, 3.64 ERA, 1.382 WHIP
Small sample sizes, true, but also look at his abbreviated 2020 season, where he made 12 starts. Only one had a game-time temp under 60 (59 at San Francisco July 28) and Davies posted his best season ERA to date (2.73). Now that it’s warmer out Davies has had much more success as a Cub.
One last note on the “throwback” feeling about this game: The 2:34 game time was the fastest at Wrigley Field this year for a nine-inning game — by 15 minutes.
The Brewers, going through what appears to be a very easy part of their schedule, also won Sunday, completing a three-game sweep of the Pirates. So the Cubs remain tied with them for first place in the NL Central, both teams with 38-27 records, the 11 games over .500 again a season high for the Cubs. If the Cubs can simply keep pace with Milwaukee until the teams meet at the end of this month, that’s when the teams’ schedules flip a bit, with the Cubs’ getting a bit “easier” in July and the Brewers playing somewhat tougher opponents then.
The Cubs traveled to New York after the game and will begin a four-game series against the Mets at Citi Field beginning Monday evening. Jake Arrieta will start for the Cubs and David Peterson is the Mets’ scheduled starter. Game time is 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network, and also on ESPN (full national broadcast, no blackouts).