There are home runs and then there are HOME RUNS!
Willson Contreras hit one of the latter and that brought the Cubs from behind in the middle innings of their Tuesday night game against the Padres. That homer plus continued great relief work gave the Cubs the ballgame 4-3 and the series win. (Again, I ask: “What’s so great about this Padres team?”)
Kyle Hendricks began this game like he had a plane to catch. He recorded his first six outs on just 14 pitches (13 strikes), with a bit of defensive help from Patrick Wisdom [VIDEO].
Then the Cubs got to work on the offensive side in the bottom of the second. Javier Baez led off with a walk — just his sixth unintentional pass of 2021.
One out later, we got some more Wisdom [VIDEO].
Wisdom has talent. Seems like he never got a real chance with the Cardinals, Rangers or Mariners, all of whom had him in their systems. When everyone’s healthy on this Cubs team, they are going to have to find a place for Wisdom, I think. He can play multiple positions and clearly has power. An interesting note on Wisdom’s first few games as a Cub:
Deleted earlier tweet on Patrick Wisdom's homer heroics, as there was a flaw in my search.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 2, 2021
Correction: His 4 homers in his first 10 games in his Cubs career (which includes 2 games in 2020) are tied for 2nd most. It's 17th time a player has had 4+ homers in 1st 10 games for CHC.
Hendricks breezed through the third and fourth, allowing just a leadoff single to Manny Machado in the fourth, but got in trouble in the fifth with two out. Old friend Victor Caratini homered and then Padres pitcher Ryan Weathers singled. Tommy Pham then smashed a homer off Kyle to give San Diego a 3-2 lead.
Willson Contreras decided to do something about that. Sergio Alcantara — maybe another keeper? He went 2-for-3 — singled leading off the fifth. Hendricks tried to sacrifice, but bunted into a force play.
Did I say “demolished”? Why, yes, I did:
Nice catch by the kid in the bleachers, too. And our own Sara Sanchez — who you already know loves Willson — had the right take:
Willson is such a considerate guy. I was sitting here worried Hendricks might get hurt with all these pitcher baserunning injuries and Contreras decided to make sure Kyle would only have to trot home. What a guy.— Sara Sanchez (@BCB_Sara) June 2, 2021
Hendricks completed one more inning for a “quality start,” for whatever that flawed stat is worth. He threw very well except for the two home run balls, and that is a concern. Kyle leads the major leagues this year with 16 homers allowed, which would equate to 48 in a full season. That would demolish the Cubs franchise record (38, set by Warren Hacker in 1955) and be close to the MLB record (50, set by Bert Blyleven in 1986). At least most of the 16 have come with the bases empty (10). Overall, though, this start looked more like vintage Kyle, with nine outs recorded on ground balls.
Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. Was removed from the game in the sixth inning. A bit later came this report:
Update from the clubhouse: Fernando Tatis Jr. was removed from tonight’s game for precautionary reasons with right oblique tightness.— San Diego Padres (@Padres) June 2, 2021
Jayce Tingler puts "day-to-day" on Tatis' injury and says Tatis was moving well postgame. They'll re-evaluate tomorrow morning. Injury took place on one of Tatis' swings, Tingler adds.— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) June 2, 2021
You never like to see one of the game’s best players injured, and obliques can be tough.
In the seventh inning, the Cubs bullpen got to work. Ryan Tepera issued a two-out walk in the seventh but that runner never got past first base. Andrew Chafin threw just 11 pitches in a 1-2-3 eighth.
And then it was Craig Kimbrel time, and the ninth inning of this game might have been the best single inning he’s thrown as a Cub. Firing 98 mile per hour fastballs and nasty breaking stuff, Kimbrel struck out the side. Here’s the final out [VIDEO].
Watch that video carefully. Look at the movement on a fastball going 98. No one can hit that kind of stuff. And look at the movement on these pitches:
Craig Kimbrel, 88mph Knuckle Curve and 99mph Fastball, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/G9XYWydY8F— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 2, 2021
This sums up Kimbrel’s outing very well:
Kimbrel threw 13 pitches Tuesday night. He induced 5 swings -- all whiffs. Had 4 called strikes. Struck out the side in order to close out the W, averaging 98.3 mph with fastball.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 2, 2021
Contreras: "I think this is the best stuff that he's had with us. ... Right now, he's unhittable."
That’s 13 saves for Kimbrel; he’s allowed just 18 baserunners in 23 innings (0.783 WHIP) and struck out 39 of the 88 batters he’s faced (44.3 percent).
If you missed late-night MLB action, the Cardinals defeated the Dodgers 3-2, so the Cubs’ lead in the NL Central remains at half a game entering Wednesday’s action.
One last note: Anthony Rizzo returned to the lineup after missing five games with back tightness. He had two hits and seemed to be moving around just fine in the field.
The Cubs seem to find different ways to win every day, though this one mirrored Monday’s — solid pitching and home runs. The team has now completed exactly one-third of the 2021 season, 54 games, with a 31-23 record, now a season-high eight games over .500. That would project to a 93-win season, which I’d think would be enough to win the NL Central. They’ve shown that they can defeat the better teams in the league — they’re now 5-0 against the Padres and Dodgers, and will go for the series sweep Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Adbert Alzolay will start for the Cubs and Dinelson Lamet is scheduled to go for the Padres. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.