Maybe you were starting to think the Cubs would never score another run without the benefit of a home run.
Tuesday’s game started out that way, with the Cubs nursing a slim lead on a Kris Bryant long ball.
Then they exploded for a four-run seventh, keyed by a two-run double from Joc Pederson. That and yet another outstanding outing from Kyle Hendricks led the Cubs to a 7-1 victory over Cleveland, ending the homestand on a high note.
Hendricks breezed through the first four innings, allowing just a leadoff double in the third and two-out single in the fourth.
Bryant has been in a terrible slump. That was his first home run — first extra-base hit, in fact — in 56 plate appearances. More details on KB’s tough time:
From June 5-21, Kris Bryant hit .109 with a .109 SLG. He had no extra-base hits.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 23, 2021
The first image here is the heat map of all pitches KB saw during that drought. The second is through June 4 (1.004 OPS).
Bryant said lack of pitches seen in zone was leading to increased chasing. pic.twitter.com/Jrq3ismzO8
Hendricks continued his dominance. He completed six innings, allowing just four hits, with just one runner (the aforementioned double) getting past first base. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out five, throwing 93 pitches (71 strikes). Over Kyle’s last eight starts (all Cubs wins) he has thrown 52 innings (6.5 innings per start) with seven walks and 40 strikeouts, and his season ERA has dropped from 6.23 to 3.84 over that span.
But Cleveland rookie Eli Morgan had stymied Cubs hitters through five. Bryant’s home run accounted for the only Cubs baserunner for the first five frames, and I began to wonder: “Could the Cubs win this game with only one hit?”
They took care of that question and the game in the sixth. Sergio Alcántara led off with a double and Rafael Ortega, batting for Hendricks, singled him to third.
That was well-struck into the gap to the opposite field, scoring a pair of runs to make it 3-0.
Bryant walked and Javier Báez was next [VIDEO].
Pederson scored, but the ball bounced off a fan in the seats down the left-field line, so KB had to hold at third.
Here, have a Willson bat flip:
how many rotations are you folks getting on this willson contreras bat flip pic.twitter.com/6vuWJKz18O— Cut4 (@Cut4) June 23, 2021
The Cubs now had a 5-0 lead, the most runs they’d scored in a game in 10 days, since they beat the Cardinals 7-2 June 12. The four-run inning was their biggest since the second inning of that June 12 win, when they had a five-run second.
Then it was up to the bullpen. Andrew Chafin, continuing his fine season, threw a 1-2-3 seventh with just seven pitches. Ryan Tepera, though, struggled in the eighth, loading the bases on two hits (one a well-placed bunt) and a walk. He did retire the next three hitters, but Cleveland’s only run scored on a force play. It was the first run Tepera had allowed in his previous 20⅓ innings, and broke a 50⅓-inning streak of no earned runs allowed for the triumvirate of Chafin, Tepera and Craig Kimbrel.
When Tepera was in trouble in the eighth, Kimbrel had actually been warming up, and the Cubs closer kept loosening up as the Cubs batted in the bottom of that inning.
With two out in the eighth, though, two Cubs hitters put the game out of reach.
For Wisdom, that was his 10th, but first in eight days. The 10 homers lead all MLB rookies. That ball went a long way:
So instead of Kimbrel, it was Dan Winkler throwing the ninth, and he dispatched Cleveland 1-2-3 on just seven pitches. Here’s the final out, with a bit of an ad included [VIDEO].
The sixth inning was what we’ve been waiting for from this Cubs team for quite some tim, a good sequence of hitting with nine men batting in the frame. They’ll need more of that if they’re going to succeed on the long upcoming road trip, 10 games at Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. Personally, I will be very happy if they can come home with a 5-5 split of those 10 games.
Even with a mediocre 2-3 homestand, the Cubs again retained a tie for first place in the NL Central, as the Brewers won in Arizona. The Reds, who won Tuesday, trail by four games and the Cardinals, who lost in Detroit, are 4½ games behind. Overall in their first 39 home games, the Cubs are 26-13, which is a pace for 54 wins at Wrigley Field. Since the Cubs moved into Wrigley in 1916, they’ve had that many home wins just four times: 2016 (57), 1933 (56), 1935 (56) and 2008 (55).
The Cubs have Wednesday off. They’ll begin a four-game series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles Thursday evening. Zach Davies is the scheduled starter for the Cubs. At this time the Dodgers don’t have a starter officially listed for the series opener, but if they continue on their current rotation, it should be Walker Buehler’s turn. Game time Thursday is 9:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network, and also on MLB Network (outside the Cubs and Dodgers market territories).