The Cubs knew this was going to be a tough game to win with old friend Yu Darvish on the mound for the Padres Wednesday afternoon.
What no one likely knew when this game began was that Jake Arrieta was essentially going to match Darvish through five strong innings, one of Jake’s best outings of the year so far.
That, plus a couple of home runs, helped lead the Cubs to a 3-1 win over the Padres, a series win in San Diego and what you’d have to say was a successful road trip. Even at 3-4, that’s a good showing on the West Coast against the two top teams in the National League. Including the three-game sweep of the Padres at Wrigley Field last week, the Cubs finished a 10-game stretch against those teams at 6-4.
Who says the Cubs can’t compete with the top echelon of the league? They’re part of that top echelon!
The Padres took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a single by Tommy Pham, a stolen base and another single by Manny Machado.
The Cubs got that run right back in the fourth courtesy of Pederson [VIDEO].
That ball was crushed!
Arrieta threw five solid innings, allowing four hits, one walk, that one run and striking out six. He got helped out by his defense, too. Patrick Wisdom isn’t just hitting home runs — check out this nice play in the field in the third [VIDEO].
The Cubs couldn’t do too much against Darvish, but they did manage a second run off him in the top of the seventh. Ian Happ led off with a walk and Wisdom dumped a bloop single into right, a nice piece of hitting. It looked like the Cubs might be able to turn this into a big inning with Darvish approaching 100 pitches, but Rizzo hit into a double play [VIDEO]. Not the best result, but a run did score, giving the Cubs the lead.
So you take what you can get off Darvish, and in this game it turned out to be enough. For an insurance run, Sergio Alcántara homered off Emilio Pagan in the eighth [VIDEO], his first Cubs home run (he homered once for the Tigers last year).
The rest of the story of this well-played victory is more outstanding work from the Cubs bullpen. Rex Brothers, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel (15th save) threw four innings and retired all 12 batters they faced, with five strikeouts. Overall Cubs pitchers retired the last 15 Padres in this game. Here’s the final out [VIDEO].
There was a bit of trolling going on with both teams on the field during the game. Did you notice?
Darvish using Rizzo's walk-up music. Pederson using Tatis' stutter-step. Tatis using Baez's tag. Imitation, flattery.— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) June 9, 2021
I definitely heard Rizzo’s walkup music on the broadcast when Darvish came to bat. Go and look at the video of the Pederson homer and you’ll see his stutter-step when rounding third base. And Tatis put a terrific tag on Rafael Ortega attempting to steal second base in the fifth. Ortega was called safe on the field, but that was overturned on review:
It is, of course, much more fun to do stuff like those bits of fun on the field when you win. And the Cubs did just that Wednesday afternoon, and I think have laid to rest any doubt that they are a force to be dealt with not just in the NL Central, but in the entire National League this year. Against the Padres, Dodgers and Giants, the top contenders in the West, they are now 9-4 this season.
And let the record show that the Cubs are now 5-0 in games started by P.J. Higgins behind the plate this year. Seriously, Higgins did a good job framing and blocking pitches in the dirt this afternoon. If he could hit even a little bit he’d certainly be a keeper as a suitable backup to Willson Contreras.
The win improved the Cubs’ record to 35-27, temporarily in a virtual tie with the Brewers for first place in the NL Central, pending the Brewers’ game vs. the Reds this evening. If the Reds win tonight, the Cubs would be in first place by half a game, and Milwaukee and Cincinnati will also play again Thursday afternoon.
As for the Cubs’ schedule, they have Thursday off and will surely enjoy it after a satisfying series win in San Diego. They’ll then open a three-game weekend series against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon at 1:20 p.m. CT, in front of what should be close to a full house at the ballyard for the first time since 2019. At this time neither the Cubs nor the Cardinals had posted a pitching rotation for the series. Kyle Hendricks, who started Sunday in San Francisco, could go on regular rest in the series opener, but that’s just speculation on my part. The Cubs won’t face Adam Wainwright, who shut them down last month in St. Louis, because he’s starting tonight for the Cardinals against Cleveland.
TV coverage Friday will be via Marquee Sports Network, and also on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Cardinals market territories.