The Cubs are going nowhere this October but home, but even with the team struggling, Sunday was just about a perfect day at Wrigley Field.
The weather was gorgeous, mid-80s with a nice breeze off Lake Michigan, the kind of July day we wish we could bottle up and let out in January when Chicago could really use it.
And the Cubs played near-flawless baseball in defeating the Diamondbacks 5-1 and taking a series at Wrigley for the first time since they swept the Cardinals in mid-June.
The Cubs didn’t waste any time getting on the board in this one. Willson Contreras led off the bottom of the first with a walk and Kris Bryant then sent a ball into the bleachers [VIDEO].
Anthony Rizzo then made it 3-0 [VIDEO].
That set the tone for this one. Given that lead, Trevor Williams pitched really well. From the second through the sixth inning, Williams retired 15 of 17 D-backs. Meanwhile, in the bottom of the fourth after a walk to Patrick Wisdom sandwiched around a pair of strikeouts, David Bote went deep [VIDEO].
That was nice to see from Bote in his first game back from a serious shoulder separation suffered two months ago.
Williams put a couple of runners on in the seventh and was removed for Ryan Tepera with one out in the inning to a standing ovation, well deserved. It was Williams’ longest and best outing of the year — possibly the best thing of all is that he didn’t walk anyone, just the second time all year he’s done that.
The Cubs loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh but could not score. A force at the plate was the first out, a strikeout the second and then Rizzo hit a ball that should have gotten through the infield for a hit, but it hit Contreras, who had been on first base, for the out that ended the inning.
Adam Morgan — again, remind me why he’s still on this team? — started the eighth and allowed a single and a walk among three batters faced, so Dan Winkler had to be summoned to clean up the mess. Winkler also issued a walk, but got out of the inning with a strikeout and force play.
Then came the ninth. Dillon Maples came on to protect the 5-0 lead and it occurred to me that if/when Craig Kimbrel is traded, Maples might be given a chance to close, just to see what he can do. He’d thrown well since his return from the injured list last week, but in this game — not so much. He issued a leadoff walk, then recorded a pair of outs, one of them on a nice grab by Javier Báez. Then he allowed an RBI single, ruining the shutout, and another walk, and so David Ross called on Kimbrel, since the game was now in a save situation.
Kimbrel, who hadn’t thrown since last Wednesday, recorded his 23rd save on just five pitches, on a fly to right [VIDEO].
That was the first save Kimbrel had posted at Wrigley Field in more than a month, since June 20 against the Marlins.
So, these days Cubs victories don’t mean much, but it’s always satisfying to see your team win on a beautiful summer afternoon, a reminder of why I love baseball so much.
Regarding the upcoming trade deadline, now just five days away, I’ll have more to say tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Cubs will open a four-game series against the division-rival Reds Monday evening at Wrigley. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Wade Miley is the scheduled starter for Cincinnati. Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.