I don’t usually put photos of Cubs opponents at the top of game recaps, but after Brad Miller singlehandedly dismantled the Cubs in an 8-0 Phillies win Thursday evening at Wrigley Field, if I didn’t do that it would be ignoring the story of the game.
When I saw Miller’s name in the starting lineup for this one, my reaction was “Uh-oh,” because the journeyman infielder absolutely crushed Cubs pitching during the pandemic season of 2020 when he was with the Cardinals: 280/.419/.600 (7-for-25), two doubles, two home runs, nine RBI, six walks.
He picked up where he left off in the first three games of this series in pinch-hitting appearances, going 1-for-2 with a walk.
And then he teed off with three home runs in this one, two off Adbert Alzolay and one off Cory Abbott, the first visiting player to homer three times in a game at Wrigley Field since Jose Abreu of the White Sox did it August 22, 2020, and the first to do it with fans in attendance since Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals accomplished the feat July 20, 2018 (in a game the Cardinals won 18-5). And in case you are wondering, the last Cub to hit three home runs in a game at Wrigley Field was Dioner Navarro, who did it in the Cubs’ bad old days, May 29, 2013, and the last Cub to homer thrice in a game overall was Kris Bryant, who did it at Washington May 17, 2019.
Miller is now hitting .308/.419/.731 (16-for-56) lifetime against the Cubs with four doubles, six home runs and 18 RBI, and in 13 career games at Wrigley Field he is hitting .355/.474/.903. You know what’s going to happen, don’t you? Miller is 31. In a couple of years when he’s just about done, the Cubs will sign him as a bench player and he’ll hit .198 with one home run before being given his unconditional release.
Miller did come up in the ninth inning with a chance to join quite the exclusive club, men who have homered four times in a game, which at that point would have been worth seeing, a bit of history with the Cubs hopelessly out of the game. That’s been done only 18 times in MLB history, last by J.D. Martinez in 2017. Miller popped up to Nico Hoerner at second base.
What more can I say about this game? Adbert Alzolay didn’t pitch too badly; the only real mistakes he made were the two gopher balls to Miller. Five innings, five hits, four runs, a walk, five strikeouts... the problem is that an outing like that isn’t awful, but it isn’t good, either, especially when your team is not scoring any runs at all. The Phillies also pulled off a double steal, of second and home, off Alzolay and Robinson Chirinos in the second inning.
The Cubs got just one runner past first base. That happened in the first inning, when Patrick Wisdom singled with one out and one out later Jason Heyward singled him to third. Heyward then stole second, putting runners in scoring position for Chirinos, making his first Cubs start. Chirinos put together a good nine-pitch at-bat before striking out.
And so that is where I stand 88 games into this Cubs season, having to “celebrate” a decent at-bat in which a Cub made an out. Sigh.
Upcoming roster note: Abbott, who threw three innings and 65 pitches in relief and served up Miller’s third home run, will be the likely passenger on the Iowa Shuttle when Ryan Tepera is activated for Friday’s game.
I am well aware of Jed Hoyer’s comments Thursday afternoon regarding where the Cubs stand on deadline deals, with the deadline three weeks from today, summed up here if you don’t want to click on the link:
No matter what happens with the Cubs at this Trade Deadline or over the winter, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer says the word “rebuild” does not apply… pic.twitter.com/pRn99xiIMr— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 9, 2021
I’ll address this in much more detail during the All-Star break that begins Monday.
In the meantime, there is more baseball to be played at Wrigley Field, and a Cubs/Cardinals series is always entertaining no matter where the teams are in the standings, and right now this is a battle for third place in the NL Central. As far as I can tell, this is the first time these teams will meet when both are under .500 since May 13, 2014, when the Cardinals entered the game 19-20 and the Cubs were 13-24.
Sigh. Good times? Not really.
Kyle Hendricks will start the series opener against the Cardinals and Wade LeBlanc is the scheduled starter for St. Louis. Game time Friday is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network. The game will also be on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Cardinals market territories.