It doesn’t happen every day, but every once in a while this makeshift Chicago Cubs team puts together a solid performance in every facet of the game and victory results.
Home runs? Check. Timely hits? Check. Good defensive plays? Check. Relief pitching coming through? Check.
All of that added up to a 3-1 win over the Twins in the first game of a brief two-game series in Minneapolis.
The Cubs wasted no time in taking a lead Tuesday night. After Rafael Ortega led off the game with a pop out, Frank Schwindel sent John Gant’s eighth pitch of the game deep into the Minnesota evening [VIDEO].
That ball was crushed!
Zach Davies got in trouble in the bottom of the first, allowing hits to the first two Twins batters, and Jorge Polanco tied the game with a sacrifice fly.
The Cubs took the lead back in the second. Matt Duffy singled to lead off the inning, and two outs later Robinson Chirinos sent a baseball deep to left field [VIDEO].
The ball bounced far away from two Twins outfielders. Duffy scored easily and... well, many runners might have had a chance at an inside-the-park home run. But remember that we are talking about a 37-year-old catcher here, and Chirinos pulled up at third base, content with an RBI triple. It was just the fifth triple of his career in over 2,200 plate appearances, and first since September 17, 2019.
Zach Davies then did Zach Davies things. He didn’t pitch too badly, but ran some more long counts and after allowing two hits and recording an out in the fifth inning, David Ross removed Davies after 84 pitches (48 strikes). It was the 13th time in 28 starts this year that Davies failed to complete five innings.
Manuel Rodriguez was summoned to get out of the jam, and he did so on just four pitches, recording a double-play ball to end the fifth inning.
Rodriguez issued a one-out walk in the sixth, but got out of that with another double-play ball. You can see Rodriguez’ confidence increase with every outing. That’s good, as I believe he’s going to be expected to be an important contributor to the 2022 Cubs bullpen.
With two out in the eighth, Ian Happ gave the Cubs an important insurance run [VIDEO].
That ball, hit into the third deck in left field, went even farther than Schwindel’s:
Codi Heuer had relieved Rodriguez in the seventh and finished up that inning with no runs scoring. In the bottom of the eighth, the Twins loaded the bases with one out and Adam Morgan was summoned to face Max Kepler.
That is an outstanding play, a catch made by Duffy with his back to the plate, then a strong and accurate throw home and a good tag by Chirinos. The play was reviewed (collision rule), but the review crew upheld the out call on the field.
I’ve said this before, but I wanted to again note that I wouldn’t mind seeing Chirinos back next year to back up Willson Contreras, even at age 38. He can hit, and had his second runner caught stealing in the last week when he threw Byron Buxton out trying to steal second base in the first inning, the first time Buxton had been caught stealing this year.
Rowan Wick was brought in to close this one out, and he did so 1-2-3 on just 10 pitches. Here’s the final out, on a slider with nice movement [VIDEO].
It was Wick’s first save of 2021 and seventh of his big-league career. Wick will be in the mix for closer in 2022 and I believe he can handle that role.
Wins are wins and always welcome, no matter who the opponent is, and this Cubs team, though composed presently of leftovers, kids and placeholders, does have some talent. The bullpen in particular looked good in this game, despite three walks issued: 4⅔ innings, three hits, no runs, three strikeouts.
The Cubs will go for a sweep of this short two-game set Wednesday evening at Target Field. Justin Steele will start for the Cubs and Joe Ryan is the scheduled starter for the Twins. Ryan will be making his MLB debut. Game time is 7:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.