I felt a bit of déjà vu Tuesday evening when Adrian Sampson served up a leadoff home run to Odubel Herrera. Sampson had given up two home runs in the first inning in his previous start last Tuesday against the Reds.
But just as he did in that Wrigley start last week, Sampson settled down and completed five pretty good innings. And, after the first 12 Cubs went down in order, a barrage of hits in the fifth produced a four-run rally, highlighted by a Patrick Wisdom two-run homer, and the Cubs defeated the Phillies 6-3. Wisdom’s home run was his 26th, which ties him with Kris Bryant (2015) for the most by a Cubs rookie. Interesting note on that record-tying blast:
Wisdom knew he was close to tying Kris Bryant's #Cubs rookie HR record & thought it'd be neat to do it while the Giants were at Wrigley over the weekend.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) September 15, 2021
He had a chance to chat with KB who told him: "'When you break my record, congrats on everything,' so that was pretty cool."
Sampson did allow some baserunners after that first-inning homer, but in three consecutive innings (second, third and fourth) he was able to induce a double-play ball to get himself out of trouble. When Sampson is on, that’s his game — ground balls. Overall, of the 15 outs he recorded, eight were on grounders. It might be too early to judge him over just seven appearances (three starts) and 21⅓ innings, but Sampson has definitely at least put himself in the conversation for a shot at the rotation in 2022.
As I noted, the Cubs didn’t have a baserunner through the first four innings off Kyle Gibson. They quickly rectified that in the fifth. Willson Contreras led off the inning with a single, and Wisdom followed with his home run [VIDEO].
That was one of the longer Cubs home runs of 2021:
The Cubs thus had a 2-1 lead. That lead lasted two pitches before Alfonso Rivas extended it [VIDEO].
Congratulations to Rivas on his first major league home run.
The Cubs weren’t done in the fifth, either. One out after the Rivas homer, Sergio Alcántara singled and Sampson sacrificed him to second. Rafael Ortega doubled Alcántara home with the fourth run of the inning [VIDEO].
That was a nice bit of hitting, going the other way with that pitch.
Sampson allowed a leadoff double to Jean Segura in the sixth and was removed for Manuel Rodriguez. Bryce Harper doubled Segura in, the run charged to Sampson. One out later, a walk and single produced another run and the Phillies had cut the Cubs’ lead to 4-3.
Then Rodriguez got pinch-hitter Freddy Galvis to hit into the Phillies’ fourth double play of the game, ending the threat.
The Cubs extended their lead in the seventh. With one out, Nick Martini batted for Rodriguez and doubled. One out later, Frank Schwindel doubled him in [VIDEO].
The next batter was Ian Happ, and he also doubled to left, scoring Schwindel [VIDEO].
The Cubs did a nice job of smacking doubles down that left-field line in this game, four of them in total, including one by Wisdom. You’ve probably noticed Wisdom is a really streaky hitter, and over his last two games he’s 3-for-5 with two doubles and the home run. Hopefully this becomes a much longer streak of hitting for Wisdom.
After that inning where the Cubs extended their lead to 6-3, the bullpen was lights-out. Tommy Nance, Scott Effross and Rowan Wick (fourth save) retired all nine batters they faced, striking out five. Wick struck out the side on 15 pitches in the ninth. Here’s the final out, on a high fastball [VIDEO].
That was a satisfying, well-played win against a team that’s still in postseason contention.
To avoid 90 losses, the Cubs must go 7-10 in their final 17 games, and given the way they’ve played since August 22 (12-7, in the NL only the Giants, Dodgers and Brewers are better over that span), I’m pretty sure they can do that. In fact, they can probably do better — perhaps 10-7 or even 11-6. This team seems to have finally figured out ways to win, and while there will certainly be many changes before Opening Day 2022, there is talent on this ballclub that can help the Cubs going forward.
The Cubs and Phillies will meet again Wednesday evening in Philadelphia. Alec Mills will start for the Cubs and Ranger Suarez is the scheduled starter for the Phillies. Game time is again 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.