The last couple of weeks of Cubs baseball have been a tremendous amount of fun. Solid pitching, both starting and relief, and key hits at the right time. After defeating the Reds 2-1 on a brilliantly sunny afternoon at Wrigley Field, the Cubs have won six straight, 10 of their last 11 and 14 of their last 18. In addition, in taking the first five games of this homestand they’ve allowed five runs — total. Sure, the Reds might not be very good but the Cubs pitching staff shut down a pretty good Phillies offense, too.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. With two out, David Bote walked and then scored on a triple by Nelson Velázquez [VIDEO].
Velázquez has had his struggles of late but that ball was well struck. Christopher Morel and Willson Contreras followed with walks to load the bases, but Seiya Suzuki flied to right to end that threat.
The Reds tied the game up in the third on a two-out double and single, and that was the end of the afternoon for Drew Smyly, who likely was on a pitch count (he wound up with 62 pitches thrown).
David Ross called on Adbert Alzolay in the fourth and Adbert was lights-out. He retired all nine Reds he faced, four by strikeout, and did it on just 33 pitches (25 strikes), touching 97 on the Wrigley pitch speed meter at times. This is the sort of thing I think Alzolay can do on a regular basis, short relief stints, although three innings isn’t necessarily “short.” It’s that velocity, plus that devastating slider, that I think could make Alzolay a possible closer.
The Cubs couldn’t do anything else with Nick Lodolo, who allowed just two further baserunners before departing after the fifth inning.
Wade Miley, a bit surprisingly, took the mound in relief in the seventh and retired the Reds 1-2-3 ... that is, after this play was reversed on review [VIDEO].
It didn’t take long for the review crew to rule that Bote had made the tag.
In the bottom of the seventh, Derek Law of the Reds retired the first two Cubs easily. Then Suzuki launched a ball into the bleachers [VIDEO].
Miley would have retired the side in order in the eighth, too, if not for a dropped fly by Ian Happ with one out, an unusual error for him, just his third this season. But Miley recovered and retired the next two Reds without incident.
The Cubs went down in order in the eighth and Manuel Rodriguez was given the save opportunity. He retired the first two Reds quickly on ground balls, but then issued a walk, so Brandon Hughes was summoned by David Ross when Reds manager David Bell put a lefthanded pinch-hitter in the game. Once Hughes was announced, Bell switched to RH hitter Alejo Lopez. This is something you don’t see much anymore, with short benches and less pinch-hitting due to the DH.
The Cincinnati strategy didn’t work, as Hughes struck out Lopez to end the game [VIDEO].
Yet another satisfying win, with good pitching and just enough hitting — only three Cubs hits, but they made them all count. The relief appearance by Miley was his first since 2020 and just the seventh of his 12-year career. Perhaps he’ll be in line for another one before this season comes to a close.
The Cubs honored Jason Heyward Saturday afternoon with this video tribute played during the fourth inning.
I wrote this appreciation of Heyward back in August when it was announced the Cubs would release him at the end of this season. I stand by it; while perhaps his production wasn’t what we wanted, he never complained, never made excuses, was always a class act — and as I wrote in that article:
Hail and farewell, Jason Heyward. And again, thanks for that clubhouse speech.
I’d love to see Heyward back in some sort of front-office role in the future.
Meanwhile, the Cubs now need win just one of their remaining four games to avoid 90 losses — pretty sure they’ll do that, and perhaps do even a bit better. This team is learning how to win, and that will be valuable in 2023 as (presumably) they make some signings and/or trades to put a contending team back at Wrigley Field.
For now, the Cubs not only have won 14 of 18, but they are 37-29 since the All-Star break. Four NL teams are better — all four are headed to the postseason (Dodgers, Braves, Cardinals, Mets). That’s also a good sign for 2023, I believe.
The Wrigley Field finale for 2022 will be Sunday afternoon at the ol’ ballyard. Marcus Stroman will start for the Cubs and Chase Anderson will get the call for the Reds. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.