Better late than never, right?
This Cubs team has played exceptionally well over the last week, and in general has looked good since the All-Star break. In front of a festive crowd on another sunny Chicago autumn afternoon, they demolished the Reds 8-1 for their seventh consecutive win. That’s a season-high winning streak, and the longest for the team since a seven-game streak last September against the same two teams — the Pirates and Reds.
Wins are wins, you’ll take them whenever you can get them, and I think best of all is the way this team is learning how to play together and produce victories.
It started in the first inning after Marcus Stroman set the Reds down scoreless in the top of the frame. Zach McKinstry began things with a double and Willson Contreras was hit by a pitch. Seiya Suzuki walked to load the bases and then Ian Happ drew a walk for a 1-0 lead [VIDEO].
Nico Hoerner drove in the second Cubs run of the day by beating the relay on this force play [VIDEO].
The parade just kept on coming home. Franmil Reyes’ single made it 3-0 [VIDEO].
P.J. Higgins followed that with another walk to re-load the bases and one out later, Nelson Velázquez made it 5-0 with a double to left [VIDEO].
All but that last hit were off Chase Anderson, who used to be pretty good when he was with the Brewers, but now appears to be at the end of the line.
Everyone could have gone home after that inning, because that was more than enough runs to secure the victory, but why do that on the last day of Wrigley baseball with the weather so gorgeous?
In any case, if anyone had left then, they would have missed yet another solid outing from Stroman, who completed six innings having allowed five hits and a pair of walks, with seven strikeouts. Whatever the reason for Stroman’s struggles early this year at Wrigley, he’s completely turned that around. His last three starts at Wrigley: 20 innings, 12 hits and five walks allowed (0.850 WHIP), two earned runs (0.90 ERA), 18 strikeouts. That, we hope, is just a taste of what Stroman can provide next year and a great way to wrap up his 2022 season.
The Cubs added a run in the fourth. Suzuki singled with one out and advanced to third on a double by Ian Happ. Nico Hoerner’s sac fly to left made it 6-0 [VIDEO].
The Reds scored a run in the seventh off Mark Leiter Jr. to make it 6-1, but the Cubs got that one back and one more in the bottom of the inning. Hoerner singled and a double that bounced into the seats by Reyes put Nico on third. Two outs later, Velázquez launched a triple to right-center, scoring both runners [VIDEO].
That ball bounced off the bottom of the basket in right field — it missed being a three-run homer by just a couple of feet. It’s been good to see Velázquez hitting with authority over the last few games after struggling for several weeks. I still think he has enough talent to be a good fourth outfielder on a contending team.
That completed the scoring in this game, but there were still good things to come. Rowan Wick struck out all three batters he faced in the eighth, and that set the stage for Contreras to lead off the bottom of the inning. He drew a walk, which gave David Ross the opportunity to lift him for a pinch-runner (Alfonso Rivas) so Willson could get another ovation from the Wrigley crowd [VIDEO].
That wasn’t it for Willson, either — more on that in a moment. Erich Uelmen was summoned to throw the ninth, and he dispatched the Reds 1-2-3, finishing with this strikeout [VIDEO].
A rousing chorus of “Go Cubs Go” followed, with the entire Cubs team joining in:
So stamp your feet and clap your hands,— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) October 2, 2022
Chicago Cubs got the greatest fans! pic.twitter.com/dZbkXibjut
Contreras returned to the field again, to yet another ovation, and stood near home plate for a very long time. I’d have loved to hear his thoughts right at that moment; likely we’ll never know. At this time I’ll give it about 50/50 odds that he returns to Wrigley as a Cub in 2023. “As always, we await developments.” Here’s Willson taking that long look at Wrigley:
After the Cubs came out to salute the fans, Willson Contreras remained on the field for several minutes to soak it in and wave to the crowd. pic.twitter.com/JVvpobeqZL— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) October 2, 2022
As for the team and this winning streak, yes, four of the seven wins were against bad teams in the Pirates and Reds, but they also swept a very good Phillies team and put together solid pitching this homestand. In the seven wins the Cubs have outscored their opposition 32-9, and allowed just six total runs during the homestand. Remember, this team played extremely poorly at Wrigley for the entire first half of 2022. Their home record through 48 games at Wrigley Field was 16-32. Since then the team has been really good at home, 21-12, so even though the 37-44 overall home record doesn’t look great, the finish was outstanding.
Lastly, Sunday’s win was the 73rd of this season, so the Cubs have clinched a season of fewer than 90 losses. Overall this year hasn’t looked great, but again, recently: Seven in a row, 11 of their last 12, 15 of their last 19, and since losing a doubleheader to the Cardinals August 4 they’re 32-23. The only NL teams better in that span are four playoff teams (Dodgers, Braves, Mets, Cardinals). Finishing a season on the upswing, I think, gives real hope for 2023. Much more on that when the season actually ends.
There are, of course, three games remaining in this season — and this extended “series” against the Reds, now moving to Cincinnati for three games Monday through Wednesday. Dare I say there’s a real chance the Cubs could end the season with a 10-game winning streak? It’s something to hope for, anyway.
Monday in Cincinnati, Hayden Wesneski will start for the Cubs and Hunter Greene will start for the Reds. Game time is 5:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.