The Cubs are making a recent habit of blowing out the Pirates, and I could sure get used to it. Monday night, an eight-run first inning was highlighted by Willson Contreras’ grand slam, which was also his 100th career home run. Wade Miley retired the first 14 Pirates on his way to seven shutout innings. All of that added up to a 9-0 Cubs win — and that score was specifically called by BCB reader mickkelleher in the game preview, so nice work, mick!
The Pirates went down 1-2-3 in the top of the first, and this nice play by Andrelton Simmons needs to be noted [VIDEO].
With a staff filled with ground-ball pitchers — Miley, Kyle Hendricks and (when he returns) Marcus Stroman — infield defense like this is so important.
Then the Cubs offense got to work in the bottom of the inning. Contreras, inserted in the leadoff spot as the DH, doubled. One out later. Ian Happ drove him in with another double [VIDEO].
Frank Schwindel singled, with Happ advancing to third, and Yan Gomes made it 2-0 [VIDEO].
After Patrick Wisdom flied to center for the second out, Jonathan Villar walked to load the bases, and after the Pirates changed pitchers, Simmons hit this little dribbler [VIDEO].
He couldn’t have rolled it out there better than that. It’s 3-0 now, still with two out and the bases loaded, and Rafael Ortega drew another walk to make it 4-0.
That brought up Contreras for the second time in the inning, and he did not disappoint [VIDEO].
That was a majestic blast off a hanging curveball:
Fun facts about that slam (beyond it being Willson’s 100th career homer):
From ELIAS: Willson Contreras is the first Cubs player with a double and grand slam in the same inning since Frank 'Wildfire' Schulte in 1911.— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) May 17, 2022
Good hitter. Better nickname
Leadoff hitters with 1st-inning grand slam, since 1901:— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) May 17, 2022
Willson Contreras, Today
George Springer, 6/24/16
Danny Tartabull, 4/15/86
Von Hayes, 6/11/85
Rick Miller, 4/12/78
Jose Cardenal, 5/30/69
Jim Landis, 4/19/62
Harvey Kuenn, 7/20/54
Pete Fox, 6/30/35
Bill Cissell, 7/18/34 https://t.co/SzUaHjXPMN
Willson got the ball back:
Willson Contreras was able to secure his 100th home run ball. He plans on giving it to his father, Wuiliam. pic.twitter.com/Gt0RRoHVuK— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 17, 2022
Congratulations, Willson — and I hope the Cubs keep you around for a long time to come.
One more fun fact about that inning — the eight runs were more than the Cubs scored in their entire last homestand against the White Sox and Dodgers, where they scored only seven runs in five games, all losses.
Beyond that eight-run first inning, the story of the game was Miley. He retired the first 14 Pirates before Michael Chavis lined a single to left with two out in the fifth. Miley completed seven shutout innings on 83 pitches (52 strikes), and had he retired Chavis, David Ross would have had a Clayton Kershaw decision to make. Given that this was only Miley’s second start of the year, the choice to take him out after seven was an easy one. The Miley we saw Monday night was the way he’s been when he’s at his best — lots of ground balls (eight ground ball outs) and working fast (Pirates hitters stepped out on him several times, not that it worked for them, and that won’t work at all in 2023 when we have a pitch clock).
The fast work made this game run just two hours, 29 minutes, the shortest nine-inning Cubs game this year and one of just 16 in MLB so far this year to be that quick (or shorter).
The Cubs didn’t need any more runs — and six of the eight first-inning runs scored after two were out — but plated one more in the fourth after a walk and an error put runners on first and second. Gomes hit into a double play, scoring Happ [VIDEO].
Michael Rucker finished up the shutout, the Cubs’ fifth of the year (they had only eight all of last year), with two innings. He allowed two singles in the eighth, but got out of it with a pair of groundouts. The Pirates, who were no-hit Sunday but won 1-0 against the Reds, have now had three total hits in their last 22 innings, since Daniel Vogelbach homered in the fourth inning of their game against the Reds on Saturday. The Pirates are in a hitting slump — they’ve scored 15 runs in their last eight games combined and have been outscored 36-12. Let’s hope Cubs pitching can continue that for Pirates batters.
Last note about Cubs pitching in this game: Miley and Rucker didn’t walk anyone. That’s just the fourth game this year with no walks from Cubs pitchers. Three of those have been against the Pirates.
The win gave the Cubs three straight — their first three-game winning streak of 2022 — and five wins in their last seven. Thus, as you likely already know, the complaint department is closed and locked up tight. And last but not least, after an April and early May of mostly horrific weather conditions in Chicago, it was a gorgeous night at Wrigley Monday, with a 72-degree game-time temperature and a breeze gently blowing out to right field.
The Cubs announced after the game that Keegan Thompson would start Tuesday’s game, which means Marcus Stroman is not quite ready to return. JT Brubaker will go for the Pirates. Game time again is 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.