This... this... this... I’m almost without words.
This was about the most unexpected way this game could have gone. The Braves came into Wrigley Field riding a 14-game winning streak, during which they had outscored their opponents 101-41. The Cubs came in on a 10-game losing streak in which they had been outscored 90-30.
You probably could have gotten real good odds on the Cubs winning this game at all, much less the way they did win it.
And yet, there it is, in the books, a 1-0 Cubs win over the Braves on an absolutely perfect weather afternoon at Wrigley Field, 80 degrees, unlimited sunshine, breeze off the lake (which did, in fact, hold up a couple of Atlanta fly balls that might otherwise have landed in the bleachers).
So what did I say about Keegan Thompson in today’s game preview?
It seems pretty clear that Thompson is not suited to starting.
Welp. Been wrong before, will be wrong again. Thompson was just outstanding, striking out nine (a career high) and keeping some really good Atlanta hitters off balance for six innings. He allowed just two hits, a leadoff single to Ronald Acuña Jr. in the first and a bloop double down the right-field line by Orlando Arcia in the fifth. This is just fantastic work:
The 18 whiffs (swinging strikes) by Keegan Thompson today marked a season-best for a Cubs starter this year.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 17, 2022
Charlie Morton of the Braves was just as good, maybe a bit better. He handcuffed Cubs hitters for seven innings, also striking out nine, and allowing just three singles. Only one Cub got past first base through seven. Willson Contreras singled with two out in the sixth and went to second when Patrick Wisdom was hit by a pitch, but that inning ended on a force play at third.
This was like a throwback game, starters working quickly, very few long counts, and at one point it looked like this game might even have a chance to finish in less than two hours. The 2:40 running time was the third-fastest nine-inning game at Wrigley Field this year.
One note on the first few innings before I get to the late-inning events: Frank Schwindel was injured running out this ground ball in the second [VIDEO].
At first, it looks like it might have been a hamstring or ankle injury, but this was the report later:
Frank Schwindel left today's game with low back tightness. #Cubs say he will continue to be evaluated.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) June 17, 2022
Hopefully he’s okay. If not, Alfonso Rivas or Nelson Velazquez could be recalled. One of those two is likely coming back by Monday anyway, because:
MLB sent memo to GMs, asst. GMs and managers yesterday saying that as of Monday, the limitation on the number of pitchers on an active roster will be 13. Rule originally intended to begin in ‘20 finally will take effect. Earlier this season, MLB twice extended 14-pitcher limit.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 17, 2022
The Cubs are currently carrying 14 pitchers, so they will have to trim one before Monday’s game against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
Back to the game: Thompson walked Matt Olson leading off the seventh. It was the first time in his career that he’d pitched into the seventh in a start. Mychal Givens, who had walked the planet in an outing earlier this week, did issue another walk but got out of the inning scoreless.
The Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the last of the seventh and Chris Martin retired his former Atlanta teammates 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth.
Then the Cubs put together a throwback sort of rally. Jonathan Villar was sent up to bat for Jason Heyward against Braves reliever A.J. Minter. Villar, who I have criticized here previously, had a really nice eight-pitch at-bat and walked. Andrelton Simmons sacrificed him to second. That was just the sixth sac bunt by the Cubs this year.
With Christopher Morel at the plate, Villar stole third, and that was the key to the game, because Morel then hit a fly ball to medium center field [VIDEO].
That was a really good throw, perfect, actually, but Villar made an outstanding slide and was safe.
1-0! Could David Robertson make it hold up?
Well... he gave us more drama than we really wanted, issuing a pair of walks and hitting Travis d’Arnaud to load the bases.
This brought Arcia to the plate with two out. If you don’t remember, Arcia went 4-for-4 in the 2018 NL Central tiebreaker game for the Brewers and led them to that victory and has in general been a Cub-killer over the years. He’s only starting for Atlanta right now because Ozzie Albies was injured the other night.
So you can forgive me if I feared the worst. But Robertson got Arcia to ground to first to end it [VIDEO].
And the Cubs, at last, had ended the 10-game losing streak with perhaps the best game of the year. It was their first 1-0 win since May 28, 2021, a win over the Reds on a freezing, blustery Friday afternoon, so long ago that Adbert Alzolay was the winning pitcher and Craig Kimbrel posted the save. Since that day, the Cubs had been 0-26 when scoring one run or fewer. Until this afternoon.
The weather was nicer today and the Cubs played crisp, winning baseball. This game doesn’t solve all this team’s problems, but it sure was fun. You think the players didn’t feel that?
Could hear “Go Cubs Go” coming from the clubhouse after ending their 10-game losing streak. Sounded like some Cubs players were singing along.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) June 17, 2022
That’s the way to end a long losing streak! And here are some highlights of Thompson’s great outing [VIDEO].
Hey, the Cubs actually have a chance for a series win if they can take Saturday’s game. Justin Steele will start for the Cubs and Kyle Wright will get the call for Atlanta. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.