In the grand scheme of this season, or in Cubs history, Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Mets doesn’t mean much.
But that doesn’t mean the end of a nine-game losing streak didn’t feel good. Nico Hoerner’s eighth-inning single drove in Willson Contreras — with a great slide — with the lead run, and David Robertson posted his 13th save. Two of those players might not be Cubs very much longer, so enjoy them while you can.
Let’s rewind to the beginning of this satisfying victory.
The Mets scored in the first inning on a mental blunder by Frank Schwindel. With two out and Francisco Lindor on first base and Starling Marte on third, Lindor got himself picked off.
I’m going to put that one on Schwindel, because in that situation, it’s pretty clear that Lindor is going to try to get himself caught in a rundown long enough for Marte to score. At that point it doesn’t matter where Lindor is, you have to throw home to cut down the run at the plate. Schwindel threw to Hoerner instead; by then, it was too late and Marte had scored.
The Cubs tied the game up in the fourth. Ian Happ led off with a single, took second on a single by Hoerner and then Eduardo Escobar fumbled a ball Schwindel hit to third, loading the bases.
But that’s all the Cubs could produce off David Peterson through five innings. Meanwhile, the Mets had taken the lead in the top of the fifth on a ball that Schwindel should have caught [VIDEO].
Granted, that is not an easy play. But most good MLB first basemen will make that play. Schwindel is not a good MLB first baseman.
Sampson was taken out after issuing a one-out walk in the sixth. He threw 112 pitches, a season high, and this was a good outing. I suspect if Sampson had retired the hitter he walked, Mark Canha, David Ross would have let him try to get the final out of the sixth. But with one out and a runner on, he turned to Steven Brault, who has been quite good in two appearances since his callup. He induced an inning-ending double play ball and then threw a 1-2-3 seventh in which he had some defensive help from Christopher Morel [VIDEO].
Morel seems to get more comfortable in center field with each day he’s out there. That was an outstanding grab.
The Cubs got more good defense in the eighth. Lindor singled and went to second on an infield out. One out later, Escobar singled and Lindor tried to score [VIDEO].
That is an excellent MLB play by Nelson Velázquez, a perfect pickup of the single and perfect throw, and credit to Contreras for a good tag. That kept the score 2-1 Mets, which turned out to be very important.
In the bottom of the eighth, Morel beat out an infield hit and was singled to third by Contreras. The Mets were in double-play formation, conceding a run for a possible DP, but instead Happ hit a dribbler to the right side [VIDEO].
It wasn’t hit hard enough for a DP attempt, and Morel scored the tying run, with Contreras advancing to second. Seiya Suzuki popped up, and then it was Nico time [VIDEO].
That was a fantastic Javy-style swim slide, and Willson was safe on a close play at the plate, giving the Cubs the lead.
David Robertson allowed a one-out single in the ninth and then faced pinch-hitter J.D. Davis [VIDEO].
The Cubs finally win one by one run — they had lost three times by that margin during the losing streak, and the last one-run win was the game before the streak began, 2-1 July 6 over the Brewers. The victory improved the team’s record in one-run games to 11-18.
It was a pleasant, if coolish, day at the ballyard in front of an announced 34,424 (maybe 26,000 or so in the house). A sprinkle visited for a few minutes in the seventh inning, not hard enough to hold up play.
So the Cubs enter the break on a one-game winning “streak” and, for the moment, avoid last place in the NL Central as the Reds were rained out Sunday, so the Cubs lead Cincinnati by half a game. Here’s how Cubs pitching will line up starting Friday in Philadelphia:
Cubs’ rotation order to begin the second half, via Ross: Steele, Stroman, Smyly, Thompson, Sampson.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 17, 2022
This means Sampson won’t throw again until July 26, nine days from now, explaining a bit further why Ross let him go 112 pitches in this one. Justin Steele will face the Phillies’ Kyle Gibson on Friday at Citizens Bank Park at 6:05 p.m. CT, with TV for that game on Apple TV+.
In the meantime, stick around BCB during the All-Star break. We’ll have threads for the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game and I’ll have lots to say about the future of the Chicago Cubs, beginning tomorrow.