This tweet was making the rounds before Friday’s Cubs/Phillies game began:
Justin Steele is 21 four-seamers away from history*.— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) July 22, 2022
Most four-seamers thrown w/out giving up a HR in the pitch tracking era:
Heath Bell: 807 in 2010
Justin Steele: 786 in 2022.
Exquisite timing, Alex Fast, because...
That was Justin Steele’s very first pitch Friday night, a four-seamer that old friend Kyle Schwarber hit 413 feet, ending that streak in dramatic fashion.
The good news is that this was just about the only mistake Steele (and the Cubs) made all night. Steele allowed just three other hits (though four walks, and he does need to work on that) in a solid five-inning outing, and the Cubs sprayed hits and home runs all over Citizens Bank Park and demolished the Phillies 15-2, starting the 2022 season’s second half on a high note.
The Cubs did nothing off Kyle Gibson for three innings and then Willson Contreras tied the game [VIDEO].
For Contreras, who had been in a horrible slump all July, it was his first home run since June 29, a span of 12 games without a long ball in which he had hit .122/.218/.143 (6-for-49). Curiously, none of Willson’s 14 home runs this year has happened after the fifth inning.
Then the Cubs blew the game open in the fifth off Gibson and Jeurys Familia. Alfonso Rivas led off with a walk and then Christopher Morel came to the plate [VIDEO].
Morel’s double down the left-field line turned into a “Little League home run” when a relay throw toward the plate was cut off and thrown into center field. Both Rivas and Morel scored to make it 3-1.
One out later, Contreras walked, followed by a single by Seiya Suzuki. Ian Happ made it 4-1 Cubs [VIDEO].
Suzuki stopped at second and Nico Hoerner then drove both runners in, making it 6-1 [VIDEO].
The sixth and final run of the inning came courtesy of this Patrick Wisdom double [VIDEO].
Brandon Hughes, Scott Effross and Rowan Wick each threw scoreless innings in relief, which is a good sign — all of those pitchers could be part of the “Next Great Cubs Team.”
Meanwhile, the Cubs extended the lead in the top of the eighth. Morel led off with a single and Nelson Velázquez was sent up to bat for Rafael Ortega!
Contreras then walked for the second time in the game and Suzuki singled. P.J. Higgins ran for Contreras and scored on this single by Happ [VIDEO].
At 10-1, the Phillies put their backup catcher Garrett Stubbs in to throw the ninth inning, and as often happens with position players pitching, the other team scores a lot of runs. With one out, Rivas walked and Morel singled, his third hit of the game.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like for a hitter to face a position player pitching:
Velázquez on one of his HRs coming off Phillies catcher Stubbs: "I mean, to be honest, I hate facing a position player. Because position players throw really slow & another throws harder. Sometimes you don't know how fast they want to throw ...I try to be easy & not do too much."— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 23, 2022
For the record, that home run off Stubbs came on a pitch that was thrown 84 miles per hour. Fun fact about Velázquez’ two dingers in this game:
In tonight’s win, Nelson Velázquez became the 2nd #Cubs player since at least 1901 to hit two home runs off the bench.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 23, 2022
The other: Thad Bosley on Aug. 12, 1985 vs. Montreal.
For Velázquez, it was the first multi-homer game of his career, and he now has four homers on the season — all on the road. Perhaps he’ll hit his first Wrigley homer in the brief two-game set against the Pirates next week.
The Cubs weren’t done, either. Higgins followed the homer with a double and Suzuki hit a baseball a long, long way [VIDEO].
As I said, that one was crushed way out of the yard:
That was it offensively for the Cubs. Suzuki and Happ both had four hits on the night (a career high for Suzuki, tying Happ’s career high) and Morel had three. Erich Uelmen then made his MLB debut throwing the last of the ninth. Darick Hall hit a consolation home run off him to make the final score 15-2. It was the third time the Cubs scored 15+ runs this year and also their third four-homer game.
In a lost season, it’s fun to have games like this that remind everyone that yes, there is talent on this team.
The Cubs will go for their third win in a row (and a series win in Philly!) Saturday evening in the second of this three-game set. Marcus Stroman, who has thrown well since returning from the injured list, will start for the Cubs and Zack Wheeler gets the call for the Phillies. Game time is 5:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.