Who ARE these guys?
The Cubs got yet another solid starting pitching outing, excellent relief and a late-inning hit with a runner in scoring position. Nico Hoerner’s eighth-inning single drove in Seiya Suzuki to give the Cubs the lead, and Scott Effross nailed it down with his first major league save. All of that added up to the Cubs’ fifth straight win, 3-2 over the Pirates on a beautiful summer evening at Wrigley Field. The five-game winning streak is the Cubs’ longest since September 2021, when they won seven straight. That streak included a four-game sweep of these same Pirates.
The Pirates scored first off Adrian Sampson in the top of the second, but the Cubs wasted no time getting that run back. Ian Happ led off the inning with a double and Hoerner singled him in [VIDEO].
The ball went off Pirates second baseman Josh VanMeter’s glove and far enough into right field for Happ to score.
Just before the Pirates half of the second inning, Willson Contreras went from behind the plate into the dugout.
Well, you know what that started. Had Contreras been traded — in the middle of a game?
Willson Contreras having pitchcomm issues. He should start hugging guys in the dugout to be a troll.— Mike Persak (@MikeDPersak) July 26, 2022
That’s from a Pirates beat writer. Hugs would have been funny, for sure. But as noted, it was just a problem with Contreras’ PitchCom device. The issue was resolved and the game went on.
The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the third, courtesy of this high, arcing home run from Rafael Ortega [VIDEO].
Like I said — that ball had a very high arc (which isn’t really visible on the clip):
To give credit where it’s due, just before Ortega’s homer, Ben Gamel made a fantastic diving catch on a sinking liner by Christopher Morel [VIDEO].
The Pirates tied it up in the fifth. Tyler Heineman doubled and went to third on a missed pickoff by Contreras, which turned out not to matter when VanMeter doubled him in.
Sampson had yet another very good outing — seven innings, six hits, two runs, one walk, three strikeouts. He’s done this consistently against good teams and not-so-good teams. He’s a perfectly capable fourth or fifth starter on a contending team, and sometimes guys figure things out at a later age (Sampson is 30). I hope he sticks around, the Cubs could get some good pitching years out of him at a relatively low salary cost.
Mychal Givens, who also is a trade candidate, threw a scoreless eighth after putting a pair of runners on after striking out the first two hitters in the inning.
Then the Cubs put together their winning rally. Suzuki grounded to short, but Oneil Cruz’ throw got away at first and Suzuki was safe. A ground ball to second advanced Suzuki, which turned out to be important, because Hoerner then hit a ball into the gap in right-center [VIDEO].
Does Suzuki score from first on that hit? Probably, but it was a much easier task to score from second.
David Ross’ postgame comments on Nico:
Cubs manager David Ross spoke very highly of Nico Hoerner and how he performs in big moments after another great game and go-ahead hit: pic.twitter.com/AgUPajckf5— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 26, 2022
It’s not just only the key moments like that one for Nico, but he appears to be becoming the team leader. This team really needed someone to step up like that and he certainly has. This is now Nico’s fourth MLB season — but he still hasn’t played in 200 MLB games (Monday was his 193rd).
With the lead and David Robertson not available after having thrown 22 pitches on Sunday, Scott Effross was summoned for the save opportunity. He allowed a hit with one out on a little dribbler down the third base line, then got a fly to center and ended the game with this strikeout [VIDEO].
I’ve written before that if Robertson is traded, I’d like to see Effross get chances at closer. That was his first MLB save, and I hope there are many more. (Also, I hope they saved the baseball from that K for Effross, a souvenir of that first save.) As you could probably hear on the broadcast — or on that clip — there was a surprising amount of energy in Wrigley Field in that ninth inning, given the fact that the Cubs are far out of contention.
Ian Happ noted that energy in some pregame comments:
Here’s Cubs outfielder Ian Happ pregame today, on facing an uncertain future with the only team he’s known as the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline approaches… pic.twitter.com/OpNY0YhOT6— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 26, 2022
Personally? I hope Willson is not traded. If he is, Tuesday’s game at Wrigley could be his last as a Cub in the ballpark he’s called home for the last six years. “As always, we await developments.”
The Cubs will go for their sixth win in a row, and a sweep of this brief two-game series, Tuesday afternoon at Wrigley. Keegan Thompson will start for the Cubs and Bryse Wilson gets the call for Pittsburgh. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Pirates market territories).