When Alec Mills had to leave Saturday’s game after just seven pitches with a possible recurrence of the back issues that kept him out of action this year until June, it was another “Welp, here goes this game.”
Except it didn’t, and that was a credit to Mark Leiter Jr. (and Mychal Givens and David Robertson, too). Leiter threw an outstanding 5⅓ innings, allowing just four hits and a run, striking out five. It was one of just four starts in his MLB career where he had thrown that many innings and allowed just one run. He left in the sixth to a warm ovation, well deserved. I’ve criticized Leiter here in the past, but for this one, he gets nothing but praise, and the Cubs won their second straight over the Red Sox, 3-1.
After Leiter set down Boston hitters through the second inning, the Cubs got to work offensively... or, should I say, got a lot of help from Boston’s defense.
Patrick Wisdom hit a dribbler toward Rafael Devers, who threw the ball away, sending Wisdom to second.
Then Nico Hoerner laid down a bunt — and this time Red Sox pitcher Josh Winckowski threw wildly [VIDEO].
Wisdom scored to give the Cubs the lead. Yan Gomes hit a ground ball to the right side, sending Hoerner to third, where he scored on this sac fly by Narciso Crook [VIDEO].
Leiter continued his dominance of the Red Sox. Beginning with the last out of the second inning, he retired nine straight Boston hitters before issuing a two-out walk in the fifth. By the sixth, you could tell he was running out of gas. A leadoff double and single put runners on first and third, and a Red Sox run scored on this double play started by Leiter [VIDEO].
Leiter was lifted by David Ross after that. Here’s a chart of Leiter’s outing:
Mark Leiter Jr. was unexpectedly pressed into duty tonight after Alec Mills exited with injury after 7 pitches.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 3, 2022
Leiter gave the Cubs 5.1 IP, allowing one run on three hits. Five strikeouts with one walk. Generated nine whiffs (five via his split-change) out of 57 pitches. pic.twitter.com/BEvJGmWGOl
Givens replaced Leiter and retired the final batter of the sixth, had a 1-2-3 seventh and set down the first two Red Sox in the eighth, a fine outing. Robertson replaced Givens (likely due to a pitch count for Givens) and ended the top of the eighth with a groundout.
The Cubs put an insurance run on the board in the last of the eighth. Willson Contreras singled with one out and was replaced by pinch-runner Nelson Velázquez, who took off for second on the first pitch to Ian Happ. He stole second successfully, his first MLB steal, and that turned out to be important, because after Happ struck out he was wild-pitched to third.
The Cubs had eight hits on the night. Only three of them left the infield, but they took advantage of enough of the opportunities to push the three runs across. Here’s some info on the first six of those eight hits:
The exit velocities on the Cubs' six hits (so far) tonight:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 3, 2022
Three outs remained to claim victory. A leadoff double by Jarren Duran brought the tying run to the plate. Duran took third — originally credited with a stolen base, the call was changed to “defensive indifference” because the Cubs were in a shift and third base was uncovered.
Robertson struck out the next two hitters, then walked Xander Bogaerts, putting the tying run on base. On a 1-1 pitch, Alex Verdugo hit the ball hard — but right at Rafael Ortega [VIDEO].
Here’s the scoop on Alec Mills:
Cubs announce "low-back pain" as the culprit for Mills. https://t.co/NKkzOIZ9au— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 2, 2022
I’d guess he’ll miss some more time. The logical move would be to place Mills on the injured list and recall Michael Rucker, since Leiter is now both unavailable for several days (after 57 pitches) and probably in line to take what would have been Mills’ next start, likely next Thursday in Los Angeles. Here are David Ross’ postgame comments [VIDEO].
That was a satisfying, well-played Cubs win for the second straight day over a very good Red Sox team. Although, you will probably not like this comment from Saturday night’s Red Sox starter:
Josh Winckowski on Wrigley Field:— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) July 3, 2022
“A little underwhelming. Fenway has a presence to it. I really didn’t get that here, to be honest. I said to my mom last night, this place is very stock standard.”
You can read some of the replies to that tweet here, one of which was from our own Sara Sanchez:
LOL, Josh. No need to be a sore loser. https://t.co/mE9DBMY7lR— Sara Sanchez (@BCB_Sara) July 3, 2022
For his part, Red Sox beat writer Chris Cotillo (a former SB Nation writer!) liked Wrigley more than Winckowski did:
I’ve enjoyed the scenery more than Josh Winckowski. pic.twitter.com/bifpaLzYe3— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) July 3, 2022
The Cubs will go for an improbable sweep of the Red Sox Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field, and I’d say they have a pretty good chance to do that with Keegan Thompson on the mound. Thompson’s been very good lately. His opposition will probably be Connor Seabold (though the Red Sox have not officially announced that). Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.