DYERSVILLE, Iowa — The Cubs, of course, aren’t going to be anywhere near baseball’s postseason in 2022.
But they got their moment in the sun on a national stage in the 2022 MLB Field of Dreams game Thursday evening, and if you squinted real hard you could see at least the beginnings of the “Next Great Cubs Team,” as Jed Hoyer likes to call it. The Cubs got an excellent start from Drew Smyly, some good relief work and enough timely hitting to defeat the Reds 4-2 Thursday evening on a perfectly gorgeous summer evening in Dyersville.
One note: This recap is going to focus solely on the game itself; later this morning I’ll post a separate article about all the Field of Dreams Game hoopla and my experience at the Field of Dreams itself.
The Cubs started out with a good offensive show in the very first inning — and after the first two hitters, Nick Madrigal and Willson Contreras, were routine outs. Patrick Wisdom was hit by a pitch and Seiya Suzuki smacked a double into left-center in for a 1-0 lead [VIDEO].
Three pitches later, Nico Hoerner’s single made it 2-0 [VIDEO].
TWO pitches later, Ian Happ doubled for a 3-0 lead [VIDEO].
You’ll note that all three of those hits were made with the pitcher still in the sun and the batter in shadow. That can’t have been easy, especially with the players in a park they’d never seen before. That’s really good offensive production, nicely done by all three Cubs hitters.
In the top of the third, Willson Contreras led off with a walk. Then this happened [VIDEO].
That was nothing short of horrifying. It looked like Contreras either turned an ankle or hurt his knee on an awkward step rounding second base. He fell to the ground in obvious pain, limped around a bit but did walk off under his own power. The first thought was, “Welp, that’s it, he’s done for the season.” But... there was no announcement of a substitute when the Reds came to bat in the bottom of the third, and ... there was Willson, squatting behind the plate as usual, and he completed the game without further incident. You’d think the team would hold him out of the rest of the game as a precaution, but it appears to have simply looked at first worse than it really was. The Cubs, of course, have Friday off. It’d likely be a good thing to not have Willson catch for a couple days after that, I’d think.
The Cubs added a run in the fourth. Nelson Velázquez and P.J. Higgins began the inning with singles, and one out later, Nick Madrigal singled in a run [VIDEO].
Madrigal, who has seemed rejuvenated over the last couple of weeks, wound up with a three-hit evening, and over his last six games: .444/.500/.500 (8-for-18) with a double and two walks. Perhaps this acquisition is going to work out after all. Here are all three hits Madrigal had Thursday night [VIDEO].
While all this was going on, Drew Smyly was dominating Reds hitters. In five strong innings he allowed four singles and two walks, and struck out nine. Here are all nine K’s [VIDEO].
The Cubs and Smyly have a $4.25 million mutual option for 2023. I’m going to suggest right here that I hope they exercise that. After missing a month with an oblique injury, Smyly has looked like the pitcher the team hoped he would be (as well as what they hoped he would be when they signed him back in 2018, only to see him not pitch for the MLB Cubs at all that year). Here’s Smyly after the game [VIDEO].
Great father-daughter moment at the Field of Dreams: Drew Smyly struck out 9 over 5 shutout innings, with his daughter, Parker, celebrating her fifth birthday here at the ballpark. ⚾️ @MLBNetwork @Cubs— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) August 12, 2022
Here’s Smyly delivering a pitch from my viewpoint down the third base line:
Michael Rucker threw a scoreless sixth. And then... there was the seventh-inning stretch. Honestly, I didn’t see much of the Harry Caray hologram, because I was paying attention to David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez doing the stretch right in front of me on the field:
After that, Rucker got touched up for a couple of runs in the bottom of the seventh, and was relieved by Brandon Hughes, who got out of the inning without incident and who also threw a 1-2-3 eighth. Hughes has looked very good lately (1.62 ERA, 0.780 WHIP, 21 strikeouts in 16⅔ innings in 17 appearances since July 1) and is getting both righthanded and lefthanded hitters out (.613 OPS vs. LHB, .644 vs. RHB). David Ross is using him in higher-leverage situations (like the one in this game) and he could be a significant contributor in 2023 and beyond. Not bad for a 16th-round draft pick as an outfielder (2017) who was nearly released in 2019 before converting to pitching.
So the game went to the bottom of the ninth still 4-2, and Rowan Wick, who has become the Cubs’ closer without being officially named so, came on for a save opportunity. He did that 1-2-3, and the final out had to be recorded three times, because plate umpire John Tumpane called not one, but two pitches balls that were actually strike three (pitches five and six, both to almost exactly the same location):
Anyway, here’s the pitch that actually was strike three to end the game [VIDEO].
That was a lovely curveball from Wick. There was a pitch speed meter at the Field of Dreams, but no pitch types were indicated in Gameday, since they didn’t have all the cameras they usually do at MLB ballparks.
That was a satisfying, well-played win in just about every regard, and the presentation was first-rate, from the uniforms to the pregame ceremonies to the between-innings entertainment at the Field of Dreams.
I was a bit disappointed that no one hit a baseball into the corn beyond the outfield (and also a bit surprised that Franmil Reyes, who might have done that, didn’t play in this game), but that’s a minor quibble. A fine time was had by all, and here are comments from Smyly, Hoerner, Madrigal and Suzuki on their experience in Iowa [VIDEO].
Here’s David Ross on the game [VIDEO].
And as I noted at the beginning of this recap... add a power hitter, a top starting pitcher and a couple of decent relievers to this team and I can see the beginnings of contention.
That’s for later, though. In the meantime, the Cubs, who have won five of their last seven, will have Friday off before resuming this three-game series Saturday in Cincinnati. Adrian Sampson will start for the Cubs and Graham Ashcraft will get the call for the Reds. Game time Saturday is 5:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.
A full article on my experience in Dyersville will post here at 10 a.m. CT.