The games don’t mean anything other than the Cubs finishing the year strong, but I am certainly growing to like the way the 2022 Chicago Cubs are playing baseball.
Adrian Sampson had another outstanding outing and several Cubs had key hits in a pair of three-run innings that were the difference in a 6-1 Cubs victory. The Cubs have won five in a row, nine of their last 10 and 13 of their last 17 — the latter is the best record in the National League over that span.
The Reds struck first, with Jake Fraley homering off Sampson in the top of the second inning. Fraley has been a pest to the Cubs all year — he’s batting .478/.556/.826 (11-for-23) against the Cubs in 2022 with two doubles, two home runs and seven runs scored. Stop that guy, Cubs pitching, and you can probably beat the Reds several more times over the next few days.
The Cubs, though, got that back and more in the bottom of the second. Ian Happ led off with a single and Franmil Reyes followed with a double that got stuck in the left field ivy, so Happ had to stop at third.
Moments later that didn’t matter, when Nico Hoerner doubled them both in [VIDEO].
The Cubs thus took a lead they would not relinquish at 2-1. Two outs later, Christopher Morel also doubled, scoring Nico [VIDEO].
The Cubs put another three-spot on the board in the third. Seiya Suzuki began the festivities with a single and one out later, Happ walked. Reyes drew a walk to load the bases.
That could have been an inning-ending double play; instead, both Suzuki and Happ scored to make it 5-1 Cubs.
That’s the story of the Cubs offense — Reds starter Graham Ashcraft was lifted after Gomes’ double and the Cubs had just three baserunners off Reds reliever Connor Overton, two singles and a walk. Overton threw 5⅓ solid relief innings.
Meanwhile, Sampson was more or less matching that. After Fraley’s homer, Sampson retired 15 of the next 17 Reds before he gave up a pair of singles in the seventh. The Cubs got out of that inning without giving up any runs by turning a double play. Sampson completed his afternoon with three hits and one run allowed in seven innings, with six strikeouts. It’s the fifth straight start in which Sampson has gone six or more innings with no more than 1 run allowed. That’s the longest such streak by a Cubs pitcher since Yu Darvish had seven consecutive outings with those numbers from July 31-September 4, 2020.
Erich Uelmen was summoned to throw the eighth. You know what happened the last time Uelmen was brought in with a big lead, Sunday in Pittsburgh. He got hit hard and had to be bailed out by Brandon Hughes. In this one, though, Uelmen was very, very good, retiring all three batters he faced on ground balls, throwing only seven pitches. That’s his game — ground balls. If he’s on he can be extremely effective. Here’s hoping for more like this.
Rowan Wick allowed a two-out single in the ninth and then struck out Donovan Solano to end it with a nasty breaking ball [VIDEO].
The complaint department door is locked up tight, and instead let me open the praise department. Sampson has been really good, and though some of his peripherals are concerning, I believe he’s secured a spot in the 2023 rotation. He’s not young, but seems to have figured out something mid-career and can be very effective even on a potential Cubs contender in 2023. And remember, the Cubs lost him on a waiver claim to the Mariners in May, only to get him back a couple of weeks later. This was one of the better under-the-radar signings by Jed Hoyer & Co.
The Cubs need to win just two of the five games remaining this year to avoid 90 losses, and I think they’ll do better than that — at least three, and perhaps even four. Last note from Friday’s game — the weather was absolutely gorgeous, mid 60s and unlimited sunshine, a perfect early fall afternoon.
They’ll go for their sixth consecutive win, which would match a season high, Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field. In a battle of lefthanders, Drew Smyly will start for the Cubs and Nick Lodolo will start for Cincinnati. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.