I could get real used to games like this.
Jed Hoyer and his baseball ops team said they were going to put together a team with strong defense, and it showed up big-time Friday in a 2-0 win over the Rangers at Wrigley Field.
This team is going to have to win with defense like that and solid pitching like they got Friday afternoon from Marcus Stroman, Mark Leiter Jr. and Michael Fulmer.
Stroman and Nathan Eovaldi matched zeroes for the first three innings, and that included this slick double play started by Dansby Swanson [VIDEO].
The Cubs put a run on the board in the fourth. Nico Hoerner singled and was forced by Swanson, who then stole second. One out later, Cody Bellinger drove him in [VIDEO].
Stroman got into a bit of trouble in the sixth, loading the bases on a hit batter and two walks, but got out of it with a ground out to complete his second straight scoreless outing.
About that, courtesy of BCB’s JohnW53:
Marcus Stroman threw 12 shutout innings in his first two starts of the season.
The last Cub to pitch more than 12 shutout innings over that span:
Mike Bielecki, 15 innings, in 1991:
7.0 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 5 W, 5 K at St. Louis
8.0 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 0 W, 1 K vs. Pirates
Here’s a full breakdown of Stroman’s outstanding afternoon [VIDEO].
The Cubs put an important insurance run on the board in the bottom of the sixth. Tucker Barnhart led off with a single and advanced to second on a single by Nico. Swanson hit into a double play, with Barnhart taking third. Then this happened [VIDEO].
Ian Happ was given a double on that play, which is the correct call — that wouldn’t be considered “ordinary effort” by Rangers center fielder Adolis Garcia.
So with the score 2-0, it was up to the pen to protect the lead. Mark Leiter Jr. was first up, getting a ground out and strikeout for the first two outs of the seventh and then he helped himself with his glove [VIDEO].
Excellent snag by Leiter, who threw well in this game.
Michael Fulmer was summoned in the eighth and allowed a two-out double, but struck out the other three Rangers hitters he faced. He came out again for the ninth, an unusual call, I thought, given that he’d thrown 19 pitches in the eighth. With one out, Swanson and Eric Hosmer turned in some spectacular glove work [VIDEO].
Tremendous swipe by Hosmer, one of the better ones you’ll see all year. Fulmer followed that with this strikeout of Robbie Grossman to end the game [VIDEO].
And, of course, I loved the time of game: two hours, 17 minutes, on a brilliantly sunny but chilly (43 degrees at game time) afternoon at the ol’ ballyard.
Beyond the great defensive plays which you see above, there were others made in this game by Cubs defenders of which I thought, “That one wouldn’t have been made last year.” The team defense is that much better, at least by the eye test. Hopefully the numbers back that up, and that this continues all year. If so, it will help result in a lot of wins.
The Cubs evened up their record at 3-3 with this victory and will meet the Rangers again Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Justin Steele will go for the Cubs and Martin Perez will take the mound for the visitors from Texas. Note the unusual early-season game time Saturday — 3:05 p.m. CT. TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network and also on FS1 (no blackouts).