The Cubs came off their worst road trip in quite some time and faced a team that swept them last weekend.
No matter! Thanks to seven excellent innings from Justin Steele, a two-run homer by Ian Happ and a couple of other key hits, the Cubs defeated the Marlins 4-1 on a picture-perfect Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. In so doing they returned to the .500 mark at 16-16 and dumped Miami under the break-even mark at 16-17.
Before I get to the highlights, I wanted to address some comments I heard about the 15 strikeouts Cubs batters had this afternoon. My answer, beyond “The complaint department is closed,” is “So what?” Before Friday’s action the Cubs ranked 22nd in batter strikeouts — yes, that’s right, in the bottom third of the league. While this game might push them a little further toward the top of that ranking, it’s still not that important. Every team strikes out a lot in modern baseball. That’s just the way the game is, even with the pitch timer helping put more balls in play.
The Cubs did that well in this game, starting in the first inning. Nico Hoerner led off with a single, was balked to second, took third on a passed ball and scored on this single by Seiya Suzuki [VIDEO].
Steele got some help from his defense today. Here’s a sliding stop by Dansby Swanson in the third [VIDEO].
In the next inning, Ian Happ flashed some glove [VIDEO].
That was an important play with two runners on base. In the next inning, there was a Marlin on second with one out and Nico made this fantastic catch, leading to an inning-ending double play [VIDEO].
This sort of thing isn’t always easy to measure, but right there you see the value of defense. Last year Cubs fielders might not have made those plays, perhaps except for Happ’s. That helps out pitchers and makes the whole team look better.
Those plays helped keep the game 1-0 Cubs heading to the bottom of the fifth, when Swanson singled with one out and Happ smashed this baseball into the bleachers [VIDEO].
More Happ homer numbers:
⚾Ian Happ! HR (4)— Home Run Report (@homerunreport) May 5, 2023
Go, Cubs, go!
5/5/23 @ CHC, ⬇️ 5th
vs RHP Edward Cabrera
107.0 MPH / 25° / 423 ft to RF
Off a 83.1 MPH curveball
▶️It's a home run in 25/30 parks.◀️
️(Not in AZ, BOS, COL, DET, HOU.)
See this play in Gameday: https://t.co/xIv3zp7czr pic.twitter.com/ZFrFEaQebr
Steele allowed a run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly and then threw a 1-2-3 seventh. Honestly, I thought he could have thrown one more inning, but David Ross lifted him after 86 pitches (64 strikes). Steele is putting together what could be an All-Star season. He’s far and away been the Cubs’ best starter so far this year.
The Cubs plated an extra insurance run in the eighth. With two out, Cody Bellinger dumped a popup into short right field that no Marlins fielder could catch, and legged out a double. The Marlins minds met on the mound and decided to intentionally pass Trey Mancini and have lefty Tanner Scott pitch to Matt Mervis. That was just the third IBB given to a Cubs batter this year.
That man can hit baseballs hard:
Matt Mervis' 111.2 mph single is the hardest-hit ball in play in this game, and checks in as the 5th-hardest hit of the season for the Cubs.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 5, 2023
Congratulations to Mervis on what we hope is the first of MANY major league hits, and how great for him that he was able to do it with his parents and other family members in attendance. Mervis’ parents had to make a detour to get to Wrigley, though:
Mervis “kind of blacked out for a minute” after getting call that he was joining Cubs.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 5, 2023
Called his parents, who were at Baltimore’s airport to fly to see himin Columbus. Mervis told them they had to change their plans. They drove to a DC airport for a new flight to Chicago.
Mervis got multiple ovations, first when his name was announced in the lineup, then every time he came to bat. Some fans had already bought his jersey before the game:
Mervis did strike out twice, but... he was just one of five Cubs who K’d at least twice, and Patrick Wisdom had the so-called “golden sombrero” for striking out four times. It doesn’t matter! The Cubs hit when they needed to and today, after a terrible road trip hitting with RISP, they were 2-for-6.
After Steele was lifted, Michael Fulmer threw a scoreless eighth, helped out by another double play ball, and Mark Leiter Jr. was given the save opportunity. He allowed a leadoff single, and then the Cubs’ third DP of the game got the contest to its last out. Leiter then hit a batter, but finished the game with this strikeout [VIDEO].
That was Leiter’s fourth career save — he had three last year with the Cubs.
The game was quite fast-paced, as was Thursday’s, and wound up with a game time of 2:09. That was the fastest nine-inning game at Wrigley Field since May 23, 2017, when Jon Lester threw a four-hit complete game win over the Giants with 10 strikeouts in two hours, five minutes. More just like this one, please.
This was a satisfying win and the Cubs are a team that can win a lot of games this way, even with all the strikeouts. One last note on Steele:
Justin Steele now has 14 consecutive outings with no more than 2 ER allowed. Longest such run by a Cubs' starting pitcher since Jake Arrieta also went 14 in a row across '15-16.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 5, 2023
Modern Cubs record: 15 starts by Jack Taylor in 1902.
The Cubs and Marlins will meet again Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Drew Smyly will start for the Cubs and Bryan Hoeing goes for Miami. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and also on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Marlins market territories).