SAN FRANCISCO — About the sixth inning of this game I was sitting with my head down, thinking sad thoughts. Don’t lie, so were you. The Cubs offense has been mostly moribund in the second halves of games recently, so how on Earth were they...
And then they did, putting together a seventh-inning, three-run rally and holding on for a 3-2 win over the Giants, breaking a four-game losing streak.
This game was so good that it even survived a TOOTBLAN, and that happened early on, so let’s dive into that.
Which is what Nick Madrigal tried to do. He had walked leading off the game, and one out later took off for second as ball four was being taken by Seiya Suzuki. Madrigal is entitled to second base except if he did... exactly what he did, overrun the base [VIDEO].
If you think you’ve seen this exact play from a Cub before, yes you have and here it is, from more than 16 years ago:
April 20, 2007 was the date and Ronny Cedeño, who had been the Cubs’ regular shortstop most of the previous year, had pinch-run for Mark DeRosa in the ninth inning of a game the Cubs were trailing 2-1. The same thing happened — Cedeño took off for second as ball four was thrown to Jacque Jones. Ronny overran the base and was tagged out, so instead of the Cubs having the tying run in scoring position with one out, there was a runner on first with two out. Matt Murton then popped up to end the game.
If I’m not mistaken — and correct me if I am — I believe this was THE original TOOTBLAN, which, if you’re not familiar with the acronym, stands for Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop. Cedeño was sent to Triple-A Iowa not long after that and, though he did play again for the Cubs in both 2007 and 2008, never really did much. Eventually he was traded to the Mariners in the ill-fated Aaron Heilman deal.
Anyway, while that ran the Cubs out of the inning, it did not cost them the game. Still, the offense again seemed incapable of hitting with runners in scoring position. The Cubs left RISP in the third and fourth innings. Meanwhile, Marcus Stroman was deftly working his way out of trouble in several of the early innings, including the first and second with double plays. Then he retired the first two hitters in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings, only to allow the next hitter to reach base. It hurt him in the third, when the Giants took a 1-0 lead on an RBI double by Thairo Estrada.
The game went 1-0 Giants into the seventh, and at last, the Cubs bats woke up. Seiya Suzuki, who went 3-for-3 with a walk, led off with a single. Ian Happ walked and both runners moved up a base on a fly to center by Dansby Swanson. Matt Mervis was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Nico Hoerner, batting for Patrick Wisdom, gave the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].
Mervis stopped at second, but a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. Christopher Morel then walked to re-load the bases and Tucker Barnhart, who was 0 for his last 19, came through [VIDEO].
That turned out to be a very important run. Stroman got into a bit of trouble in the seventh on a one-out double by Brandon Crawford. After he made a tag play on an infield grounder, Mark Leiter Jr. was summoned to face Joc Pederson. Then this happened [VIDEO].
If Leiter picks up that ball Pederson is out — the call was out anyway, but it was overturned on review, and Crawford scored to make it 3-2.
Leiter got through the eighth 1-2-3, which included a nice stab of a line drive by Dansby Swanson to end the inning.
Still, it’s nervous time, even though the Cubs had won three of their last four one-run games. Adbert Alzolay, who I am convinced should just be given the closer role, entered to throw the ninth inning. It wasn’t without excitement — Alzolay, Madrigal and Barnhart let a foul popup by pinch-hitter J.D. Davis fall untouched, but Davis eventually flied to left. Alzolay then calmly struck out Wilmer Flores and Crawford to end the game.
Can’t say enough about Stroman, who recorded 15 of his 20 outs on ground balls and the other five by strikeout. Here are the five K’s [VIDEO].
He allowed six hits and those were the only balls hit by Giants that left the infield, yet another outstanding outing from the guy who very well might start this year’s All-Star Game for the National League.
This game didn’t solve all the Cubs’ problems, but it certainly was nice to see some timely hitting and strong late-inning relief. Honestly, if the Cubs can continue to get relief outings like that, they could very well put a winning streak together. Fingers crossed.
The Cubs will go for two in a row over the Giants Saturday at Oracle Park. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs. The Giants are going to have a bullpen game, because reliever John Brebbia is listed as their probable starter and though Brebbia is listed with five starts this year, only one has gone past the first inning and he hasn’t thrown more than 28 pitches in any outing this year. So the Cubs will face an “opener” and then some other Giants pitchers. Game time Saturday is 6:35 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Fox-TV (regional — coverage map).