It’s so much nicer to write about the Chicago Cubs when they are playing the way they have over the last week.
Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, they started with home runs and a decent, but not great, outing from Kyle Hendricks.
Then in the middle innings with a tenuous one-run lead, the Cubs exploded for another of the type of inning that’s been quite common for them in this homestand: Multiple timely hits with RISP, walks when needed, even a key sacrifice bunt. All of that led to a 10-3 win over the visiting Orioles, the Cubs’ fourth in a row and sixth in their last seven.
Kyle Hendricks threw three nice innings to begin, and Baltimore lefty Cole Irvin matched him... for the first two. The third was another story, as the Cubs began launching baseballs into the bleachers.
First, leading off the inning, Miguel Amaya [VIDEO].
Two outs later, it was Dansby Swanson’s turn [VIDEO].
Six pitches later, Christopher Morel for the three-peat [VIDEO].
Morel’s ball was crushed!
⚾Christopher Morel! HR (12)— Home Run Report (@homerunreport) June 16, 2023
Go, Cubs, go!
6/16/23 @ CHC, ⬇️ 3rd
vs LHP Cole Irvin
107.1 MPH / 30° / 423 ft to LF
Off a 84.0 MPH changeup
▶️It's a home run in 30/30 parks.◀️
See this play in Gameday: https://t.co/52rVNu64tx pic.twitter.com/D9dVmM2e8c
Hendricks, as noted, threw pretty well, though not nearly as well as last Saturday in San Francisco (to be fair, the outing vs. the Giants might have been a career best). He got nicked for a run in the fourth and another in the fifth and you could tell he was beginning to get hit hard, so David Ross removed him in favor of Michael Fulmer for the sixth. Still, 63 strikes in 88 pitches is a worthy outing, and Hendricks continues to get more settled-in each time out, I think. He got helped out by some good defense, particularly this play in the fourth [VIDEO].
Fulmer threw a scoreless sixth, marred only by a bloop double. Innings like this are good for Fulmer to get his confidence back and hopefully he can serve as a good setup guy later on.
The Cubs then put the game away in the bottom of the sixth. The Orioles replaced their lefty starter with a righthanded reliever, so Mike Tauchman batted for Yan Gomes and walked. Trey Mancini also walked, and the runners moved up on a balk.
That was important, because with the two RISP, pinch-hitter Ian Happ drove them both in [VIDEO].
Happ advanced to second on a walk by Miguel Amaya and Nick Madrigal’s second sac bunt in as many days again put runners on second and third. This single by Nico Hoerner made it 6-2 [VIDEO].
Runners were now on first and third, but Swanson’s ground ball resulted in a tag play at the plate on Amaya.
That made it 8-2, but the Cubs weren’t done! Seiya Suzuki singled in Morel [VIDEO].
The Cubs added one more run in the seventh. Mancini led off with a double — he had a really good day, two doubles and two walks. Happ walked, then Mancini took third on an infield out. One out later, Hoerner drove in Mancini with this high bouncer that no Oriole could handle [VIDEO].
Tremendous work by the Cubs offense in this one, showing both power and long sequences of hitting. Everyone contributed in some way. This is the team I thought Jed Hoyer had put together — they have, I think, been playing way below their talent level for some time. They looked good in sweeping the Pirates and now, this win against a very good Baltimore team.
One more thing remained as the Cubs came to bat in the eighth inning. For the second straight game a Cub had a chance to complete a cycle. Morel had homered, singled and doubled. A triple is the hardest one of the four, especially in Wrigley Field, not a park conducive to triples.
Morel nearly did it, too. Only this great catch by Austin Hays prevented it [VIDEO].
If Hays doesn’t “snow cone” that ball, as the Baltimore announcer said, Morel would have had a really good chance at a triple.
Anthony Kay threw another scoreless inning in this one, and has now done that three times since recalled from Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs could use an effective lefty in the pen and perhaps they have found one.
Javier Assad allowed a run in the eighth, but finished up uneventfully in the ninth, completing the win with this strikeout [VIDEO].
The complaint department, then, is closed and locked up tight after this one, a well-played team victory. Obviously the Cubs have a way to go even to get back to .500, but they appear to be on a good path to doing so.
Justin Steele will be activated from the injured list and start Saturday’s game for the Cubs. I would imagine Assad, after throwing two innings Friday, is the likely optionee to Iowa, though we’ll find out for certain Saturday morning. Kyle Gibson will start for Baltimore. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Orioles market territories).