You guys are fortunate, because before the Cubs came back and won this game 8-6, I had a whole rant ready about how they outsmarted themselves with the “opener” strategy with Michael Fulmer and Drew Smyly, because not starting Smyly led the Cardinals to put two hitters (Lars Nootbaar and Nolan Gorman) in the lineup when those two probably wouldn’t have started against a lefty starter — and both of them homered, one off Fulmer and one off Smyly.
Oh. I see I did the rant anyway. Well, that’s fine, because even with those homers and several other Cardinals runs, the Cubs came from behind to tie this game three times and then take the lead with a well-executed sixth inning. So... apart from the note above. the complaint department is closed.
The aforementioned Nootbaar homer came on Fulmer’s first pitch of the game, after the beginnings of the proceedings were delayed 25 minutes by rain, so that was definitely not a good way to start off. Fulmer allowed two more baserunners in the first, then got out of the inning with a double play. Another single led off the second, but Fulmer then retired the next three Cardinals in order, two by strikeout.
So... I guess that’s not a terrible “opener” stint, but it wasn’t great either, and it didn’t really work out that well.
The Cubs tied the game in the bottom of the second. Dansby Swanson, just returned from missing two weeks on the injured list with a heel injury, led off with a double. Christopher Morel singled him in [VIDEO].
Then Smyly entered the game, with the hope that maybe he could throw five innings and get the game to the seventh. The first two Cardinals got hits off him, with a run scoring,a and then Smyly’s own error helped lead to a second run in the inning, to make it 3-1 St. Louis.
But the Cubs came right back in the bottom of the inning. Nico Hoerner blooped a single to right and advanced to second on a single by Ian Happ.
After Seiya Suzuki struck out, Swanson’s second hit of the day tied the game again [VIDEO].
After that, Bellinger went to third and tried to score on a wild pitch, but was thrown out to end the inning. In the fourth, Happ flashed some glove [VIDEO].
The Cardinals took a 5-3 lead in the fifth. After Smyly struck out the first two hitters, Gorman homered and two more St. Louis hits, including an RBI double by Willson Contreras, gave them that pair of runs. (Incidentally, Contreras left the game in the sixth with what was described as “right hip tightness.”)
The Cubs, however, did not let that lead last long. Hoerner led off with a double and had to hold at third on a bloop double by Happ.
There’s only one out here and one out later, Christopher Morel walked to put Suzuki in scoring position, but Yan Gomes hit into a force play to end the inning.
Smyly got in trouble again in the sixth after the first two Cardinals were routine outs. Nootbaar singled and that was it for Smyly, who threw 79 pitches and didn’t complete four innings of work. Daniel Palencia relieved and wild-pitched Nootbaar to second. Then Palencia walked the next two hitters to load the bases and wild-pitched again, with the lead run scoring [VIDEO].
Yikes. The Cubs need better relief work than this. (NARRATOR: “They got it, later.”)
In the bottom of the sixth with one out, Mike Tauchman singled and went to second on a wild pitch (is that a theme here?). Hoerner and Happ then walked, and Bellinger gave the Cubs a 7-6 lead [VIDEO].
The Cubs weren’t done in that inning, either. Suzuki’s second hit of the game scored Happ to make it 8-6 [VIDEO].
Then it started to rain, lightly at first, while Morel and Gomes struck out to end the inning. Julian Merryweather threw a 1-2-3 top of the seventh with two strikeouts as the weather got much less merry at Wrigley, with a hard rain beginning to fall just as the Cubs were about to bat in the bottom of the seventh.
A rain delay of an hour and 27 minutes ensued, with this bit of entertainment:
The Tarp Monster claimed a pair of victims Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field in a hilarious sequence of events.https://t.co/YTptORq53o— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) July 22, 2023
Fortunately, no one was injured.
When the game resumed, the Cubs got a couple of runners on in the bottom of the seventh and might have scored a couple of runs but for this nice grab by Nootbaar [VIDEO].
Chip Caray left one thing out on his call — Nootbaar turned the wrong way not just once, but twice, and the look on Bellinger’s face tells the whole story. That could have been a two-run double.
Anyway, Mark Leiter Jr. issued a two-out walk in the eighth but escaped scoreless, and then the Cubs had a leadoff single from Suzuki in the bottom of the inning, his third of the game, but could not score.
That left it up to Adbert Alzolay to close things out. He caught a line drive for the first out, allowed a single, then struck out the next two Cardinals to end it.
Not counting the rain delay, that game went three hours, 15 minutes, tied for the longest nine-inning game the Cubs have played this year. That’s largely because there were 25 hits, 10 walks and 14 runs scored, and the teams combined for 358 pitches. That’s about 100 more pitches than the MLB average for a nine-inning game.
It was soggy and sloppy, but entertaining, and this Cubs team, I am telling you, can put together a winning streak now. They’re starting to play at their talent level, and I still believe this club has a chance at a postseason spot. If they win Sunday, to take three of four from the Cardinals — does that stop a selloff? I think it does. As always, we await developments.
The Cubs got cute with the “opener” Saturday, not even announcing Fulmer as the starter until after Friday’s game, but will not do the same thing Sunday. Jameson Taillon is the scheduled starter for the Cubs — and let’s hope he has an outing like the one he had in New York against the Yankees. He’ll face Cardinals lefty Jordan Montgomery. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.