After a frustrating loss in New York Wednesday, the Cubs really needed a starter to step up.
And that’s exactly what they got. Javier Assad threw seven innings for the first time in his career, and they were excellent innings. He allowed just one run on four hits and the Cubs blasted two first-inning home runs and cruised to a 6-2 win over the Blue Jays.
Assad was given a good lead before he threw a pitch. With one out in the top of the first, Nico Hoerner went deep [VIDEO].
Ian Happ followed with a single and Cody Bellinger launched a two-run shot [VIDEO].
Check out the Cubs relievers in the bullpen as Bellinger’s homer leaves the yard.
Assad breezed through the first three innings, allowing just two hits and a walk. That included this slick defensive play by Bellinger [VIDEO].
Then the Cubs bats got to work again in the fourth. Dansby Swanson reached on an error and one out later, Jeimer Candelario singled him to third. Seiya Suzuki scored both runners with this double [VIDEO].
David Ross made the choice to start Suzuki instead of Nick Madrigal (with Bellinger moving to first, Candelario to third and Mike Tauchman to center) and it paid off. Whatever Suzuki has been doing in his time not starting (it has been termed a “mental reset”) appears to be working, as he now has a double, triple and home run over his last two games.
Anyway, Tauchman then scored Suzuki with this base hit for the Cubs’ sixth run [VIDEO].
Assad continued to mow down Blue Jays hitters, allowing just two more hits. He retired the last 10 Toronto hitters he faced, the last one, Daulton Varsho, on this sliding catch by Happ [VIDEO].
Assad threw 90 pitches in a game for the first time this year. He struck out just two, but then strikeouts aren’t really his game. Ground balls are, and he had eight ground-ball outs among his 21 outs recorded. He’s earned the right to continue in the rotation, in my view. Here’s a breakdown of his outing [VIDEO].
Michael Fulmer got touched up for a run in the eighth on a solo homer by Brandon Belt and so the Cubs took a four-run lead into the ninth. Adbert Alzolay came into the game in a non-save situation, struck out the first two hitters, then issued a two-out walk.
The complaint department, thus, is closed for this one, a fine team effort. This was supposed to be the “tough” pitching matchup of the series with Jose Berrios going for Toronto, but Assad proved up to the challenge and the Cubs had no trouble hitting Berrios. They’ve got a real good chance to win this series with the two pitching matchups upcoming.
The Brewers and Reds both won Friday, so the Cubs remain in a virtual tie for second place in the N.L. Central with Cincinnati, a fraction of a percentage point (.5172 to .5169) ahead, 2½ games out of first place. The Cubs and Reds are also in that same virtual tie for the final wild card spot, since the Marlins lost Friday.
This was the final appearance of 2023 for the Cubs on Apple TV+. I know many of you don’t subscribe to the streaming service and so couldn’t watch this game, and we’ve been through discussion of whether this sort of thing is good for baseball or not. But, perhaps you might want the Cubs to appear on Apple TV+ more often. They played four games on the streaming service this year and won all of them. (Yes, I know it doesn’t matter what channel the game is on for wins and losses.)
The Cubs will go for two in a row over the Jays Saturday afternoon. Justin Steele gets the start for the Cubs and he will face Blue Jays righthander Chris Bassitt. Game time is 2:07 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Blue Jays market territories).