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Cubs 4, Royals 3: More drama than we needed

This looked like a fairly easy win for a while, but the Royals made it close in the ninth.

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Thank you, Miguel Amaya, for hitting a home run in the eighth inning.

This is why they call runs like that “insurance runs,” because that gave the Cubs a 4-1 lead that seemed fairly safe. Unfortunately, Adbert Alzolay wasn’t on his best game Sunday and allowed the Royals two runs in the ninth, meaning Amaya’s home run was very, very important in the Cubs’ 4-3 win on a warm, humid afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Kyle Hendricks was touched up for a run in the first inning, which included a pair of Royals stolen bases. The scouting report must have read, “You can run on Hendricks and Amaya,” because the Royals did. (In fact, they were pesky with stolen bases all weekend, stealing six bases in the series.)

The Cubs got that run back and another in the bottom of the first. Nico Hoerner singled with one out. Ian Happ was the next hitter [VIDEO].

KC center fielder Kyle Isbel let Happ’s ball get by him. Hoerner scored and Happ wound up on third, where he scored on this sac fly by Cody Bellinger [VIDEO].

Both runs in that inning were unearned off Jordan Lyles. Both would turn out to be very, very important.

Hendricks settled down after the first inning and allowed just three more hits. Only one more Royals runner got past first base until Kyle was lifted with one out in the seventh to a warm ovation.

The Royals played some good defense. This is MJ Melendez with a diving catch of a sinking liner by Dansby Swanson in the fourth [VIDEO].

In the top of the fifth, the Royals put runners on second and third with two out and KC’s best player, Bobby Witt Jr., came to the plate. This situation pretty much screamed out for an intentional walk, but David Ross and his staff don’t like doing that. Cubs pitchers have issued just four intentional walks all year, which is tied for second-fewest among all MLB teams.

Hendricks got out of that inning by retiring Witt on this fly to right [VIDEO].

The Cubs increased their lead to 3-1 in the fifth. With two out, Seiya Suzuki deposited a baseball into the left-field bleachers [VIDEO].

Hendricks finished his outing with 90 pitches and just one run allowed. He walked one and struck out three. This was one of his better starts of the year and hopefully a good sign going forward.

Mark Leiter Jr. took care of the Royals in what remained of the seventh and Julian Merryweather threw a 1-2-3 eighth.

With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Amaya hit his fourth homer of the year [VIDEO].

Take a look at that video, then the one of Suzuki’s long ball. It was basically the same pitch, a sweeper that didn’t sweep and got left up in the zone. You can also see Lyles’ reaction, pretty much the same on both. It was Amaya’s first homer since August 1 vs. the Reds and just his second since June 16.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this recap, that home run was extremely important, because Alzolay wasn’t as sharp as usual. With one out, the Royals put together three singles that plated one run, and then a ground out scored a second run to make it 4-3 and put the tying run in scoring position.

Alzolay finished it off with this grounder to Swanson [VIDEO].

The Cubs thus won the series and went 3-2 on the homestand. They have also matched their season high by again reaching five games over .500. That’s all good, but they probably should have gone 4-1 against the White Sox and Royals and they’ll now need to win quite a number of games on the upcoming road trip to keep pace with their competitors. Here’s how those teams did today:

  • The Reds lost to the Blue Jays, so the Cubs are now a full game ahead of Cincinnati in both the division and wild card races.
  • The Brewers, at this writing, appear poised to sweep the Rangers. If so, the Cubs will be alone in second place in the N.L. Central, but three games out.
  • The Cubs are alone in the third wild-card spot, a full game ahead of the Reds, Diamondbacks and Marlins and two games up in the loss column on all three teams.
  • The Cubs trail the Giants by half a game for the second wild-card spot and are three games behind the Phillies for the top wild-card spot, pending the Phillies’ game tonight vs. the Nationals.

A couple more notes: The Royals’ ninth-inning rally prevented this game from being finished in under two hours, which would have been the Cubs’ first nine-inning sub-two-hour game in 21 years. At 2:02, though, it was the fastest nine-inning game at Wrigley Field in 18 years, since a 2-1 win over the Phillies May 8, 2005 that went two hours exactly.

Jordan Lyles also threw a complete game. I wondered about pitchers who throw CG’s in a loss on the road, and the last pitcher to do that was... Lyles, two weeks ago at St. Louis. But the last visiting pitcher at Wrigley Field to do that before today was Gavin Floyd of the White Sox, who did it June 13, 2010, a 1-0 Cubs win where Ted Lilly took a no-hitter into the ninth.

The Cubs head off to a seven-game road trip to Detroit and Pittsburgh. These are two more teams the Cubs should do well against, though I should note the Tigers just got finished taking three of four over the Guardians and just a couple of weeks ago swept the Twins at home. The Cubs have to treat this series seriously.

Javier Assad will throw the series opener Monday evening at Comerica Park. The Tigers will counter with righthander Alex Faedo. Game time is 5:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.