When the Cubs departed for the just-completed seven-game road trip to Detroit and Pittsbugh, my feeling was that they needed to go 5-2 to keep pace with, or improve their position on, other postseason contenders.
With Sunday’s well-played 10-1 win over the Pirates, the Cubs did just that, winning five of seven and taking both series, winning three of four in Pittsburgh — and really, the Cubs had decent chances to win both the games they lost.
In this game, they didn’t waste any time scoring. Nico Hoerner led off the game with a double, and two outs later Cody Bellinger singled him in [VIDEO].
That’s another nice piece of hitting by Bellinger, floating that hit to the opposite field. Whatever it takes, Jed Hoyer and Tom Ricketts — sign that guy.
Javier Assad was touched up for the tying run in the bottom of the first on a double and a pair of ground outs, but after that he slammed the door on Pirates hitters. He allowed just two more hits and struck out seven in an outstanding seven-inning outing, matching his career longest and also setting a career high in strikeouts. Assad threw just 92 pitches in an efficient outing and it sure looks like the Cubs have developed another starter out of their system. Presuming Jordan Wicks is as good as he looked Saturday, that’s three of the current starters originally signed by the organization — Wicks, Assad and Justin Steele.
The Cubs put a pair on the board in the fourth. Seiya Suzuki walked with one out, and one out later Jeimer Candelario put a baseball in the seats at PNC Park [VIDEO].
It was Jeimer’s third home run as a Cub and 19th of the season overall.
The Cubs blew the game open in the fifth. Hoerner and Dansby Swanson singled with one out, and one out later executed a double steal.
That helped result in two runs on this double by Bellinger [VIDEO].
Bellinger then scored on this double by Suzuki to make it 5-1 [VIDEO].
Suzuki has exceeded his 2022 production in runs and RBI, matched last year’s doubles total and is one home run short of equalling his 14 from last year — with more than a month remaining. His OPS after this game is .785 and he’s got a real good chance of finishing over .800, which would be excellent.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Cubs flashed some glove on this nice running catch by Mike Tauchman [VIDEO].
What a find Tauchman is — far better this year than he’s been almost anywhere else he played. He’s a good defensive center fielder and can play the other two outfield positions well. He always works good at-bats. Well done, Jed Hoyer & Co.
The Cubs made it 7-1 in the eighth. Suzuki hit his second double of the game and advanced to third on a fly ball. He scored on this infield dribbler by Candelario [VIDEO].
Two more Cubs runs scored in the ninth. Hoerner led off with a single, his third hit of the game. One out later, Ian Happ beat out an infield ground ball for a hit.
Both runners scored on Bellinger’s second double of the afternoon [VIDEO].
Bellinger drove in five runs and despite missing a month with a knee injury, now leads the Cubs in home runs and RBI, as well as OPS. His OPS of .914 ranks fifth in the National League. The numbers might not be enough for another MVP award for Bellinger, but he’ll surely get some downballot votes. Sign the guy, Jed and Tom.
One more run was to come: Bellinger took third on a throw trying to get Happ at the plate, and after Suzuki walked, Gomes grounded out and Bellinger scored the 10th Cubs run. Sorry, Yan — the highlights package didn’t include video of this play.
Keegan Thompson, who spent three months at Triple-A Iowa after a rough start to this season, finished the game by throwing two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out five. Here’s one of those five K’s; it ended the game [VIDEO].
If Thompson can pitch effectively, as he did last year, that would be a huge boost to the bullpen down the stretch.
As has been the case for nearly all the team’s wins over the last few weeks, this was yet another Cubs game where everyone contributed. Every starting player except Tauchman and Yan Gomes had a hit, and Tauchman had the nice defensive play and Gomes drove in a run. Six different Cubs scored runs and even with Bellinger driving in five, five different Cubs posted RBI on the afternoon. This team is so easy to root for with all these players picking each other up, and it happens just about every single day.
The Cubs are now 16-8 in August and have reached a season high eight games over .500 at 69-61 after starting 26-36. That makes them 43-25 since the sweep in Anaheim in June, and only the Dodgers and Braves among N.L. teams have been better over that span.
And so, my friends:
The Brewers went behind the Padres early but scored five in the sixth and lead the game late, 7-4, so it appears the Cubs will remain four games out of first place entering this week’s important series against the Brewers at Wrigley Field. The Reds and Diamondbacks, the Cubs’ other close pursuers in the division and wild-card races, have just begun play Sunday as I was completing this recap. Final scores of these games to come.
The Cubs and Brewers will open their three-game series at Wrigley Field Monday at 7:05 p.m. CT. Jameson Taillon will start for the Cubs and former Cub Wade Miley starts for the Brewers. TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.