SITE NOTE: Since this game went so quickly, I’m posting a separate recap. There will be a preview for Game 2 that will post at 4:30 p.m. CT.
The Cubs began their double dip in Cincinnati on a good note, defeating the Reds 6-2 on the strength of homers by Cody Bellinger, Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki, and some good pitching by Jordan Wicks and three Cubs relievers.
The game went scoreless through three, with Wicks and Graham Ashcraft matching zeroes, and the Cubs didn’t have any hits for that time either.
In the top of the fourth, Nico Hoerner singled, but was caught trying to steal second. That was too bad, because Bellinger followed with his 21st home run of the season [VIDEO].
So, okay, it’s 1-0 instead of 2-0. The Reds tied it up 1-1 off Wicks in the bottom of the fourth on a single, walk and an RBI single by Noelvi Marte.
Wicks completed five innings, allowing five hits and a run. He wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in his first MLB start last Saturday. He issued three walks and struck out three. Here are the three K’s [VIDEO], including one of Christian Encarnacion-Strand that ended the fifth inning.
The Cubs took the lead in the sixth. Hoerner led off with a single, and Ian Happ, who loves hitting at GABP, doubled him to third.
Daniel Palencia, who’s thrown quite well lately, threw a 1-2-3 sixth on just seven pitches. Julian Merryweather got in trouble in the seventh, hitting the Reds leadoff hitter and issuing a one-out walk, but got out of it on this nicely-turned double play [VIDEO].
The Cubs extended the lead to 4-1 in the top of the eighth. Seiya Suzuki smashed his 14th home run of the year [VIDEO].
That matches Suzuki’s home run total from 2022 — and there are 28 games remaining this season. He’s hit very well after taking a few games off to “reset.”
Keegan Thompson threw the eighth inning. He hit a batter with two out, but got out of the inning with a strikeout.
Did I mention that Happ loves hitting in Cincinnati?
Mike Tauchman led off the ninth with a single. One out later, Happ homered, his 17th of the year, and also his 17th career long ball at GABP [VIDEO].
With the lead extended to five runs, Thompson was given the ninth as well, saving Adbert Alzolay for the nightcap. Thompson allowed a pair of hits and a run, but in general Thompson has looked really good in his two outings since being recalled, and that could give a major boost to the bullpen.
This win got the Cubs to 10 games over .500, after they were 10 games under after June 8. That’s the first time in franchise history they have accomplished that, and it means they have a 46-26 record since June 8, second only to the Dodgers and Braves over that time span.
There’s a bit more about teams like this in this Jayson Stark article in The Athletic:
Weird/Wild storyline to watch — How many teams have ever been 10 under .500 that late and wound up playing postseason games? It won’t take long to go through this list.
Wild-card era (1995-2023): It’s just the 2022 Mariners (10 under on June 19).
Division-play era (1969-94): Only three teams make this group — Steve Balboni’s 1984 Royals (10 under on July 19), Manny Sanguillen’s 1974 Pirates (June 24) and Rusty Staub’s 1973 Mets (Aug. 30).
Just two of those four teams (2022 Mariners, 1974 Pirates) finished 10 or more games over .500 and made the postseason (the other two didn’t get to 10 over). The Cubs could join them.
As noted at the top of this recap, there will be a full preview posted here at 4:30 p.m. CT for the 5:40 p.m. CT Game 2 start. In an effort to get this recap to you quickly, I posted it before the Game 2 starters were announced. Supposedly, Shane Greene, who was just recalled from Triple-A Iowa today, is on track to start for the Cubs, but that has not yet been made official. Ben Lively has been mentioned as a possible Reds starter for Game 2. “As always, we await developments.”