One week ago, after the Cubs blew out the Reds in Cincinnati, they trailed the Brewers by 3½ games in the N.L. Central and the Phillies by 2½ games in the wild card race.
Now, after a week filled with a series sweep and then three straight losses, the Cubs trail Milwaukee by three games and Philadelphia by two.
Feel better now? Yes, a week’s worth of games got crossed off the calendar, but the Cubs actually gained half a game on both those clubs over the seven days.
I’ll get to the Cubs’ competitors for postseason spots in a bit, but first, a look back at the Cubs’ win Sunday on a sun-kissed afternoon at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs entered Sunday having scored just four runs in the first three games of the series against the Diamondbacks, none of which was a home run.
So it was good to see the Cubs dig out the long ball bats in the third inning. Christopher Morel, Cody Bellinger and Dansby Swanson all homered, and the Cubs rode a good outing from Kyle Hendricks and some solid relief work to a 5-2 win over Arizona. That ended the Cubs’ three-game losing streak and brought them back to 10 games over .500.
Hendricks breezed through the first inning and then the Cubs got to work. Morel led off with a triple, but was caught in a rundown on what appeared to be a contact play with Nico Hoerner at bat and thrown out [VIDEO].
Nico then stole second, which was important on this hit by Seiya Suzuki [VIDEO].
That gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
Hendricks breezed through the second and third and then the Cubs brought out the home-run bats.
That was Swanson’s 20th of the year, which put him in an exclusive club — this courtesy BCB’s JohnW53:
Dansby Swanson is just the 6th different Cubs shortstop to hit 20 home runs in a season.
Ernie Banks, 7 times, high of 47 (1958)
Javier Baez, 2 times, high of 29 (2019)
Addison Russell, 1 time, 21 (2016)
Roy Smalley, 1 time, 21 (1950)
Alex Gonzalez, 1 time, 20 (2003)
Dansby Swanson, 1 time, 20 (2023)
Before Sunday, the last time the Cubs hit three home runs in an inning was June 18 at Wrigley Field against the Orioles — same way, three solo homers in the third, those by Miguel Amaya, Swanson and Morel. The Cubs won that game 10-3.
Hendricks got touched up for a run in the fifth, and it might have been more if not for this heads-up play by Ian Happ [VIDEO].
Not sure what Emmanuel Rivera was thinking on that play, but the first two outs of the fifth were recorded and Hendricks got out of it on a popup to Nick Madrigal.
The Cubs extended their lead to 5-1 in the bottom of the fifth. Nico led off with an infield hit and again stole second, his 38th of the year.
Hendricks began to get hit hard in the sixth, and was removed after he issued a two-out walk and a run had scored to make it 5-2. Jose Cuas was summoned and he got Rivera to hit into a force play to end the inning.
The Cubs’ bats mostly went silent after the sixth — a walk by Mike Tauchman in the seventh and single by Swanson, his third hit of the game, were it. Tauchman, incidentally, replaced Jeimer Candelario after the fourth and here’s why:
Jeimer Candelario came out of the game today because his back tightened up. Ross said he’s getting checked out.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) September 10, 2023
Let’s hope it’s nothing serious.
The Cubs bullpen rose to the occasion after the sixth. Mark Leiter Jr. threw a scoreless seventh, though he allowed a walk and a hit. He got helped out by this caught stealing play [VIDEO].
Hayden Wesneski was given a high-leverage inning, the eighth, and he did fine, allowing a two-out single but no runs. Hopefully that’s a confidence-builder for him.
With Adbert Alzolay not available Sunday, Julian Merryweather was given the assignment of closer. He issued a leadoff walk — that’s the one thing about Merryweather, he occasionally has command/control issues. But the next three D-backs went down in order.
This was the first out of the ninth, a nice running catch by Tauchman [VIDEO].
That’s the first save for Merryweather as a Cub and third of his MLB career.
In a wacky, crazy game at Yankee Stadium, the Brewers took a no-hitter into the 11th inning of a scoreless game, but eventually dropped the game 4-3 to the Yankees in 13 innings. There’s been only one game longer than that by innings in MLB this year — a 14-inning, 5-4 Cubs loss to the Marlins on May 7 at Wrigley.
Thank you, Yankees — that helped out the Cubs tremendously, as noted above, bringing the Cubs to within three games of the top spot in the N.L. Central.
The Marlins’ win over the Phillies Sunday moved the Cubs to within two games of the Phillies for the top wild-card spot. The Cubs’ win put them two games ahead of the Diamondbacks in the wild card race.
That’s where we stand entering an important road trip for the Cubs, three games in Colorado against the Rockies, then three at Arizona against the D-backs. The Cubs would have to sweep Arizona to have the tiebreaker for wild-card purposes. (Most likely, a sweep would mean the tiebreaker wouldn’t mean much anyway.)
The series in Denver against the Rockies begins Monday evening. Jordan Wicks will start for the Cubs. At this writing the Rockies do not have a starter listed (and they’re playing in the Sunday night game on ESPN against the GIants). Game time Monday is 7:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.