Cubs Record: 73-41 (14 games up in NL Central)
W: Jake Arrieta (14-5, 2.55 ERA)
L: Adam Wainwright (9-7, 4.72)
MVP: Mat Szczur (3-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R)
It’s hard not to be satisfied with a 10-game winning streak. Yet, with Jake Arrieta on the bump and the Cardinals in town for the second of a four-game set, a loss really wouldn’t have been acceptable. Which is why Joe Maddon held Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward out of the lineup Friday afternoon. Okay, so the latter of those may not really be seen as a big loss.The moral of the story is that it looked almost like the Cubs were punting the game, or at least running a draw on third-and-long just to play the field-position game. Perhaps Maddon wanted to pay homage to Alshon Jeffery, who was in attendance.
Rain had dampened the city through much of the morning, but the sun managed to break through the clouds prior to gametime and everything went off without delay. I had seen earlier that the aforementioned players were resting, which made sense given the wet matinee following a late night affair. But then I saw Matt Szczur in Fowler’s spot and I wondered whether I’d picked the wrong game to attend.
The Red Menace may no longer be the scourge of the free world and the Olympics (though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the jingoistic narratives and the CCCP track suits), but it was alive and well in Wrigleyville Friday. Crusing down Addison was like commuting through the Easter Bloc, it was so red. No checkpoints, though, so that was good.
I met up with Corey Freedman, fellow blogger and Javy Baez fan, and headed into the game. Armed with a Gilbert’s Aloha sausage and a Green Line, I feared neither the impending rain nor the Redbirds. But Matt Szczur hitting leadoff? Man, I wasn’t ready for that. Until he doubled to right in a 2-1 count to start the onslaught. The Cubs would add 13 more hits (5 home runs) and 13 runs, pounding Waino and Co into oblivion to push their winning streak to 11 games.
Szczur paced the blowout Friday with the impressive line you saw above. He came to the plate in each of the first three innings, adding a hit by pitch and a strikeout to his leadoff double. Then he welcomed former Cub Jerome Williams to the game in the 6th with a homer that pushed the score to 8-1. Williams was still pitching when Szczur came up in the 7th, and the result was the same. That made it 13-1.[beautifulquote align=”left”]Five different batters collected multiple hits, five of which left the yard.[/beautifulquote]
Jake Arrieta wasn’t necessarily great again, but he didn’t really need to be. A couple errors conspired to push his pitch count to 105 through 5 2/3 innings, over which he allowed only 4 hits. Arrieta’s lone mistake was a sinker to Stephen Piscotty that was taken out to center.
The Cubs offense was just on fire Friday, as five different batters collected multiple hits, five of which left the yard. Jorge Soler’s 6th inning shot off of Williams just barely cleared the basket in left-center and was the only Cubs homer that wasn’t a no-doubter.
After the extra-innings nail-biter Thursday night, it was good to see the drama removed from this game right from the start. And though I’ve become more objective and laid-back as I’ve aged, I still take great pleasure in absolutely demoralizing the Cardinals. So watching the Cubs hammer Waino and hearing Cards fans forced to cheer heartily for runs that closed their gap to 1-7 and 2-13, respectively, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh.
Kris Bryant and Javier Baez committed errors on what appeared to be routine plays, forcing Arrieta to throw as many as 18 more pitches than he should have in the 2nd and 4th innings. You can’t assume that everything would have played out the same had those plays been made and the Cubs have been the best defensive team in baseball otherwise, so it’s a minor gripe.
Adam Wainwright and Jerome Williams were guh-ross. I had thought Mike Matheny was going to let Waino wear it after giving up 7 earned runs in only 2 innings pitched. He even let the pitcher bat for himself to lead off the 3rd, which resulted in the Cards’ only hit to that point. But the starter was lifted for Seth Maness after throwing only 56 pitches.
Williams, on the other hand, was not so lucky. He actually looked pretty good in the 8th inning, when he needed only 7 pitches to retire the side. It was his first 51 pitches, which featured 6 earned runs 6 hits (4 home runs), that made this an outing to forget. Well, for Williams and the Cards anyway. I though it was pretty awesome.
I should probably address some of the bean-ball shaming here, too, as that’s sort of an unfortunate sidebar to the game. Maddon made some preemptive comments following Thursday’s game, which saw Matt Holliday lost to a broke thumb. There’s been some history with the Cards, and with this rivalry in particular, when it comes to retaliation and being the arbiters of baseball justice in general.[beautifulquote align=”right”]Assuming that the team on the field is going to exact the pound of flesh that our caricature of them would is a bridge too far.[/beautifulquote]
The whole Cardinal Way business is a little silly, particularly when you’re talking about those folks who really buy into it (that would be the BFIB crowd). But assuming ahead of time that the team on the field is going to exact the pound of flesh that our caricature of them would is a bridge too far, particularly for Maddon and those who are speaking about it publicly.
Kyle Hendricks looks to maintain his recent dominance as he and the Cubs take on the Cards and rookie Luke Weaver, who is making his major league debut. With his peach fuzz mustache, Weaver is one of the few opponents outside of Craig Counsell who could actually pass for younger than Hendricks. First pitch will be at 1:20 CT.