Cubs Record: 81-45 (1st Place NL Central)
W: Kyle Hendricks (12-7, 2.19)
L: Paul Clemens (2-3, 5.06)
S: Aroldis Chapman (9)
MVP: Ben Zobrist: 2-4, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 R
The Cubs looked to complete a sweep of the San Diego Padres Wednesday afternoon at PetCo Park. Kyle Hendricks looked to continue his scintillating season on the mound for Chicago. Righty Paul Clemens matched up against Hendricks for the Friars.
Clemens pitched decidedly un-Roger-like in the 1st inning as Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant hit back-to-back doubles to open the game. Ben Zobrist followed with a two-run triple to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Jorge Soler then added a sacrifice fly to make it a 3-0 advantage. The Padres starter settled in after that, throwing 4 scoreless innings after the 1st.
Hendricks didn’t have his best stuff today on the bump, leaving a lot of pitches up early. Ryan Schimpf tripled in the bottom of the 2nd and scored on a Brett Wallace sac fly. Wil Myers tripled home Travis Jankowski in the bottom of the 3rd inning to make it a 3-2 game. Hendricks then retired three straight San Diego hitters to strand Myers at third.
The Cubs staged a rally in the top of the 6th when Bryant and Zobrist singled to begin the frame against a tiring Clemens. After both runners advanced on a wild pitch, Addison Russell hit a grounder to short that Luis Sardinas missed, allowing two runs scored to make it 5-2 Cubs. In the 7th inning, catcher Willson Contreras took reliever Brad Hand out to the opposite field for a solo homer, bringing the score to 6-2.
After stranding Myers at third, the Professor pitched 3 shutout innings to post another quality start. Trevor Cahill relieved Hendricks and pitched a clean 7th inning. Cahill went out for the 8th, but gave up a two-out RBI double to Schimpf to cut the lead to 6-3. Justin Grimm entered and got the final out to end the inning. After giving up a leadoff single, closer Aroldis Chapman shut the door in the 9th. Cubs win 6-3.
Ben Zobrist had a nice day at the plate with a single and the two-run triple. Bryant also had productive two-hit day to continue his epic run. Jorge Soler had a two-hit day as well as a sacrifice fly in the big 1st inning.
Contreras went deep, but his work behind the dish is really what has been good lately. He was able to steal a few strikes on some borderline Hendricks pitches Wednesday and has really improved when it comes to walks allowed by his battery-mates. As Evan has noted, Contreras has been much better on defense than most Cubs fans could have hoped for. At this rate, the young catcher is on his way to becoming a franchise player.
Hendricks did a very good job with less than his best stuff Wednesday. It’s always a good sign when a pitcher can still pitch well despite not being totally on point. Hendricks just continues to pile up quality starts and he seems well on his way to earning a spot in the playoff rotation.
Aroldis Chapman was able to secure another save Wednesday afternoon. Once again, however, he allowed the leadoff batter to reach base. It might be a sign of the impossibly high standards Chapman has set that this recent stretch is called a slump. Still, here’s to hoping the Cuban Missile gets back on track down the stretch.
In the 5th, Sardinas completely whiffed on Russell’s routine grounder to short with the infield pulled in. If he fields it cleanly, Sardinas had a decent chance to nail Bryant at home. Instead, two runs scored and the Padres never got close to the Cubs again.
The Cubs are going Hollywood this weekend as they head to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers for three games. Mike Montgomery (4-5, 2.41 ERA) looks to build off his very good four-inning start in Denver on Saturday. Bud Norris (6-10, 4.69 ERA) goes for the Dodgers at 9:10 CT on Friday night. One more W assures a winning road trip for Chicago, and the Dodgers are a potential playoff matchup for the Cubs. Should be an interesting series at Chavez Ravine.