The Cubs kicked off the second half of the season at Camden Yards against the Orioles. An early offensive explosion looked like it would be more than enough, but a pitching meltdown made for a dramatic finish.
The Cubs came flying out of the gate against shaky Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman. Ben Zobrist doubled, Anthony Rizzo singled, and Willson Contreras hit a long homer to left-center to make it 3-0. Kyle Schwarber took the next pitch to nearly the exact spot for back-to-back homers.
Zobrist added to that lead with a two-run blast to right in the 2nd inning. When Jason Heyward repeated the feat in the 3rd, it became an 8-0 runaway.
Things don’t seem to come that easily for the 2017 Cubs, though, and the Orioles (almost predictably) began a rally. A Wellington Castillo homer and Chris Davis RBI double made it an 8-2 game after four innings.
Starter Mike Montgomery hit big trouble in the 5th inning, when a single and a double knocked the lefty out of the game. Justin Grimm, on in relief, did not have it on Friday. RBI singles from Mark Trumbo, Trey Mancini, and Joey Rickard slashed the lead to 8-6. Grimm finally escaped the frame with the lead intact.
The Orioles threatened in the 6th and 7th innings, but failed to score. The Cubs’ luck ran out in the 8th with Koji Uehara on the hill. Jonathan Schoop singled and Trumbo hit an absolute moonshot to left to tie the game at 8 apiece.
Addison Russell finally helped Chicago fight back in the 9th inning. The shortstop took reliever Brad Brach out to left to put the Northsiders up 9-8.
Wade Davis entered to close it out and went 1-2-3 to save the 9-8, nail-bitting Cubs victory. Thank goodness it wasn’t an exhibition game.
Stats That Matter
- With a double, a long homer, and a walk in five at bats, Ben Zobrist looks like he benefited from the time off over the break.
- Jason Heyward hit the ball hard Friday night with a double and a bomb to right. His home run might have been the hardest ball he has hit in a Cubs uniform.
- Mike Montgomery, in what might be one of his last starts, was unable to go deep in the game with a big lead: 4.1 IP, 4 R, 5 H, 2 K, and 2 BB. The quick hook put pressure on the Chicago relievers, who failed to keep the lead.
The Cubs took what looked like an easy win and almost turned it into a disastrous loss, if not for Addison Russell’s timely bomb. The theme this season appears to be: It don’t come easy. In the end, a win is certainly better than a loss.
Game two of the three-game series is set for 6:05 CT on Saturday. Jake Arrieta takes on lefty Wade Miley in a game that can be seen on ABC-7.