Chicago entered Wednesday’s brunch-time game with the Braves looking for a second consecutive sweep. A solid pitching performance and a red-hot offense made for an easy win and perfect start to the second half.
Kris Bryant doubled off of knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey in the 1st inning, then tried to advance to third on a ball in the dirt and was thrown out by catcher Tyler Flowers. Even worse, KB jammed his hand sliding headfirst and had to leave the game. Luckily for Cubs fans everywhere, it was only a left pinkie strain and is not considered serious.
Kyle Schwarber walked in the 2nd inning and advanced to second on wild pitch. Addison Russell followed with a double to left to score Schwarber and give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
Mike Montgomery will probably move back to the bullpen after Wednesday’s start, but he left on a high note by holding the Braves hitless through the first four innings he pitched. Not content with just pitching well, Monty decided to bring the lumber as well. The Cubs hurler blasted a long homer to right in the 5th inning to increase the lead to 2-0.
Tommy La Stella (filling in for Bryant) followed in the 6th inning with a solo shot that just made it over the right field wall. After pitching around runners on second and third with one out in the 5th, Montgomery allowed his only run in the 6th on an Ender Inciarte leadoff homer that cut the Chicago lead to 3-1.
The Northsiders got that run right back in the 7th inning, when Javy Baez doubled off of Dickey and Russell knocked him in with his second RBI double of the game.
Justin Grimm took over in the 7th and allowed a blast to Tyler Flowers (the fourth solo homer of the game) to close the gap a bit more. Grimm has struggled recently, but he did get the next three to keep it at a 4-2 score.
In the 8th, La Stella singled and Schwarber walked against reliever Rex Brothers. Jose Ramirez came on to face Baez with two down and it did not go well. Javy smoked a three-run shot to dead center to make it a 7-2 Cubs lead.
The Braves loaded the bases against Koji Uehara in the bottom of the inning, but Pedro Strop got Matt Kemp to ground into a double play to end the threat.
Ian Happ added an RBI single off of former Cubs reliever Arodys Vizcaino in the 9th and a rejuvenated Hector Rondon struck out the side to close out the 8-2 victory.
Stats That Matter
- Mike Montgomery was very good in what might have been his last turn in the rotation: 6 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 5 K, and 1 BB. Not to mention his home run. He has pitched very well in the pen and should bolster that unit.
- Tommy La Stella was pressed into action with Bryant’s injury and had a productive game. He added a single to his homer in four at-bats.
- Addison Russell had a four-hit game on Wednesday, including two RBI doubles. After a terrible start in 2017, Addy is slugging more and has his average up to .240.
- Jay Baez is on a tear this road trip. Wednesday it was a double and the back-breaking three-run bomb in the 8th.
The Cubs limped into the All-Star break looking lost, but what a difference a week makes. A perfect 6-0 road trip has thrust them right back into the NL Central race. It’s safe to say this is the best they have looked all season.
Chicago tries to keep the momentum going against the rival Cardinals at Wrigley. Jake Arrieta battles Carlos Martinez Friday at 1:20 CT. The game can be seen on MLB Network (out of market) and ABC-7.