The Cubs are in the midst of a grinding month-long stretch without a scheduled off day and the strain has been showing of late with a losing record the last 10 games. Friday night saw the Northsiders with an available bullpen that could best be described as limited. Yet somehow, when the smoke cleared the home team had a one-run win.
Cole Hamels looked sharp early with three clean innings, but Matt Harvey matched him zero for zero. The Reds finally took the lead when Jose Peraza and Joey Votto hit back-to-back solo homers to left field in the 4th to put Cincinnati up 2-0.
Hamels battled through six-plus innings, pitching around baserunners all night. Harvey was even better, keeping the Cubs off the board through six innings of his own. It looked as if it was going to be another frustrating offensive night for Joe Maddon’s team.
Then the Reds made a crucial mistake in the bottom of the 7th inning. Victor Caratini singled and David Bote hit a ground ball right to Eugenio Suarez at third. What should have been a 5-4-3 double play was instead booted for an error. Two batters later, Ian Happ took David Hernandez deep to left for a go-ahead three-run homer.
Despite loading the bases later in the inning, the Cubs could not build on the 3-2 lead and Maddon had to go an unusual route to close things out. Dillon Maples had gotten the last out of the 7th, after which Chicago tapped veteran starters to handle the 8th and 9th innings.
Jamie Garcia needed only 10 pitches to retire Votto, Suarez, and Scooter Gennett in the 8th inning, then things got a little dicey as Jorge De La Rosa tried for his first career save in the 9th inning. Curt Casali doubled and Billy Hamilton walked to put two on with two out before Scott Schebler flew out to end the game. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Hamels kept the Cubs in the game long enough for a rally and an undermanned pen was able to protect it.
Suarez’s error was the turning point of the game. A double play there snuffs out a rally and it’s not clear if another one would have materialized. Happ gets credit for making it hurt.
Stats That Matter
- Hamels wasn’t on top of his game but did enough: 6.2 IP, 2 R, 8 H, 7 K, and 2 BB. His ability to limit damage especially in the 4th and 6th innings was the difference tonight.
- Ben Zobrist just keeps hitting, logging three more hits tonight.
- Maples got one batter but it was enough to earn the Cubs Insider favorite his first career win. That paired with De La Rosa’s save for a night of firsts.
Things aren’t going to come easy for the Cubs right now. Fatigue and injuries are making most games a battle, but this team has found ways to win the last two days. The win keeps them 1.5 ahead of Milwaukee for another day.
Game two of the series is at 3:05pm CT on Saturday. Cody Reed faces off against Jon Lester in a game available on NBC Sports Chicago.