The Cubs hosted the Phillies on a frigid spring night at Wrigley Field as lefty José Quintana took the mound against Zach Eflin. The relatively unknown right-hander came into tonight’s matchup sporting a 2.89 ERA for the year and has quietly outperformed Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola, the higher-profile pitchers in the rotation.
The Cubs got on the board early thanks to some genius baserunning by Kris Bryant, who scored from second base on a groundout to short. With one out and a full count, the Cubs sent Bryant and Anthony Rizzo on the pitch. Willson Contreras did his job on the hit-and-run, knocking a grouner to Jean Segura. While Segura took it easy on the play, Bryant rounded third base on a mission and scored.
After Kyle Schwarber took a two out walk in the 4th, Bryant came up with a line drive into the left field corner. Schwarber rounded third and scored on the double, but was called back to third base after a challenge proved that the ball went out of play for a ground-rule double.
The cold, windy weather made it difficult for either offense to get anything going, and this game settled into a pitchers’ duel. Quintana continued his string of strong starts, cruising through six shutout innings and only surrendering two hits. Eflin settled down after early control issues to match Quintana’s six innings while only giving up the lone run.
The bullpen took over top of the 7th inning and immediately ran into trouble. Struggling flamethrower Carl Edwards Jr. could only muster two outs before relinquishing the inning to Brandon Kintzler. The typically trusted reliever immediately gave up a soft single, allowing both of the runners inherited from Edwards to score.
The Cubs offense continued to threaten and finally broke through in the bottom of the 9th thanks again to Bryant’s baserunning abilities. With the bases loaded and one out, Albert Almora Jr. slapped a swinging bunt back to the pitcher. Bryant bolted home and barely beat the potential force out at the plate to tie the game.
With the stage set for maximum drama, the Cubs pulled their ace out of their sleeve and put Javy Báez in to pinch hit. He wasted no time, knocking the first pitch of the at-bat into right field for a walk-off single to win the game. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
The Cubs offense continued to put pressure on all night and finally took advantage of the opportunity in the bottom of the 9th to walk it off.
Bryant starred in this game, but in a different fashion than we typically admire. The Cubs scored their first two runs because of his baserunning acumen and speed, which had a major impact on the game. If he does not react quickly to the soft hit by Almora, he gets thrown out at home and the Cubs don’t tie the game.
Stats That Matter
- Quintana gave the Cubs another quality start and has allowed 3 earned runs or fewer in all but one start on the year.
- After leaving nine runners on base yesterday, the Cubs again struggled to produce clutch hitting. Hitters went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 15 runners on base. That one hit was a big one, though.
- Reliever Kyle Ryan bounced back after yesterday’s loss. The struggling lefty sports a 4.60 ERA, but remains an important part of the bullpen. Joe Maddon called upon him again in an important situation, and he responded by shutting down the potential rally before the Phillies could add insurance runs in the top of the 9th.
This game looked to follow yesterday’s storyline: Quality starting pitching, several failed chances to score with runners in scoring position, and a bullpen blowing the lead. However, Báez played the hero yet again, and sent the cold Cubs fans home happy for the night.
The Cubs look to continue their momentum with the third matchup of the four-game series Wednesday evening. It will be a battle of the Coles, with Cubs veteran Cole Hamels facing off against Phillies rookie Cole Irvin. Catch the game at 7:05pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago or listen on 670 The Score.