Everyone expected this series to be a walkover and that’s exactly what it’s been so far, though the Cubs have come out victorious in two straight games after dropping their previous 10. They’ve done it behind solid pitching performances, shutting the Braves out Friday and holding them at bay Saturday behind Justin Steele and three relievers.
Steele went five innings to get the W, his first since his season debut Way back on April 9. He only had three strikeouts to three walks and wasn’t quite as efficient as we’ve seen him lately, needing 90 pitches to get through those five frames, but he allowed only two runs on five hits and gave the Cubs everything they needed.
The offense jumped on Atlanta’s Kyle Wright immediately, scoring in each of the first three innings to build an early lead and allow Steele to pitch in the shade, so to speak. It was a singles party for the most part, with 10 of the Cubs’ 13 hits earning just one base. Unlike so many previous futile efforts, however, they managed to stack their hits up to push runs across.
If you set the record aside for just a moment, this has been one of those perfect Wrigley weekends when you remember why you fell in love with the game. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Every member of the lineup recorded at least one hit and three batters had two or more as they roughed up Wright for 11 hits. They needed all those hits because everyone in the lineup also struck out at least once while drawing two total walks. Early leads haven’t always been effective with the way the bullpen has pitched lately, but the relief corps was great in this one.
After back-to-back singles to open the game, consecutive strikeouts threatened to kill any chance to rally. But Willson Contreras stole second during the latter of those Ks to set up a two-run Jonathan Villar single. That seemed to give the home team a boost of confidence as individual tallies in each of the next two innings gave the Cubs all the offense they needed.
Stats That Matter
- Wn. Contreras was 3-for-5 with a double, RBI, and run scored
- Contrerases were 5-for-9 with two doubles
- Alfonso Rivas was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs in his return to the lineup
- Steele had a very solid line: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
- Scott Effross was filthy, notching 3 Ks in 1.1 scoreless innings
This has been a feel-good weekend for the Cubs, who have now been passed by the hapless Tigers for the fifth spot in the draft lottery. Whether it’s Theo Epstein partying in the bleachers or the pristine weather in Chicago, it’s been nice to forget about what has been happening to this team so far. It’s even nicer to avoid thinking about what’s probably going to happen by early August.
These two are back at it again for the series finale at the same bat time on the same bat channel. In case you don’t know what that means, the game is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score and we’ll see if Kyle Hendricks can close out the sweep.