Monday’s game between century-old rivals featured something that had never been done before, done by someone who doesn’t quite seem real, as Kris Bryant collected five extra-base hits, including three home runs and two doubles. His performance was one of the greatest in history, as he broke the Cubs’ record for total bases in a game, became the youngest Cub to ever hit three homers in a game, and became the first man in history to hit three home runs and two doubles in one game. Nothing could top this game …
…Until Tuesday, when so much hilarity ensued in a 15-inning marathon, it caused Joe Maddon to wax poetic about his minor league days. It also caused an unlucky, sleep-deprived recap artist to summon his will and rise to the challenge of staying awake into the wee hours of the morning. Surely nothing else could happen in the series finale to make this set even more fun …
Top Play (WPA): … It took exactly eight pitches for further absurdity to take hold at the Great American Hitters Ball Park. After Ben Zobrist surprised the Reds’ defense with a perfectly placed bunt, Bryant smashed a single up the middle. Anthony Rizzo then hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball into left-center, but Reds’ outfielder’s Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall failed to communicate properly, allowing the ball to bounce off Duvall’s glove and Hamilton’s face before caroming back towards the left field wall. Zobrist and Bryant scored easily, while Rizzo lumbered around the bases and scored for his first career inside-the-park home run (+0.145). The play probably should have been ruled an error, but Rizzo will surely be pleased with the extra home run and RBIs:
Bottom Play (WPA): It’s generally a good sign when the bottom play from the Cubs’ perspective comes in a game they already led by six runs, and that’s exactly what happened today. With the Cubs leading 7-1 in the fourth inning, Tucker Barnhart hit a ball deep to center off Kyle Hendricks. The blast would bound over the wall for a ground-rule double, which was a bit of a fortunate break for the Cubs, as Eugenio Saurez likely would have scored had it stayed in the park, but the automatic double meant he had to stay on third base (-0.036). Suarez would go on to score on a Zack Cozart ground out, but that was the last time time the Reds would muster any meaningful offense.
Key Moment: It wasn’t so much the effect on the game that made this play key, but rather the symbolism of the potential future in center field for the Cubs. With one out in the fourth and the Cubs leading 6-0, Albert Almora Jr. drove a 1-1 Cody Reed offering deep to the opposite field. The ball sailed over the fence for his first career home run, as Almora raced around the bases in 18.9 seconds, marking the fastest home run trot of any Cub this season. This may seem like a trivial statistic, but it stuck out to me as an excellent example of who Almora is as a person. He feels like he belongs. He acts like he belongs. Soon enough, he will belong in the Cubs’ every day lineup:
I didn’t intend to include another key moment, as I wanted to give the spotlight to Mr. Almora. However, sweet mercy, Javier Baez. It seems as if he’s doing something like this every single night:
Trend to Watch: On May 28th, Rizzo went 0-for-3, dropping his season slash line to .229/.368/.488. To be certain—despite the low batting average—that is still a solid line, but Rizzo has been piping hot since that game, slashing .393/.491/.730 and vaulting himself into MVP consideration in the National League. His inside-the-park home run today was his eighth round-tripper during his hot streak, and his 19th overall, trailing team-leader Bryant by two. Rizzo’s combination of plate-discipline and power also has him within an eyelash of eclipsing the 1.000 OPS mark, something only David Ortiz currently boasts across the major-leagues.
Coming Next: For whatever reason, this series against the Reds did not feel like the key Central Division road sweep that it was. The strangeness and sluggish pace of the games made it seem less positive than the wonderful result, but the Cubs will happily take it anyway. They will now head a bit further east to Citi Field, where they will take on the Mets for the first time since last season’s frustrating ending in the National League Championship Series. John Lackey (3.29 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 3.03 DRA) takes the mound on Thursday, facing Steven Matz (3.29, 2.97, 3.97) for New York. The four-game weekend set will also feature Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta for the Cubs, while Jacob DeGrom and Bartolo Colon are penciled in for the Mets. Sunday’s starters are yet to be announced. Tomorrow’s game time is 6:10 CDT.
Lead photo courtesy David Kohl—USA Today Sports.