Over an hour of rain delay didn’t dampen the day at all for the Cubs, who scored so prodigiously that the Mariners turned to using second baseman Luis Sardinas in the eighth inning. And, to his credit, Sardinas got through the inning unscathed. The Cubs pushed through the Mariners bullpen by driving Hisashi Iwakuma from the game after just three innings. The only Chicago starter not to get a hit this afternoon was Addison Russell, but otherwise they manhandled the Seattle pitching, especially in the sixth inning.
Jon Lester pitched like a man with a nice cushion but also like one who knows better than to take it easy, going six frames and allowing just six baserunners to reach (four hits and two walks), and fanning seven. In all, it was the kind of game that the Cubs haven’t had much of since the first weeks of the season, but one that they are capable of on just about any given day.
It’s perhaps worth questioning why the game was continued after the rain delay at all, given how deep into the game it was and that the score sat at 11-0 at that point, but with a 1:20 start and the storms moving through rather than lingering, I suppose there was reason to press on.
Top Play (WPA): The fill-in leadoff hitter, Chris Coghlan, announced his return to the active roster with a second inning two-run single (+.185). Javy Baez and David Ross both singled with one out on the board from a Jason Heyward groundout, and then Jon Lester nicely executed a sacrifice bunt to move both Baez and Ross into scoring position for Coghlan, who capitalized appropriately.
Coghlan worked ahead in the count, letting two curveballs and a slider out of the zone go by. Iwakuma would get two strikes on him with his sinker and fastball, but when Iwakuma tried his splitter for the first time in the at-bat, Coghlan took it to center field to drive in the first Cubs runs of the afternoon.
Bottom Play (WPA): The bottom play seems almost meaningless, as the Mariners would tag their old teammate, Mike Montgomery, for a single run in the 9th inning. Montgomery struggled to command his fastball, and gave up a single to Leonys Martin before walking Chris Iannetta. Just one out away from finishing with a shutout, Montgomery gave up a single to Shawn O’Malley to score Martin (-.036) and give the Mariners at least one run to end the day.
Key Moment: There were a lot of scoring moments, obviously, but Jason Heyward’s two-run homer in the third inning shifted this game out of immediate reach for the Mariners, and it essentially ended Iwakuma’s day on the mound. Heyward has been a source of frustration for many at the plate, and though there remains some reason to be a bit hopeful (his exit velocity on batted balls is up), a cloud of cynicism has been hovering over his at bats for a while. Whether this means he’s going to trend in a positive direction will have to be seen, but even if he doesn’t, the offense has largely been able to score without difficulty regardless. Together, this was a key moment not just for the game in isolation, but hopefully for Heyward on the whole. We’ll see, I suppose.
Trend to Watch: It’s worth noting that the offense put together just a few of their runs today on the long ball, something that can be problematic when a team leans on that too heavily to produce scoring. Nearly everyone in the lineup clicked (Addison Russell was 0-for-5, but everyone else had at least one hit), and it made things very, very difficult for the Seattle pitchers to get any outs.
Coghlan’s day at the plate might be a positive sign, but it’s his first since returning from the disabled list and prompting a Tommy La Stella demotion to Des Moines. His season in Oakland before being traded was a train wreck at the plate, and we frankly haven’t seen enough of him offensively to know whether or not the move back to Chicago is going to reverse course.
Since his three-hit reintroduction to the roster from a hamstring pull, Dexter Fowler has had just two hits, and sat today to clear his head. His absence today was no loss for the offense, but there’s no mistaking the difference he makes when he’s leading off and things are clicking.
Coming Next: The series continues tomorrow afternoon at 1:20 pm CT on CSN and 670 AM with Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.76) taking the mound against Wade Miley (6-8, 5.23). The Cubs have done rather well against their AL West opponents this year, and they’ll look to continue that against Miley tomorrow. This is an important opportunity to secure a series win with Felix Hernandez taking the ball for the Mariners in the series finale Sunday.
Lead photo courtesy Caylor Arnold—USA Today Sports