Hot Take: This road trip was better than the one to LA and San Diego.
Yesterday’s game ended at 1:06 AM. That gave the Cubs just enough time to grab a couple hours’ sleep before heading out to the ballpark once again for a noon start.
In other words, today’s game was the Kyle Farnsworth Invitational.
The biggest upset of this series was that the Cubs managed to play three whole games without the Braves building a new ballpark. I haven’t been to SunTrust Park yet, but based on what I saw on TV, it resembles what people who have never been outside of Schaumburg think a city looks like. But at least it has a nice view of the Build-A-Bear Workshop.
For the first few innings, it looked like the most noteworthy thing about this game was Kris Bryant once again scaring the hell out of us with an injury, as he attempted to advance on a ball in the dirt and clipped his hand against Harry Caray Pronunciation All Star Johan Camargo’s cleat. With rare exceptions, the headfirst slide is all image and very little substance. No wonder it was Pete Rose’s trademark.
Bryant was later diagnosed with a sprained pinky finger and is listed as day to day. Until that news was delivered, it threatened to be the most unfortunate Cubs-related finger since the one Todd Hundley gave the fans.
Then the game got much more fun…
What You Need to Know: World Series Hero Mike Montgomery pitched six innings worth of Game Seven Bottom of the Tenths. He had great command of all his pitches, giving up two hits and only one walk. And he showed that if he isn’t walking anyone, the opposition has almost no chance against the curveball that makes history.
He also hit the first home run of his career. More on that below…
The rest of the Cubs offense was up to the task, hitting RA Dickey’s knuckleball just enough to plate four runs in seven innings. Tommy LaStella pulled his second homer into the shrubbery in right field, presumably celebrating with shouts of “Ni!” on his way around the bases.
And then once the Braves bullpen entered the game, the offense really clicked…
Next Level: It looks like the Cubs spent their All Star Break very productively. And whoever used that time to convince Addison Russell that the 2017 season has started deserves a promotion.
All of a sudden, the Cubs middle infielders are substantial offensive threats. Russell went 4-for-4 today, driving in two runs with laser show doubles to left and right field. For once, he’s endangering fans in the front row with baseballs instead of his bat.
Not to be outdone, Javy Baez turned in a 2-for-4 day with a monster three run homer to centerfield to break the game open in the 8th. Baez swung through a 3-1 fastball from Jose Ramirez, which gave the reliever the confidence to try it again on 3-2.
When Javy has put up a .350/.388/.500 slashline since June 18, that confidence can be a very stupid thing.
Since the break, Russell has been hitting .409 with four doubles and two home runs. If the Cubs are getting this kind of production out of the second base and shortstop positions, the lineup suddenly gets a lot deeper. And then it really starts to resemble the 2016 group. Maybe for more than a couple days this time?
Top Play (WPA): Montgomery’s home run came on a 2-0 pitch that he crushed all the way over the right field bleachers in the fifth inning, giving the Cubs a 2-0 lead (+.125). If Joe Maddon didn’t need him to save the 2016 World Series, it’s nice to know he could’ve also used him to pinch hit against Bryan Shaw in the top of the inning.
Bottom Play (WPA): Ender Inciarte scored the Braves’ only run off Montgomery with a solo homer in the sixth to cut the deficit to 3-1 (-.097). He can take some solace that more people saw Ender’s game today than during the entire theatrical run of the movie named after it.
Up Next: A well-earned off day tomorrow and then the streaking Cardinals come to town on Friday. Jake Arrieta will take the mound against Carlos Martinez. You can tell it’s a big series because Yadier Molina has already begun loading up his chest protector.
Lead photo courtesy Jason Getz—USA Today Sports