It was another game where the starting lineup included David Bote at third base and Victor Caratini at first. And even though both have done well, every time a lineup like this gets posted on Twitter, I can’t help but think:
The Cubs must have clinched the division yesterday. And they forgot to tell anyone.
In reality, Anthony Rizzo got the night off due a combination of his recent 0-for-14 slump and because of Giants starter Derek Holland holding left-handers to a .189/.259/.230 slashline in 2018. Well, that and the very real possibility that Rizzo’s back issues could be triggered by Holland’s Harry Caray impression causing a spontaneous full-body cringe and landing him on the DL.
What You Need to Know: This game was deadball.
This game was so deadball, somebody needs to make sure Jose Quintana still has all his fingers.
This game was so deadball, I was 98 percent sure it was going to end with Hunter Pence forgetting to touch second on a walkoff.
Quintana and Holland were both as on as on could be tonight. Q showed off how much strike one means to his game, throwing a first pitch strike to the first ten consecutive batters of the game and allowing only a single to Brandon Crawford in that span. He would go six scoreless innings, giving up only three hits and two walks.
It’s nice to see a Cubs starter have a game that reminds us of how good he can be that also ends with the Cubs winning.
Meanwhile, Holland was living on the corners all night and changing speeds with aplomb while keeping Cubs hitters off balance to the tune of eight strikeouts in 6.1 innings. It seemed surprising to see him demonstrate so much command until WLS showed his shirtless wrestling promo. Which made it abundantly clear that Holland has adopted the Bartolo Colon starter kit.
Holland cut said promo in the voice of Hulk Hogan. And as an apparent tribute to his new home in San Francisco, he used the stomach of Earthquake. (During the broadcast, Len Kasper failed to identify Holland’s impression as the Hulkster, presumably because he forgot to drop a racial slur.)
In any event, Holland was great for the first two-thirds of the game.
Next Level: Offensively, the Cubs won this contest almost entirely with baserunning. With one out in the top of the seventh, Addison Russell lined a ball into the right-center field gap. Andrew McCutchen made a great play to cut it off and keep it from rolling to triples alley but Russell turned on the jets rounding first and made it into second base safely with a double.
After Holland was replaced by Sam Dyson, Kyle Schwarber then strode to the plate to pinch hit for Bote. Dyson proceeded to throw a breaking ball in the dirt that skidded about ten feet away from Nick Hundley behind the plate. Russell immediately took off for third, rightfully assuming that Hundley was slightly distracted by the mysterious bulge in Schwarber’s back pocket.
(And at this point, we all know Kyle Schwarber well enough to say that there was 100 percent chance it was a bald eagle.)
Russell made it safely into third base, while Hundley’s throw sailed well past Pablo Sandoval’s glove into left field foul territory and Russell ended up scoring the first run of the game (which seemed like a virtual impossibility for 90 minutes) on two sterling displays of hustle.
The Cubs weren’t done, however. After Schwarber got thrown out attempting to steal, Ian Happ drew a two out walk. Caratini then crushed a line shot that would have been a home run in 29 other major league ballparks. However, AT&T Park was designed so that home runs in the Bay Area are like start-ups: all but five end in failure. Caratini’s bomb landed high off the brick wall and caromed directly to McCutchen.
But with the speedy Happ efficiently making his way around the bases, Brian Butterfield decided to get aggressive when he saw McCutchen’s high arcing throw to the cut-off man. Happ ended up steaming into home plate safely with a headfirst dive to give the Cubs a very important insurance run.
Top Play (WPA): The Russell baserunning (+.142) and Caratini double (+.143) were pretty much the same level of awesome.
And Jim Deshaies was at the top of his game tonight so I’ll add…
Top JD Quote (WPA): “Hunter Pence is a combination of Marv from Home Alone and Napoleon Dynamite.” (+.376)
Bottom Play (WPA): A McCutchen walk in the fourth inning (-.065).
Bottom JD Quote (WPA): “That would be Mr. Holland’s OPS.” (-.249) If Len decided to pull a Hawk Harrelson and not say a thing for the rest of the game, no one would blame him.
Up Next: The rubber game of the series features Mike Montgomery against Johnny Cueto and what sounds like the return of some Bryant kid who they just called up from AA.
Lead photo courtesy Neville E. Guard—USA Today Sports