What You Need To Know: This won’t be the last recap of the regular season.
After a brief scare in the first couple of innings, where Mike Montgomery was less than sharp, the defense was wonky, and the offense was meek, the Cubs came alive in the third with a second look at Jack Flaherty. And then they poured it on against a Cardinals ‘pen that isn’t any good and already had the bus running. It was laborious from there, and that’s being kind, but as always with the Cubs, when the top of the lineup hits, they win. “Names on the scoresheet,” as it were.
And now we get a bonus game, at high noon tomorrow for effect.
Next Level: I was nervous along with everyone else in the first two innings. Monty just didn’t have much, as he couldn’t locate his fastball and he couldn’t get his curve below the zone. When it stays above the knees, it doesn’t really snap enough to be effective. He wasn’t getting crushed. There were only one or two well-hit balls. But Jason Heyward didn’t help him out in the first with his first ever error in center, leading to a run.
But Joe Maddon wasn’t waiting around. I wasn’t a huge fan of the pull, not because I trusted Monty but because I couldn’t identify Allen Webster if you put him in a clown suit and marched him down Michigan Avenue. He didn’t seem like the safer option. Neither did Alec Mills after that. But it worked.
It bought just enough time for the Cubs to get out of yesterday’s offensive slumber. With two outs in the third, Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist, Javier Báez, and Anthony Rizzo (who is probably going to win tomorrow’s game by himself if he has to) all strung together great ABs to put the Cubs on top for good. Heyward added a two-strike single to make up for the error in the first.
The Cubs will go as far as their veterans take them, really. If Murphy, Rizzo, and Zobrist hit, and Báez can maintain his form for the next few weeks, along with a dash of Kris Bryant at least being an OBP weapon, they can go far. If they don’t, it could end early. Pretty simple. The Cubs can’t tell you what they’ll get out of Ian Happ, or Kyle Schwarber, or Willson Contreras, or David Bote, or Albert Almora. They may get a weird playoff spasm of brilliance. Some goofus always hits .600 in the playoffs for someone. But they need their rocks to be their rocks.
Once the Cubs were up it was clear that Maddon didn’t want to have to use anyone important out of the ‘pen. The ‘pen didn’t oblige him. Mills got the fourth and fifth cleanly and I’m sure that Joe wanted to let him go as far as he could. That was two more batters, as the first two got on in the sixth. With a six-run lead, Joe probably thought it was a good yet challenging spot for Carl Edwards Jr. to try and find it. He didn’t.
He spiked the only curve he threw somewhere near where the IO used to be, and then was scared out of it the rest of the way. He gave up a two-run single and then another walk, because he was afraid of contact again or couldn’t locate his fastball or both.
The Cubs would get those two runs back immediately, so the thought was maybe let Brandon Kintzler try and find it with yet another six-run lead. He couldn’t, which meant that Steve Cishek and the shreds of fabric that comprise his arm right now had to put out the fire, which he did after hitting a batter to let in a run. Somehow Jaime García and Jorge De La Rosa sweated and humped the ball over the line in the last two innings, but Jesse Chávez was nearly needed.
It should be so much easier, and it isn’t because Cishek is paste and Edwards is a basket case. Someone replace Pedro’s Strop hamstring with flubber and let’s go.
On the plus side, Contreras labeled two balls today, one directly at someone and another for his first homer since Motley Crüe was popular, or so it seems. The Cubs could really use him doing that more often if at all possible.
Look, I don’t know how the Cubs are going to do this, either tomorrow or the rest of the way after that. Their ‘pen is a mess. Their starters have been good but mostly short. Their offense can be anything from one day to the next. The Brewers ‘Pen of Death is all rested.
But the Cubs, these Cubs, always find a way. This is what they do. This is what they are. They win, and until someone comes in and takes it from them, that’s what they’ll be.
Top WPA Play: Rizzo’s double in the third that put the Cubs up 3-2 (+.137).
Bottom WPA Play: Patrick Wisdom’s single in the first that Heyward whiffed and turned into a triple and scored a run (-.192).
The Cubs now get two chances to win one to get into the postseason. Onwards…
Lead photo courtesy @Cubs on Twitter