The Titans were the older Greek gods. The ones that the more familiar Olympian gods replaced. This seems a fitting metaphor for tonight's pitching matchup. It was a battle of two pitchers that Theo Epstein acquired for the Red Sox. That tells you as much as you need to know about the long histories of each starter as any of the combined career totals could. Bronson Arroyo and John Lackey were never the best starters in baseball, but they were very good for a very long time. It is very likely that the best is behind John Lackey at this point and that is almost assuredly true for Bronson Arroyo. The two had to face challenging lineups on a night greatly favoring those potent bats.
Zach Cozart ambushed a first pitch fastball to give the Reds an early 1-0 lead. Joey Votto singled after the Cozart blast, but Lackey managed to retire the next two batters to head into the bottom half of the frame. Arroyo matched Lackey in retiring the leadoff hitter, but Kris Bryant drew a one out walk. Anthony Rizzo hit a single and Ian Happ walked to load the bases. Jeimer Candelario singled to tie the game, and Willson Contreras delivered a two out ground rule double into the ivy making it a 3-1 Cubs lead.
Lackey retired the first two batters in the second inning, but Tucker Barnhart homered to bring the Reds back within one. Arroyo and Billy Hamilton hit back to back singles to threaten a big inning, but Cozart hit an inning ending groundball out. Kyle Schwarber delivered a monster shot to break out of his long O fer. The Cubs could not manage any more runs despite a Bryant single. Lackey and Arroyo traded zeroes for their first and only clean frame of the evening in the third inning.
A wonky fourth inning netted the Reds their first non-homer run. Scott Schebler walked to lead off the inning, but was thrown out on a busted hit and run. Jose Peraza hit a should have been caught double into the shallow outfield. Peraza advanced to third on a Barnhart ground out. Lackey struck out Arroyo, but the swinging strike came on a wild pitch. Arroyo reached first and Peraza scored on the fifth out of the inning. The Reds would hold onto a 4-3 deficit until the bottom of the fifth. Ian Happ hit his second home run just into the seats in left center. The Cubs once again had a 2 run edge at 5-3.
Lackey managed to get the first out of the sixth inning, but Hector Rondon entered the game after Peraza's single. Rondon played the role of fireman successfully by retiring the next 2 batters. The Cubs 5-3 lead would remain in tact until the bottom half of the inning. Tommy La Stella pinch hit for Rondon and faced the first Reds reliever in Blake Wood. La Stella hooked a single up the middle through the infield, but remained planted on first after a Baez strikeout. Schwarber hit a ball as hard as you can down the left field line for a single as you can, but La Stella ended up on third with just one out. Kris Bryant ripped a double to give the Cubs a 6-3 lead. Bryan Price opted to intentionally walk Rizzo to load the bases, but Wood walked Happ on a full count pitch. Wood gave way to Robert Stephenson. Candelario wrapped into an inning ending double play, but the Cubs now had a commanding 7-3 lead.
Koji Uehara pitched the seventh inning. Billy Hamilton led off with a single, and Joey Votto made the game interesting with his one out 2 run drive to left center. Uehara recovered to retire the next two batters, but the Reds had cut the Cubs lead in half at 7-5. Addison Russell joined the party with a leadoff home run to start the eighth. Stephenson recovered to retire the side. Carl Edwards Jr. pitched a clean eighth inning. Rizzo crushed a Michael Lorenzen cement mixer slider with two outs, but could not add anymore with an Ian Happ strikeout.
Clash of the Not Quite Superannuated
Arroyo and Lackey struggled on the night. The conditions certainly did not help matters. Lackey in particular seemed to be victimized by the wind. Lackey gave up two home runs that might have stayed in the ballpark a month back. Lackey was also victimized by some bad play from the unusual outfield configuration. Lackey wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in Colorado, but he wasn't as bad as non-quality start indicates.
Hector Rondon emerged into the old Justin Grimm role of second closer. It will be interesting to see if this is a permanent role. This is perhaps one of the surest signs that Carl Edward Jr. has passed Rondon in terms of Maddon's trust. Koji Uehara pitched in the seventh once again, and Edwards had the eighth. This seems to be the preferred method of getting to Wade Davis at the end of ballgames.
One of these years the Cubs won't have a top 50 prospect to call up in times of need. Thankfully we haven't reached that point as Ian Happ has burst onto the scene. Happ hit his first Wrigley Field home run, but the RBI on the bases loaded walk may have been more impressive. Happ saw two pitches in the strike zone. The first one was a middle fastball that Happ just missed, and Happ fouled a middle slider later in the count. The other four pitches that Happ saw missed the zone, and the plate discipline in the clutch spot is a welcome sight. Happ earned clean up hitter honors tonight with his early season performance. It certainly wasn't a lineup we expected to see in the middle of May, but it produced a football score outcome tonight.
The win is a milestone win. The Cubs climbed back to .500. Joe Maddon earned his one thousandth win as a MLB manager. So I think this calls for a celebration.
Three Stars of Game
Third Star-Joey Votto (2-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI)
Votto remains a great hitter. Votto's home run brought the Reds back into the game, but it wouldn't be enough.
Second Star-Ian Happ (1-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI)
Happ continues to make a strong first impression. The home run provided the big numbers, but the bases loaded walk was more impressive.
First Star-Kyle Schwarber (2-5, 1 HR, 2 R)
Schwarber breaking out would be a very big positive for a team struggling to find consistency. The home run was majestic, and it looks like Schwarber might be back finally.