First, I'd like to welcome you to the Cubs run party. No need to bring anything, but hopefully you like dingers, walks, and hits because that's what the Cubs were serving up.
At the beginning of this year, anyone that was anyone (and everyone that isn't anyone) were talking about how many runs the Cubs had given up on average in the 1st inning of ball games. Don't get me wrong, it was a lot. And it was super annoying. But it seems like those struggles are starting to subside. And, even better, the Cubs today were the ones who brought the damage early.
Amir Garrett struggled mightily with his command early. After Willson Contreras walked to load the bases, Addison Russell had a walk of his own to walk in the Cubs first run of the game. Addy's at-bat was particularly impressive after a couple called strikes had him behind in the count. But that's not the story of the 1st. The story of the first is written by a game named Javier Baez with the bases loaded:
In case you can't tell, Baez murdered that ball. It was his third career grand slam. What was "funny" in that at-bat though, was that right before that homerun pitch, Baez got a fastball right down the middle and laid-off. You could find me screaming at the TV. Apparently, he knew what he was doing. It was all about the off-speed, baby.
Cubs added to that 5-0 lead in the bottom of the 4th. This time it was Kris Bryant's turn:
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) May 18, 2017
KB GO BOOM!
In the bottom of the 5th, Baez went right back to work. With 2 on and 2 out, he smacked a single to score Ian Happ, who started the 2-out rally with a walk. Then, with 1 out, something magical almost happened: Jon Lester almost went deep. But then he didn't. So you don't really care, right? Well you should because he was able to get in another run on the sacrifice. Then, to round the inning out, Ben Zobrist singled home another run to put the Cubs lead at 9-0.
Lester was not only driving in runs this afternoon, he was also pitching one a hell of a game. After striking out 5 and giving up no runs, the Reds had three consecutive singles to start the 7th inning. On the third single, Arismendy Alcantara, broke the shutout and singled home Jose Peraza. That would be it for Jon as Hector Rondon came out in relief.
But the Hector inning would not be a good one. With no one out, speedster, Billy Hamilton, hit a gapper in right center which luckily was held up in the vines for a groundrule double. Hamilton would've easily been on third, and another run would have scored as a result. But as it stood, only one run was gained on the play. After a Zach Cozart groundout allowed another run, Adam Duvall then singled yet another run to close the game and put the score at 9-4. Woof.
After working a scoreless 8th inning, Brian Duensing was sent out to close out the game in the 9th. It didn't go well. Both Hamilton and Cozart lead-off the inning with back-to-back singles and then Duensing hit Votto to load the bases. That meant that with no outs the tying run was on deck. Koji Uehara was brought in for the save.
While the first out resulted in a run on the pop-up by Duvall, Koji was able to strike out Eugenio Suarez and Stuart Turner to end the game.
Cubs win, holmes.
He had been hitless in his last 4 games. But today, he exploded. It was great to see him have some success at the plate. But it wasn't just the longball. He also singled and walked (!). It seems that anytime someone mentions there being crowding in the infield nowadays, Baez's name is the first that gets mentioned as someone who should depart this team via trade (I'm guilty of at least thinking it sometimes as well). But I think we have to remember (1) his contributions in the postseason last year, (2) his defense can be an incredible asset (something I was reminded about on Twitter today), and (3) younger, unproven players aren't always the answer.
That being said...
Ian Happ has to continue to find a way to be worked into this lineup. I don't care how it happens. He had another great day at the plate today smacking a double, opposite field single, and drawing a walk (which is almost more impressive than the oppo single or double). He's shown an innate ability to command the strikezone and, as many of the beat reporters have mentioned, he doesn't seem phased by anything, really.
Are the Cubs Fine?
Three Stars of the Game:
Third Star: Kris Bryant (1-5, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 RBI)
Chicks dig the long ball.
Second Star: Jon Lester (6.0 IP, 5 K, 1 BB, 1 ER, 1 RBI)
He did it all today. And gave the Cubs some great innings.
First Star: Javier Baez (3-4, 1 HR, 1 BB, 5 RBI)
I see you, Javy.