Score a few in the 1st inning, and then put up a half dozen in the final inning. That's one way to do it, but bookending the game like that makes for an upheaval of emotion probably too intense for a June Friday night. Thankfully, the six runs the Cubs tagged on to the Pittsburgh bullpen in the top of the 9th reframed this recap and most of our moods until tomorrow night, but until then, this one had the makings of the classic "how'd this one get away?" loss.
Anthony Rizzo led off again and looked like he was going to begin with a home run for the third straight game --- and to be fair, I say he did --- but the replay-less review overturned the home run call and turned it into a foul. Joe Maddon raved and swore, Rizzo barked from the dugout, Maddon was tossed, and the Cubs scored three runs that inning anyway. Thanks to an eventual walk to Rizzo, loaded bases that allowed Ian Happ to score on a wild pitch, and a double from Willson Contreras, the lost home run didn't feel like it mattered anymore.
The Cubs got runners on the corners without anyone out in the 2nd inning but didn't generate a run from that high-probability scenario, and then their bats went cold. Meanwhile, Eddie Butler, despite not looking particularly polished, was cruising through the first half of the game only to crumble in the 6th. A Josh Bell home run in the 5th had broken the shutout, but even then, Butler looked serviceable until the 2/3 mark in the game.
Butler got two outs after Adam Frazier led off with a single, but he could not get the last one. David Freese walked, and then Bell rung him up again. This time with a triple to tie the game. Pedro Strop came to the mound to take Butler's place and then gave up a go-ahead single to Andrew McCutchen. 4-3, Pirates, and it's looking like our night is ruined.
It took until the 9th for the Cubs to decide to hit again, and they did so mercilessly. Juan Nicasio was charged with disposing of the Chicago batters to secure Pittsburgh's win, but Jason Heyward gave him a rude introduction to the task with a double. Contreras doubled, too, and his scored Heyward. The game is tied now, and everything feels fine again.
And it would only get better. Tommy La Stella, up to take DL-ed Ben Zobrist's spot, single to advance Contreras to third, and then Nicasio intentionally walked Kris Bryant to load the bases and attempt to set up a double play. Jon Jay came in to pinch hit, Clint Hurdle went to Tony Watson to try and squash all of this, and then Jay singled. 5-4, Cubs, and the bases are still juiced with no outs. Then Rizzo, probably still fuming over the lost home run, singled too, and La Stella and Bryant were both able to score.
Two outs later Addison Russell doubled to score two more, and it's 9-4, Cubs. Jhan Martinez came in to end the madness for the Pirates, but it was already too late. Even a run scratched across against Wade Davis in the bottom of the 9th proved futile.
Cubs win, 9-5.
Hold on to your butts
I'm still betting on the Cubs to win this division. It's going to be close, and they might do it with 84 wins or so, but they're going to do it. They are a young team, and through mid-June we're seeing how that manifests itself even in a team that won 100+ games last season and the World Series. We have not been able to relax yet, and we probably won't ever.
Justin Grimm...he's so hot right now
Since returning from Triple-A Iowa, he's pitching like he is on a mission to never return to the Pacific Coast League, which is nice when Hector Rondon has become what he has become. Since his hiatus in Des Moines, Grimm has not given only two hits and no runs in 8 innings spread across 7 appearances.
Keep Rizzo at lead off...
...for now. It's working, or something. I don't know that the Cubs have a "true" leadoff hitter this year, and maybe Rizzo becomes the de facto one. I say stick with it for now.
Stumbled across this one today. Enjoy.
Three Stars of Game
Third Star- Addison Russell (1 for 5, 2B, 2 RBI)
Not a great night for him at the plate until that 9th inning double, but it was the dagger.
Second Star- Tommy La Stella (2 for 4, 2B, R)
He's the kind of player a team needs to plug in the holes when a starter goes down. We are lucky to have him.
First Star- Willson Contreras (2 for 3, 2 2B, BB, 3 RBI)
An outstanding night at the plate, especially the RBI double in the 9th.