Winning a sweep is good salve for being swept. The sting of the weekend series against the Brewers is hardly felt when the Cubs respond with 39 runs in three games, but there are more important games to be won in the near future.
For now, we'll take the three wins and the preservation of their lead in the division.
It seems distant now, but tonight was Jen-Ho Tseng's MLB debut, and it proved...inconsequential? He showed some of what makes him an exciting pitching prospect, but in general it looked like Tseng was very nervous. The decision to start him tonight was puzzling for a team in the heat of a division race, but thankfully the Mets are the Mets, and it didn't matter.
Tseng managed three innings, but he left the game having given up five runs, and at the time, the Cubs were down 5-4. Not that losing to New York tonight would have been devastating, but this is not the time for giving either St. Louis or Milwaukee any chance to gain any ground.
The first inning might have offered the best look at what Tseng was feeling, especially through the first four batters. He walked Jose Reyes and then allowed him to steal second while Brandon Nimmo was batting. Nimmo tried to ground out, but Tseng botched the catch on the throw from Anthony Rizzo, so instead, the Mets had two runners on with no one out. Reyes advanced to third on the play. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly to Kyle Schwarber in left, and Reyes scored. Tseng followed all of this by hitting Dominic Smith, and it looked at that point like New York would post a big first inning and put this game away early.
Instead, Tseng struck out the next two batters swinging.
It probably would have been asking too much for Tseng to have settled in and gone five or six quality innings from there, but he got some valuable MLB experience tonight.
But when Tseng left the game, the Cubs were still down a run. That was short-lived, however. In the bottom of the fourth, the Cubs plated five, and that was really the end of any hope for the Mets to salvage a game in this series. Alex Avila began the inning with a walk, and Mike Montgomery---in to cover a few innings for Tseng---singled to right center to move Avila to third. From there, both Jon Jay and Kris Bryant doubled, and the Cubs went up 7-5. Mets starter Seth Lugo was done, but the scoring was not. Josh Smoker took over, and gave up a double to Rizzo that scored Bryant. Rizzo stole third during Ian Happ's at bat, which allowed him to scored the ninth run of the night when Happ flew out to right field.
The Cubs scored five more in the sixth, and most of the action came with two outs. Jon Jay started with a single, Bryant walked, and then both Rizzo and Happ struck out swinging. Albert Almora, Jr. was tabbed to pinch hit for Kyle Schwarber, and, fresh off of driving in six runs last night, he doubled on the first pitch fastball to score Jay and Bryant.
Javy Baez then reached on a grounder that stymied Jose Reyes to put two runners on for Jason Heyward. On a 2-1 fastball, Heyward swatted his tenth homer run of the season into the special seating in the right field bleachers and gave the Cubs a 14-5 lead.
The Mets added a run in the top of the ninth, but by then most of the team must have been in the clubhouse showers, ready to get far away from Wrigley Field.
Cubs win, 14-6.
Every win feels like it counts for more in these last few weeks with the division lead so tenuous, but the large number of remaining games against both the Cardinals and Brewers is what will decided how this division plays out. It's the way it should be, but it doesn't make this weekend and next weekend any less nerve-wracking.
Tseng will likely not start again until 2018, and thankfully it worked out tonight, but it would have been extraordinarily frustrating to have seen the Cubs drop a very winnable game against the hapless Mets tonight. The good news is that none of that matters. The Cubs won, and now they go ahead to try and win a series against the Cardinals.
On that note, it's good to keep in mind that it is an uphill climb for both the Brewers and Cardinals. They have to play nearly .600 baseball through the end of September while the Cubs can afford to play at a lesser clip.
Player of the Game:
How to pick on a night when the Cubs score more than the Bears might this weekend? But even while Rizzo went 3 for 4 and nearly hit for the cycle, I have to give it to Mike Montgomery, Brian Duensing, and Felix Pena. They pitched six innings and gave up only one run. They collectively walked only one batter while striking out six.
On to the Cardinals.