The title is something I've used before. I know I have. It happens when you've written a couple hundred of these by this point, but there really isn't something better to describe what exactly the Cubs did today. The bats were cold to start, but once the game was tied it didn't feel like the team would fall to this young Tigers squad.
Kyle Hendricks struggled once again. The Tigers had a couple of soft singles to start the game against Hendricks. Mikie Mahtook and Nicholas Castellanos were on the corners for Jeimer Canderlario, and he hit a groundball to Ben Zobrist drove in Mahtook. Niko Goodrum hit the hardest ball in the inning, and the double extended the Tigers lead to 2-0. Jim Adduci grounded out for the second out, and Hendricks strike out of JaCoby Jones ended the inning.
Michael Fulmer was very good to start the game. He retired the first six batters he faced. The Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the third inning. Jason Heyward popped out to third and Zobrist flew out to right to keep the Cubs off the board.
Kyle Hendricks settled in with a little help from his defense. James McCann hit a twisting line drive into the right field corner. Jason Heyward made an extra base saving grab before sliding into the wall. Hendricks kept the Tigers off the board until the fourth inning. Jim Adduci singled to start the inning. JaCoby Jones drew the only walk that Hendricks surrendered on the afternoon next, and James McCann singled to drive in a run make it 3-0. José Iglesias hit a pop fly for the first out which brought Michael Fulmer to the plate. Fulmer attempted to bunt over, but Rizzo crashing hard threw to third for one out. The play happened quick enough for Báez to have time to fire across the diamond for the inning ending double play.
The Cubs had a small two out rally in the fourth inning, but the score was still 3-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. Tommy La Stella pinch hit for Hendricks and smashed a ground rule double to start the inning. Albert Almora Jr. and Jason Heyward continued the double parade to bring the Cubs within one run. Zobrist managed a productive out to move Heyward to third. Rizzo singled to tie the game before Fulmer recovered to stop the bleeding.
The Cubs bullpen was spectacular today. Anthony Bass, Jutin Wilson and Steve Cishek pitched clean innings. Wilson faced an extra batter due to an Addison Russell error, but there was little traffic after Hendricks left the game. Fulmer pitched through the sixth inning to keep the score level.
The first Tigers reliever was Daniel Stumpf. He struck out Almora to start the inning. Back to back singles put runners on the corners with just one out, and then Anthony Rizzo grounded up the middle slowly. It was slow enough that Rizzo managed to beat the relay throw to complete an inning ending double play. The Cubs now led 4-3. Kyle Schwarber hit a basket shot home to start the eighth inning.
Joe Maddon gave Brandon Morrow an extra day off. Pedro Strop pitched the ninth inning. He gave up a one out single to Iglesias, but Iglesias remained planted at first as Strop closed out the Cubs fifth win in a row.
The professor struggled in the early going, but there were a lot of positives to take from this game. Kyle was back to forcing the opposition to put the ball in play to do damage. He also kept the ball in the ballpark. He got dinked and dunked a bit to start the game as he has developed a Jason Hammel like problem with the first inning. However, the Tigers did square up some balls and a couple of nice defensive plays did help limit the damage as well. The Tigers also featured some blasts from the past in Jeimer and long time Cubs farmhand Jim Adduci, but it is hardly a deadly lineup.
The Real J-Hey
This is the guy that played from 2010-2015. He showed everything that made him the most desirable free agent position player target in that offseason. Another multi-hit game has raised his season line to .288/.345/.436. The second inning catch really helped Hendricks settle in, and there was a few seconds of panic as he slide into the wall (it didn't help that Bruce Miles brought up Bill Mueller earlier in the afternoon on Twitter). He also ran the bases like he always does. This is a player that really helps solidify the lineup and huge reason this lineup is far more 2016 than 2017 after all.
Another Day of Rest
Pedro Strop getting the call in the ninth caused me a momentary bit of panic. Brandon Morrow has suffered numerous arm injuries, and he has been leaned on pretty heavily since coming back from the disabled list. However, it was merely Maddon giving Morrow a couple days off to rest up. Kris Bryant is also going to get another day off tomorrow. The Cubs play now allows them the luxury of not rushing guys and that is one of the advantages of playing well early in the year. The rest these guys get now could be huge for a team poised to make another deep run in the postseason.
The Cubs posted another come from behind victory.