UPDATE: The beauty of baseball is that you can be a goat in one game and the hero in another...or sometimes in the same game. Part of the discussion in the comments earlier was about Javy Báez, and his at bat in the 7th inning. Was it his fault for misjudging pitches to bunt and failure to execute? Was it just *that* difficult to navigate an at bat against a dominant pitcher? Should we blame Joe for for making a call to bunt in that position? In the conclusion to last night's suspended game, it didn't end up mattering, as Báez drew a walk to start the 11th inning rally that ultimately led to a Cubs victory.
Unfortunately, I have to work for a living and didn't get to see the action. Javy drew a walk and advanced to third on an error on pitcher Paul Sewald on an attempted sacrifice bunt by Victor Caratini. Kyle Schwarber was walked to load the bases with nobody out. After an Albert Almora strike out, Sewald was replaced in favor of Daniel Zamora. Ben Zobrist didn't make us wait long before singling to center field to end the game with a win. 2-1 Cubs.
So the Cubs will have a chance to gain a little extra ground on the Cardinals and Brewers if they can sweep the Mets for their 8th straight win. As of right now, that will take a bit of work, as they trail 4-1 in the fifth inning.
While last night's match-up between Jon Lester and Thor was perhaps not as advertised, tonight's duel between Jacob deGrom and Cole Hamels didn't disappoint - too much. For the most part, neither team was able to make consistent, solid contact against either pitcher with most of the "damage" being done on weakly struck balls that only the BABIP Dragon can appreciate. Throw in an (early) large strike zone, and it was pretty rough for hitters in this one.
Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of this game was that the defense behind Hamels let him down somewhat with a couple of lackadaisical plays. His evening ended after throwing 93 pitches in five shutout innings. Ten of those pitches were made after Daniel Murphy botched a tailor-made double play ball which would have ended the third inning. Instead, Hamels had to pitch out of a bit of a jam - he did get some help when Victor Caratini threw out Ahmed Rosario trying to steal third base. In the fifth inning deGrom reached on a one-out infield single when Javier Báez fielded his hard-hit grounder up the middle, but took too much time to set himself and throw. A bunt single by Rosario followed. After a two-out walk to Austin Jackson, the Mets had loaded the bases without hitting the ball out of the infield. Hamels struck out Michael Conforto swinging to end the threat.
Jacob deGrom was fantastic. At this point you just have to feel for the guy. You just know that traditionalists that vote for MLB awards are going to penalize him for not having enough wins, but the Mets hardly do anything to support him. Tonight he had to do everything himself to get a lead. The first two innings went quickly with deGrom throwing fewer that 20 pitches in exchange for six outs. The Cubs had only a weak Anthony Rizzo single to show for their efforts while Báez, Kyle Schwarber (bogus strike 3 call), and Albert Almora Jr. all struck out - Almora just looked ridiculously over matched in his AB while Javy was simply blown away on three fastballs.
The Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the third inning before "sort of" threatening with a two-out rally in the fourth. Javy hit a swinging bunt 1/3 of the way down the third base line, and deGrom slipped while trying to field the ball. Victor Caratini followed with a solid single to right field. Schwarber hit the ball hard back through the box, but deGrom stabbed his ground ball and threw to first for the final out.
In the bottom of the fifth, Joe Maddon elected to pinch-hit for Hamels after Almora led off with a single. Tommy La Stella struck out, and two ground balls off the bats of David Bote and Daniel Murphy ended the inning for the Cubs.
Brandon Kintzler took the mound in the top of the sixth, and allowed an infield hit to Todd Frazier. He got some bad luck when a borderline 3-2 pitch to Jay Bruce was called ball four. Frazier had been running on the pitch, and looked to have been easily thrown out had it been called a strike. As it was, the Mets had runners at first and second with nobody out. It looked like the BABIP dragon may strike again but not for a brilliant bare-handed play by Bote on a swinging bunt by Kevin Pawlecki. Jorge de la Rosa was summoned to face lefty Brandon Nimmo, and got him to pop up in the infield for the second out. Just when it looked like the Cubs may escape the inning without a run allowed, deGrom punched a grounder into the hole at short for an infield single and an RBI to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
The Cubs luck then started to turn around.
In the top of the 7th inning the wind was blowing in, and was the only thing that prevented a Jeff McNeill shot from leaving the ballpark. He settled for a lead-off triple. It looked like the Mets would score a second run and effectively end the game, but we are talking about a game involving the Mets, after all. With the infield in Austin Jackson smoked a line drive - right at Javy Báez at shortstop. Likewise, Conforto smoked a line drive that right at first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who had to make a short leap to grab it. de la Rosa improbably got out of the inning when he struck out Jay Bruce to end the inning.
The Cubs finally got to deGrom in the bottom of the seventh. Schwarber led off with a single, though he was forced out at second on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt by Almora. Ben Zobrist pinch hit and smacked a hard grounder which somehow eluded the glove of first baseman Jay Bruce. Almora went first-to-third and would score on a fly-out by David Bote to tie the game. Zobrist would reach second on a wild pitch, but was stranded when Daniel Murphy struck out.
Carl Edwards Jr. was *fire emoji* in the 8th inning, striking out the first two batters and retiring New York's best hitter on the evening, deGrom, on a ground ball to shortstop.
The Cubs threatened int he bottom of the eighth. Anthony Rizzo squeaked a single through the infield into center field, and Jason Heyward walked. Báez had an awful at bat that saw him take two awkward stabs at a bunt before striking out. By the way, deGrom was still hitting 98 in his final inning of work. He then got Victor Caratini to hit into a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning.
It's difficult not to do some gushing about deGrom's night. He was dominant, elicited weak contact all night, and kept his pitch count to the point where he was able to go eight strong innings. He struck out 10 and only had the one walk to Heyward late. And yet, he earned himself a big, fat no-decision because of the ineptitude of the Mets offense. In his two starts against the Cubs this season, deGrom threw 15 innings, struck out 23 while walking only 3, and allowed two runs. Two no-decisions.
Pedro Strop was bad last night, but excellent tonight in the 9th. He struck out the first batter, then got two quick ground outs to short. Sadly, the Cubs could not do anything in the bottom half of the inning. After just two pitches by Steve Cishek in the top of the tenth, the grounds crew was on the field, rolling out the tarp.
The game will resume on Wednesday at noon with a 2-0 count and no outs in the tenth inning. The conclusion of the game will be followed by the season finale between the two teams, currently scheduled for 1:20. Alec Mills will get his second start against lefty Jason Vargas. Apparently the lineup for that game is going to be...creative. Hopefully not Vic Caratini in the 5-hole creative.
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