This year has been simply inexplicable. The Cubs have done something that has literally never occured before. The Cubs went four straight games hitting exactly one solo home run. Strangely that was good enough to net two wins in a series split in Pittsburgh. The Cubs had one of the largest comebacks ever earlier in the year. And most impressive is that the team finds itself in first place in the middle of August with their three most expensive free agents either hurt right or a disaster with Kris Bryant missing near half the year.
The Cubs still find themselves with a sizeable division lead. It has shrunk to 3.5 games, but it is another day off the calendar in first place. The bigger long term story was Jose Quintana. He was better than his final line of 5 innings and 1 run given up suggest. He pitched into the sixth inning, but ran out of steam after his pitch count was elevated due to some defensive miscues.
The Cubs offense sprung to life early against electric right hander Jameson Taillon. Tommy La Stella singled to start the game, but Ben Zobrist killed the rally with a double play. Javier Báez singled on a groundball to the left side. Báez created with his legs yet again. He officially joined the 20-20 club with a stolen base. He advanced to third on the play with an error by Adeiny Hechavarría. Anthony Rizzo drew a walk, but Ian Happ struck out to end the inning.
Quintana made it stressful right away as Corey Dickerson bunted for a base hit. Quintana threw the ball away allowing Dickerson to move to second. Dickerson remained planted at second base though as Q retired the next three Pirates hitters. Kyle Schwarber provided the Cubs daily tally with a leadoff home run in the second inning. The Cubs would not place a runner in scoring position until there was two outs in the eighth inning. Taillon pitched six innings.
Elías Díaz hit a ball hard that Báez misplayed to allow him to reach. Josh Bell flew out and Díaz was thrown out trying to steal. Josh Harrison doubled and Quintana walked Hechavarría to raise the bloodpressure. Taillon struck out to end the inning and Q kept the Cubs up 1-0.
The two offenses struggled to make any impression in the middle innings. Quintana ran into trouble in the sixth inning. Dickerson reached on a groundball single to second. Q walked Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco hit a hard double to tie the ball game. Carl Edwards Jr. came in and wiggled out of another jam. David Freese hit a ball that Rizzo was able to fire home for the out on Marte running on contact. Díaz walked to load the bases. Bell flew out but not deep enough to challenge the canon of Schwarber. Josh Harrison flew out and the game remained tied heading into the seventh inning.
The Cubs moved a runner into scoring position for the first time when Báez doubled with two outs in the top of the eighth inning. Keone Kela intentionally walked Rizzo to face pinch hitter Victor Caratini. The victory carrot has been less than fresh recently and struck out to end the threat. The Pirates had an even better chance in the bottom half of the eighth. Steve Cishek pitched a clean inning to send the game to the ninth inning tied at 1.
The very good lefty closer Felipe Vázquez was called on in the ninth inning. He struck out Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras but another sign of the apocalypse occured when Jason Heyward doubled. David Bote flew out to center to end the hope. Steve Cishek started the inning but walked Bell. Maddon turned to Pedro Strop. Josh Harrison bunted and Strop fired to second for the out. Strop walked Hechavarría and then hit Adam Frazier to load the bases. Corey Dickerson hit into a double play to end regulation with the game still tied.
Pedro Strop didn't pitch a clean tenth inning either. Polanco hit a one out double, and Strop hit another batter in Freese. However, the Pirates couldn't break through against the Cubs finisher. The Cubs tried to score twice in one game for the first time in a week. Richard Rodríguez pitched a clean tenth inning, but Addison Russell hit a groundrule double that I had to triple check in the box score actually happened. Kyle Schwarber was put on intentionally, but Russell moved to third on a wild pitch. Unfortunately, Russell was picked off for the second out. Contreras and Heyward walked back to back to load the bases. Albert Almora Jr. struck out looking to preserve the Cubs monorun streak. Brandon Kintzler came in and retired the first two batters. Adam Frazier hit a blast to end the game to earn the Pirates a split.
As Cubs fans we have seen some things. This year feels as though it has packed more of the highs and lows than any previous campaign, but in thinking about the craziness we've seen in decades makes me feel like I am about to give this soliloquy.