Big Jon Yet Again--Cubs 10 Pirates 4

The Cubs might be back. It is just two games, but the Cubs look like the mashers that racked up the most wins in baseball since 2015. The formula for this dominance is right out of the playbook of Earl Weaver with pitching, defense and the three run home run driving the Cubs to victory today. The Pirates were able to make some noise late with a few solo shots, but the Cubs cruised to their first series win since completing their sweep of the Cardinals at home on June 9. Now the Cubs have a chance to avoid Meatloaf once again and win three straight for the first time since... well June 9th.

WPA CHART


Source: FanGraphs

The story of the game is the greatest free agent in Cubs history having yet another standout day. Big Jon did it all, but it started with a locked-in Lester dominating the Pirates in the first inning. Kevin Newman lashed a single to start the ballgame, but Bryan Reynolds was caught looking as Lester caught a generous outside strike. Starling Marte flew out and Josh Bell struck out swinging as it looked like vintage Lester to start.

Jordan Lyles started his third game against the Cubs. The first two were polar opposites as Lyles was strong in his first start in a good run to start to the year overall. When the Cubs saw Lyles next he had started to scuffle to which they gleefully added at the time. Today Lyles wasn't even able to complete an inning. Command was an issue as Kyle Schwarber drew the leadoff walk. Javier Baez struck out on a good spiked curve in the dirt, but Lyles again lost a batter on balls. Anthony Rizzo was able to push a ball past the shift to drive in the first run of the game. Willson Contreras worked the count and then launched a hanging curve into the stands. Jason Heyward doubled into right next and Addison Russell drew a walk. Lyles struck out Almora to improve his K/9, but Jon Lester singled over the head of Bryan Reynolds to drive in a pair making it 6-0. Clint Hurdle saw enough after Schwarber drew another walk. Javy greeted new Pirates pitcher Chris Stratton with a double to kick the extra point. The 7 spot certainly was fun to watch.

Lester fired strikes the rest of the ballgame. The Pirates struggled early on and put zeroes on the board through four innings. Jung Ho Kang and Starling Marte hit solo shots in the fifth and sixth inning for the Pirates first tallies.  As stated at the outset, Lester did it all himself. Lester hit the Cubs first pitcher's home run in 2019 to extend the lead to 8.

Hurdle leaned on the former starter Stratton to eat innings and he was still hurling into the fifth inning despite clearly laboring. The Cubs rallied with two outs starting with a Willson Contreras walk. Jason Heyward rolled a double into left center to give the Cubs a scoring chance. Russell singled to drive in that pair for another clutch two out hit with runners in scoring positions.

Lester ran into more trouble in the seventh inning. Jose Osuna singled into left center on which Kyle Schwarber made a nice diving attempt to grab. The Cubs challenged but the call was upheld. Kang then hit a groundball that Javy flipped too late to Russell. Lester got another groundball and the Cubs completed the double play with the strong arm of Javy. However, the first base ump called the runner safe which meant only a single out was recorded since the challenge was burnt. Corey Dickerson bounced into another fielder's choice that scored the Pirates third run. Newman hit another sinking liner into left that Schwarber was unable to corral. That ended Lester's afternoon just short of completing the seventh. Brandon Kintzler got a groundball out to preserve the quality start for Big Jon.

Luis Escobar made his big league debut for the Pirates and pitched two scoreless innings. The Cubs managed to put some baserunners on but weren't able to push across any more runs. Clay Holmes pitched the final two innings for the Pirates and kept them in the ballgame with another couple of goose eggs on the board. The Cubs managed to put two runners in scoring position without a base hit, but ended the eighth inning still on ten runs.

Randy Rosario was greeted by a Starling Marte solo shot making it a 10-4 ballgame. And it was hardly all good when Josh Bell followed that up with a single, but Rosario retired the next three Pirates to prevent Steve Cishek from having to be used just yet. Rosario went back out in the ninth inning, and retired the first Pirate. But the safety blanket that is Cishek was called for once the tying run was thinking about getting ready to grab a bat. It didn't take long for Cishek to extinguish the threat and the Cubs held onto their touchdown length margin of victory.

Random Reference
This is my 500th published post at Cubs Den. I am the third person to cross that threshold at Cubs Den, and I hope you can forgive a moment of sentimentality. But this has been perhaps the longest non-professional, non-family commitment I have maintained. My first recap was posted on August 12, 2014. I have been given the slight honors of being named lead recap writer by John and writing the final recap every year since 2014 at Cubs Den.

But I'd also like to take a moment to talk about the future. As a long time student of history, my belief has long been that one of the reasons of looking back is to inform the present and future. Hopefully you've noticed my attempt to stretch myself as a writer in the early morning. It is part of the effort to get Cubs Den to grow which is necessary for it to continue. And I will apply my customary Adequasivity to the task.

Onwards

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  • Congratulations! That is quite a milestone. Your commitment is much appreciated. And the morning column is must reading.

  • In reply to IVYADDICT:

    Thank you for the kind words. It is nice to know that the daily posts are enjoyable. It has been fun to write these weird random thoughts without any requirement to actually develop it fully.

  • We've noticed, and keep up the good work! 500 recaps! That's quite an achievement, congratulations!

    This game just plain felt good. Yesterday was a pitchers dual, and no one can discount how good Archer was, but it took a lot of drama to put it in the win column. There was no drama this time around, just good pitching, good hitting and some nifty defense. I cannot tell you how impressed I am with Jason Heyward. Since 5/26 his line is .310/.364/.527 .891 OPS .372 wOBA and 130 wRC+. I know there are people that have questioned his power in the year of the juiced ball but power is all he has going. His penchant to hit opp is impressive and this guy is an actual hitter this year. Great win, some great signs for the future. Now let's sweep this thing.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Well to be clear it is 500 posts. Recaps probably make up at least 80% of that total, but still it feels good to see that round number next to my name. Not quite as good as watching this version of the Cubs, but close.

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    In reply to TC154:

    Heyward is putting together a solid season. And with 340+ PAs SSS doesn't necessa6 apply.

  • I don't want to be negative after a great win, and a series win to boot, but there's still a problem with the bottom of the order hitting. Almora's AB is totally wasted. Still some issues with sloppy defensive play that could have hurt in a close game. And... Rosario. I really want Theo to keep working those phones. Otherwise, GO Giants, D-backs and Rockies!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I haven't made it all the way through the recorded game yet, Cliff, but what sloppy Cub defensive play are you referring to?

    And speaking of less than stellar defensive play, what's with Starlin Marte turning those 2 ground ball singles into doubles? Remember when Bobby Cox pulled Andruw Jones and Billy Martin pulled Reggie Jackson after they loafed on defense?

  • "Adequasivity" is certainly not how I'd describe your contributions, Dabs. Thanks for the hard - and great - work!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Self-deprecating humor is a way of life, but I appreciate the kind words. It has been fun even if it is grind at time. I am starting to appreciate that more.

  • Was anyone else surprised that Descalso didn't get an AB in a blowout game? Everyone else did, right? I don't know if we can read anything into it, but I have to wonder if there's some friction with Joe?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Bote got n as a defensive switch but didn’t get an at bat

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    The whole Cub team--your table is ready, with Jon at the head. Eat and drink well tonight.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    This was a team effort and a real joy to watch. I think Pleasant is an appropriate adjective, even though this was Saturday.

    Dabs made me aware of a couple holes in my resume with his Saturday morning lineup. I'll work on plugging those holes, and I hope the FO follows suit:

    "See Mrs. Gray, she's proud today.
    Because her roses are in bloom.
    And Mr. Green, he's so serene.
    He's got a TV in every room."

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    There is room at the table for you too, Mike.

  • The Cubs appear to be mentally semi-alive now. Hitting to the opposite field indicates they are engaged at bat. Kyle Schwarber may sense a trade involving him is possible. Going all out in Left, not taking so many good pitches.
    But this Pittsburgh team puts a terrific group of hitters out there every game. Stallings as a third string catcher is ridiculous. He is a terrific hitter. Doesn’t look bad behind the plate. I guess Cervelli is so brittle, they need the three, but they have quite a trade chip with three excellent catchers when he comes back.
    They are the best team in the division on the field, but they need to buy some pitching or get healthy.

  • In reply to Swarf:

    I’d be completely stunned if Schwarber were traded in season. They need his power and his value would be much higher as part of an offseason trade. I think you’ll see a different OF rotation with the addition of a guy, but I would expect Kyle to be part of it until the end. I do think they’ll probably move on in the offseason though but that would require s complete reboot of the OF.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Completely agree, he had a great day at the plate (prayerfully the start of many more); but did you see the way Newman just stayed at first? Kyle's throw would've had him out by a mile at 2nd, even with the ball getting to the wall............

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    In reply to Treebeard:

    That play by Schwarber is what I've been waiting for. He's not super athletic out there. But he has a strong accurate arm. Rather than going all out and "Charlie Brown-ing" it he quickly diagnosed that he would be unlikely to Cath it and played for the carom right away. He put himself in position and unleashed a strong quick throw. He's never going to win a GG but turning a possible double into a single has real and tangible value to me.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I agree and want to chime in as well. Left side power bats can be hard to find. I know because I have watched the Cubs try to scrap one up for over fifty years. Good teams need two. Right hand power is a dime a dozen. I'm disappointed in Schwarber' s inconsistency, but teams don't let 30 dinger per year power left side left fielders walk away or be traded unless another one falls in their lap.

  • Congratulations on your milestone Mike. Let's get the sweep tomorrow! A renewed focus after the break is evident!

  • In reply to Ringer:

    I know I speak for all Denizens Mike, it's greatly appreciated. You and the other writers do a really good job keeping the Cubs Den one the best, if not the best site, for quality baseball and everything Cub conversation. Thanks!!

  • In reply to Ringer:

    Thank you. And actually I want to see this team rattle off a nice double digit win streak to take some of the pressure off the next couple of months.

  • No pressure Mike but.....we count on you to do this......lol
    ....don’t stop.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Well it is hardly just me, but I do enjoy writing these recaps. Part of the enjoyment is knowing that it will generate some reactions like this. so thank you.

  • Congratulations on #500.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Thank you. I am a still about 50 behind Michael now, but maybe if he gets sick again I can close the gap some more. We both still have over 3K to go to catch John though.

  • We look forward to the next 500. Thanks for everything you have contributed.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Well 501 is coming in six hours. You're welcome, but it has been an honor to write here

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    Mike, congratulations also. 500 is just a number to us but it means so much work for you and we all appreciate it. I hope you have many more recaps like this one in the future.
    Here's to starting the next 500, one column at a time.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Yes it is sort out of random that we place significance on numbers that end zero, but we do. It is nice to take a moment to reflect and I've appreciated yours and everyone's kind acknowledgement of it.

  • Cashier to Red Sox for two low level minor leaguers . Baltimore also has to pay about half of remaining salary and all performance bonuses.

    Can’t tell if Baltimore was dumping salary or Boston was acquiring pitching.

  • In reply to stix:

    Given the dollars the O's are picking up (surprised me) I'm guessing these kids have a lot of upside. Cashner is having a good year on a bad team. An INFer and an OFer. Couldn't track them down on the BoSox site. Elio Prado and Noelberth Romero.

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    Congratulations on your 500th. Looking forward to many many more. Any news on Contreras ? He was limping around in the 8th and Caratini pitch hit for him and then finished the game out at catcher.

  • In reply to Theodore Anderson:

    Thank you. I haven't seen any mention of an injury to Willson. I am guessing being pulled was more just a chance to get Contreras some rest in a blowout, at least hopefully that is all.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    He was limping after a foul tip caught him on the foot. He attempted to walk it off, but still had a hitch heading to the dug out. Nothing serious I hope, but Caratini replaced him. It was a long hot day behind the plate yesterday for sure.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Well Willson is getting the day off today which isn't encouraging that it is nothing, but there doesn't seem to be an indications that it is serious either.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Apparently Willson began having discomfort in the arch area of his foot late in yesterday's game, possibly from a new pair of shoes. Blowout yesterday and precautionary today, hopefully nothing serious.

  • Great to see the cubs work great ABs and make the pitcher work like we saw in 2016 and congrats mike and thank you for your work.

    On a side note Brennan Davis has just hit a walkoff 2 run opposite field HR to give south bend the win down 1 run in the bottom of the 10th. Nice 3-5 day for Davis and I hope theo doesn’t trade that kid. If I’m a selling GM that kid is absolutely who I’m trying to pry before his value starts to increase on respective organizational prospect rankings

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    You and quite few others no doubt. Gotta be patient with the young man. He's made big strides fast. When I saw his basketball body taking swings last year I was than enthusiastic. The new baseball body and refined swing were an eye opener.

  • Happy 500th Mike! Time does fly.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    Indeed it does and thank you.

  • 7 down, 493 to go. At this pace I may get there by the next millennium. My comments have to number in the thousands. Does that count?

    Congratulations, Mike. And thank you and everyone else involved. I was very worried this place was going away.

    Onwards.

  • Congrats Dabs on the milestone. You have now crossed Ernie and Sammy territory!!! Writing in rarified air in Cubs Den.

    Really enjoy your work.

  • Congrats Dabs! Please keep up the great work.

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