It was a pretty similar affair as last night's delayed gratification win. The bullpen did not make nearly as much of a nail-biter, but the Cubs followed a familiar formula to victory. The Cubs bats provided an early lead, and a solid start put the Cubs in an easy position. The bullpen made it closer than it should have been, but the end result was the Cubs third straight victory.
The bats have continued to mash. They have belted home runs in every single game so far in 2020, but for the third straight day it was stringing hits together that put the Cubs on the board initially. There will be slumps in 2020, but this lineup feels a lot closer to the dangerous 2016 incarnation than the feast or famine versions seen since. There are hitters capable of doing damage up and down the lineup as opposed to last year where it felt like pitchers really just had to avoid the one or two hitters that were hot at any given point in the season.
The bullpen was again given a solid lead to work with and again let the Reds inch back into the game. The Reds didn't put the tying run much less the winning run on base tonight, but David Ross biggest challenge in 2020 is finding a consistent formula for hanging onto leads in short order.
The Cubs opened the scoring in the third inning. Jason Kipnis led off the frame with a sun aided triple. Nico Hoerner smacked a single through the infield to drive in the Northbrook native. Kipnis drove in the Cubs second run in the fourth inning. Jason Heyward and David Bote bounced one out singles back up the middle and Kipnis pulled the ball through the right side of the infield to drive in Heyward. Hoerner grounded into an inning ending double play this time.
Alec Mills had a very solid outing. Nicholas Castellanos smoked a double in the first inning, but that was the only hit allowed the first turn through the order. Mills walked Jesse Winker with two gone in the bottom of the fourth and Castellanos followed with a blast to dead center to the tie game. Mills would pitch another two scoreless frames to end the night with a quality start.
Cody Reed took the ball in the fifth inning for the Reds, and he retired the first two batters quickly. Javier Báez drove the ball into the gap for a double, and he scored on a Kyle Schwarber single served into left field. Reed would escape the inning without yielding any more damage. He faced Jason Heyward to start the sixth and walked him. Pedro Strop was summoned and looked a bit more like the Strop of 2019 by walking David Bote. Jason Kipnis executed what was essentially a swinging bunt to advance the pair into scoring position. Hoerner hit a sacrifice fly into shallow center field that Heyward was able to use to extend the Cubs lead to 4-2.
Javier Báez hit a solo shot against Amir Garrett in the seventh inning, but that was all the Cubs could muster against the Reds very effective lefty. Casey Sadler struck out three in a four out bottom half of the inning. Aristides Aquino reached on a dropped third strike. He was the only Red to reach, but Curt Casali hit a bomb off of Sadler to start the eighth inning. Kyle Ryan would finish the frame without allowing another run to score. However, David Bote's solo shot in the top half meant that it was 6-3 ballgame heading into the ninth.
Hard throwing Michael Lorenzen was the last Reds pitcher. Anthony Rizzo greeted him with a solid single. Lorenzen balked him to second, but it didn't matter much with Báez's second bomb of the night making it 8-3. Lorenzen struck out Albert Almora, Jr. and Ian Happ to give the Reds their final chance. Ryan Tepera was given the final three outs and he punched out Castellanos and Josh VanMeter to start the inning. But a walk to Aquino extended the game for Freddy Galvis to hit a blast making it an 8-5 Cubs lead. Thankfully before that sinking feeling could get much worse Casali struck out preserving the Cubs third victory in as many days.
There was a little angst around the Cubs offense after its performance in the first two games against Milwaukee. Since then the team has put up 9, 8 and 8 runs. The long ball has featured prominently in every game, but the offense has done a little bit of everything in each of the wins. Two batters really stand out though as being so hot right now.
If I had stayed up to write a recap after last night's closer than it should have been victory, it would have been about Rizzo hitting three homers in four games. However, Javier Báez recorded ten total bases in tonight's game. So this reference goes out to both of them.