Baseball just doesn’t make sense. A team that has struggled to find any consistency on offense all season. Scratch that. A team that has struggled to find any consistency period has now won five games straight while losing two of their best position players for the rest of the regular season. The five game winning streak has seen just two quality starts and a bullpen best represented by a photo of gasoline can. It was just over a week ago that this team was 4.5 games out of first place and in a tie for the final playoff spot. The Cubs are still clinging to that final playoff spot in yet another season to come down to the wire.
Cole Hamels was wobbly again, and time is running out for him to find it. Alex Blandino flew out to start the game, but Hamels walked Phillip Ervin and Eugenio Suarez in back to back plate appearances. Aristides Aquino apparently doesn’t just hit home runs, and he flew out for the second out of the inning. Hamels struck out catcher Curt Casali to end the inning.
Kevin Gausman was worse than Hamels thankfully. Ben Zobrist hit a groundball single to start the Cubs half of the first. Nicholas Castellanos struck out, but Kris Bryant ripped a single into left. Kyle Schwarber hit one into the basket to give the Cubs all the runs they would need on the night.
Hamels walked Michael Lorenzen to start the second inning, but seemed to settle in with three straight batters retired. Gausman pitched a 1-2-3 bottom half of the second. Hamels plunked pinch hitter Christian Colon to start the third inning. Blandino ripped a single up the middle. Hamels struck out Ervin for the first out. Suarez drew a bases loading walk, but Aquino struck out swinging for the second out. The veteran southpaw continued to battle his command walking Casali to drive in the first Reds run. Lorenzen struck out swinging to end the inning with the Cubs still ahead 3-1.
Lucas Sims took over for Gausman in the bottom half of the third. He worked around a two out walk to Kris Bryant to put another zero on the board for the Reds. Jose Peraza led off the fourth with a ground rule double. Lucas Sims one out single chased Hamels from the game before completing even four frames. Steve Cishek wasn’t sharp as the stopper. Blandino drew a walk to load the bases, and Ervin hit a ball sharply for a sacrifice fly. Cishek caught Suarez looking to escape with the Cubs still ahead 3-2.
Willson Contreras hit a groundball single off of Sims to start the fifth. Victor Caratini flew out to left. Jason Heyward drew a walk, but Nico Hoerner and Tony Kemp were retired to end the threat. Alec Mills pitched a couple of scoreless frames to keep the Cubs ahead 3-2. Amir Garrett pitched the sixth for the Reds. Contreras singled to start the inning. Garrett then plunked Caratini. Heyward slashed a double into center to drive in the Cubs fourth run and chase Garrett from the game. Joel Kuhnel retired the first two Cubs hitters he faced, but Ben Zobrist drove in the Cubs fifth run with a single. Castellanos was retired for a fourth time to end the sixth.
Rowan Wick took over and retired all six batters he faced. The Cubs would expand their lead in the eighth. Ruben Alaniz pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, and he retired the Victory Carrot to start the eighth. But Jason Heyward walked and Nico Hoerner singled to break things up. Ian Happ then hit a bouncer that Alaniz couldn’t handle and then fired wide of first to allow Heyward to score. Jimmy Herget walked Jonathan Lucroy to load the bases, and then Castellanos hit his 55th double of the season to make it an 8-2 game. Kris Bryant hit the ball hard but right at Suarez for a lineout double play to end the inning.
It didn’t matter much but Kyle Ryan added a little drama after retiring the first two Reds he faced. Juan Graterol and Phillip Ervin hit back to back singles. Eugenio Suarez won a nine pitch battle, drawing a bases loading walk. David Phelps was summoned to get the final out of the game. Phelps induced an easy ground ball fielder’s choice to keep the Cubs just two back of the Cardinals.
The Cubs have a winning streak of five games or more for just the third time this season. Defying all reason perhaps this is a team peaking at the right time. Or maybe it is a team just beating up on bad teams. Either way it is whole lot more fun to watch this late performance than never.