Cubs Record: 50-26 (1st Place NL Central)
W: Spencer Patton
L: JJ Hoover
MVP: Joe Maddon and Javier Baez
What a really weird game, and by weird I mean absolutely crazy. So crazy that three different relievers played left field and Travis Wood and Spencer Patton switched spots mid-inning to pitch to different hitters.
It didn’t get weird till late because the Cubs looked like they were well on their way to a close victory. Jon Lester was dealing all night and only gave up one run as the Cubs eked out a couple runs (one on a leadoff HR by Ben Zobrist and the other on an RBI single by Jon Lester). But the Reds tied it with two outs in the 9th and it set the stage for Crazytown, USA to take place.
The Cubs were getting down to the last few guys in the pen and this is where things get a little odd. Patton was brought into the game in the bottom of the 14th and Wood was already in the game as the LF from a double switch in the 13th inning, so Joe Maddon then alternated between Wood and Patton based on matchups with the other going out to LF. It was very odd and worked to perfection, with both guys getting it done on the mound and not having any opportunities in the field.
The Cubs went hitless for 8 innings before erupting for 3 hits, a pair of walks and 5 runs in the top of the 15th, including a grand slam by Javier Baez to put the game away for good. Kris Bryant’s go-ahead RBI single earlier in the inning will get lost in all the other stuff from this game, but it was clutch and does technically count for the game-winning RBI.
Wood got the final 3 outs in the bottom half of the 15th with Pedro Strop waiting in the wings…in left.
Lester was dominant and deserved to be the winner tonight, but it wasn’t in the cards for him. He pitched 7.2 innings, giving up just one run (solo HR from Billy Hamilton) on 3 hits, a walk and 4 strikeouts. Obviously the HR to Hamilton was disappointing, but you know, you can’t predict baseball.
Anthony Rizzo did a Javier Baez impersonation and dove headfirst into the stands to catch a foul ball. He didn’t go all the way in like Javy did, but it was still a great play and ended the inning with a man on base for the Reds.
Ben Zobrist or Jason Heyward are fine options to hit leadoff till Dexter Fowler gets off the DL and Zobrist did his job tonight with a leadoff HR (his 10th) off of Reds starter John Lamb. Zobrist finished the night 2 for 6 with a walk and has cooled off considerably, but is still hitting a decent .296 with an OPS of .875.
Javier Baez was 0 for 6 when he came to the plate with the sacks packed in the 15th; he took a couple wild swings off of JJ Hoover, but eventually found a pitch to his liking and crushed it to deep CF for a grand slam to put this one away.
There is not enough room in this post to talk about how good the pen was (outside of Rondon’s blown save). Justin Grimm and Carl Edwards Jr. both looked incredible with 1 IP and 2 Ks each. Trevor Cahill and Joel Peralta also got the job done with Peralta stranding 2 runners that he inherited from Cahill. Obviously Travis Wood and Spencer Patton became footnotes in history, but they also pitched very well.
Hector Rondon blowing his 3rd save of the year set up this wild game, but I will take on the role of Rondon apologist and remind you that he has not had many chances for saves this year and he was asked to get 4 outs again. He didn’t do himself any favors by hitting Brandon Phillips with 1 out and an 0-2 count on him and it was clear that is where he truly blew the save.
The anemic offense against arguably the worst pen in baseball was quite ugly and I was sure this was going to turn into a win that got away and while a loss wouldn’t have been the end of the world, a win does feel much better.
The pen situation Wednesday will also be rather ugly behind starter Kyle Hendricks. Hopefully he can be efficient and go deep in the game for the Cubs. Pedro Strop was the only pitcher from the pen to not get into the game. I would assume Cahill and Wood will be unavailable and Rondon might too going 1.1 innings needing 26 pitches for his 4 outs.
There will be a short turnaround with the final game of the series tomorrow at 11:35 AM (CST). Like I said, Hendricks will get the ball against Cody Reed for the Reds; who will be making his 3rd career start.