Cubs Record: 66-41 (1st Place NL Central)
W: Justin Grimm (1-0, 4.58)
L: A.J. Ramos (1-1, 3.12)
MVP: Christian Yelich: 3-5, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, R
The Cubs attempted to complete a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins on Wednesday afternoon in Chicago. After taking down Marlins ace Jose Fernandez on Tuesday, Wednesday’s starter Tom Kohler seemed like an easier challenge. As it turned out, those assumptions would prove to be incorrect.
Miami struck quickly off Cubs starter John Lackey. Dee Gordon reached on an infield single to lead off the game and quickly swiped second. Christian Yelich then doubled over left fielder Willson Contreras to give the Fish a 1-0 lead.
Lackey settled down after a rocky 1st inning, giving up nothing the next five innings. Kohler matched him zero for zero until the bottom of the 6th. Anthony Rizzo singled and eventually made it to third on a wild pitch and a ground out. Contreras then singled to center to tie the game at 1-1.
The Marlins did not wait long to respond to the Chicago run. Light-hitting catcher Jeff Mathis smoked a two-run homer to left field in the 7th to make it 3-1. That man Yelich struck again in the 8th, homering off new addition Joe Smith to make it 4-1. The Cubs were able to score one in the 8th off Fernando Rodney to make it 4-2, but that was all they could get after stranding two.
Miami closer A.J. Ramos did not have it in the 9th inning. Miguel Montero doubled and Javy Baez singled to put men on first and third. Pinch hitter Matt Szczur walked and Dexter Fowler hit a sac fly to advance all three runners to make it 4-3. After a very questionable strike three call to Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked to get to Ben Zobrist. Ramos then completely lost it, walking Zo on five pitches to tie the game. Then he threw a wild pitch that allowed Szczur to score the winning run. 5-4 Cubs win.
John Lackey pitched pretty well on Wednesday afternoon. The tall right-hander’s line was 7IP, 3R, 7H, and 8K with no walks. It was a case of two mistake pitches, one to Yelich and one to Mathis, that resulted in the three runs he allowed. Lackey also doubled twice against Kohler.
Montero had the leadoff double to start the Cubs rally in the 9th inning. Zobrist worked two good at-bats in the late innings. He showed great patience in accepting Ramos’ bases loaded walk to tie the game. Szczur tagging from first on Fowler’s sac fly may have been the play of the game.
Even though the Cubs won this game, the MVP is still Christian Yelich. He loves playing at Wrigley and he was the best performer on either team. He came up a triple short of the cycle, and I have a sinking feeling that the Marlins lefty has just started abusing the Cubs.
I was not really a fan of the Cubs decision to bunt Zobrist with two on and nobody out in the 8th. Fernando Rodney was having control issues and Zobrist is the cleanup hitter. The double play is always a risk, but giving a free out to a struggling pitcher seems crazy to me. The Cubs ended up rallying to win, but I still didn’t care for it that much as a late game strategy.
A.J. Ramos had a really, really, really ugly outing Wednesday. He gave up 3 runs, walked 3, and threw 35 pitches in his loss. If not for an egregiously bad strike three call on Kris Bryant, Ramos might have only gone a third of an inning. The Cubs will gladly take the gift the Marlins offered them. It has to be a real gut-shot loss for the Miami as they battle for a wild card spot.
After an off day Thursday, the Cubs head to Oak Town for a three-game series against the A’s. Former A Jon Lester (11-4, 2.95) takes the mound for the Cubs at 9:05 Friday night. Young lefty Dillon Overton (1-2, 9.33) goes for Oakland. This was a fun homestand at Wrigley full of dramatic comebacks and solid starting pitching performances. Beating up on a weak A’s team could really help solidify the Cubs’ playoff position.