The Cubs bullpen has become a major issue over the last week, and Saturday threatened to be more of the same. This time, an unlikely closer was able to save the game and give the home team a win at homer-happy Wrigley Field.
An early indication of what kind of a day it was going to be came in the 2nd inning, when Yu Darvish walked a batter and catcher Tucker Barnhart hit a lazy fly ball to left. The 25 mph wind caught the ball and carried it into the basket for a two-run homer. Albert Almora Jr. answered back in the bottom of the inning with a solo shot to right off Tyler Mahle to make it 2-1 Reds.
The Cubs had a big inning in the bottom of the 4th, when Victor Caratini singled and scored on an Addison Russell homer. Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant hit back-to-back singles and scored on a double by Anthony Rizzo to make it 5-2 Chicago.
Cincinnati answered right back in the 5th, as Joey Votto singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a Eugenio Suarez hit. Jesse Winker then hit into a double play, which turned out to be big when Yasiel Puig homered to make it a 5-4 game.
Jason Heyward got his own routine fly ball to reach the basket in left to increase the lead to 6-4 after five. A Barnhart double in the 6th was converted into a run by a Nick Senzel single to draw the Reds back within one. Joe Maddon kept Darvish out there until the 8th inning, when a Derek Dietrich bomb tied the score at six.
Kyle Ryan and Dillon Maples got the Cubs through the inning with no further damage, though it wasn’t exactly clean. Almora walked and Russell bunted for a hit to put two on with one out against Jared Hughes in the bottom half. David Bote smashed the first pitch he saw all day for a double to left to give the Northsiders a 7-6 lead. Schwarber added a sacrifice fly against Wandy Peralta to up the lead to two.
Tyler Chatwood got the save chance and immediately allowed singles to Votto and Suarez. Then Winker hit into another double play, a rare 3-6-1 started by Rizzo to get two huge outs. Chatwood coaxed a lazy fly ball to right off the bat of Puig to save the 8-6 Cubs win. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Unlike Friday, Chicago was able to hold on to a narrow lead in the 9th. It certainly didn’t come easy, but with the current state of the bullpen nothing likely will.
Winker’s double plays were huge in the 5th and 9th. The one with Chatwood pitching was particularly big, as the final inning looked like it was going out of control.
Stats That Matter
- Darvish had to eat some innings with the ‘pen being chewed up of late. The conditions were not friendly to pitchers Saturday and his stats reflect that: 7 IP, 6 R, 12 H, 5 K, and 2 BB. This was the first time he has pitched into the 7th inning as a Cub.
- Almora showed opposite-field power and walked to kick off the winning rally. Both of those will play going forward.
- I wholeheartedly agreed with our own Evan Altman when he said Tyler Chatwood should remain a long reliever. At least for one day, Joe Maddon disagreed and gave him a shot to close. It got tense for a bit, but it worked in the end.
The weather conditions and the pitching options made for a wild day, but a win is a win any way you can get it. The Cubs really need to get some bullpen help and soon, because I don’t know if fans can take this level of stress for 162 games. I know I can’t.
The rubber match of the series is Sunday at 1:20pm CT and features José Quintana and Tanner Roark. WGN has the television coverage and 670 The Score has the radio feed.