The Cubs just managed to avoid a sweep in their series against the perpetually dominant Houston Astros in the first matchup between the two teams since 2016. As you may recall, that is the year the Cubs won the World Series — people forget that — and the year before the Astros won theirs. Since going the tank route, both teams have rolled to scores of wins over the last several years.
It should come as no surprise then that this series came in with rumblings that it could represent a World Series preview. In taking two of three, Houston got the better of the Cubs and at times looked unstoppable doing it.
The Cubs managed to win a game and were only outscored by three runs, but it felt through the first two games like there was nothing the Cubs could do to hold down a depleted Astros lineup. The home team generated whatever runs it needed regardless of which Cub happened to be on the mound.
Only the spectacular efforts of Kyle Hendricks stood in the way of a Houston sweep, and winning that last close effort at least sends the Cubs to St. Louis on a high note.
Games one and two may as well have been two parts of the same movie. The Cubs put up a bunch of runs and lost anyway because whichever left-handed starter happened to be on the mound that day got knocked around. Still, home runs are pretty fun, right? My favorite in the losses was David Bote‘s second on Tuesday and the truly excellent bat flip that came along with it.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 29, 2019
Hey, there was a win in there too! While the Cubs didn’t score as many runs as they did in their losses, we still got a welcome-back blast from Kris Bryant, who hadn’t played since colliding with Jason Heyward on Sunday at Wrigley Field.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 30, 2019
The Cubs needed every bit of that home run, as it ended up being the game-winner when Steve Cishek came in to lock down a 2-1 win.
- Anthony Rizzo has made a home for himself in this section. He was once again in the middle of most of the Cubs’ offensive efforts, batting .356/.457/.661 over his last 15 games and on pace for the best offensive season of his career. In case you were wondering, Rizzo hasn’t made an All-Star Game since making his third in a row in 2016. Sorry for doing politics on here, but if you haven’t already voted for him 15 times, I don’t know what to tell you.
- After an extended slump, Bote appears to be rounding back into form. Mechanical adjustments might be contributing to his rebound. After his success in this series, he is slashing .279/.361/.478.
- The aforementioned Hendricks helped the Cubs avoid a sweep by pitching eight innings of one-run ball. His previous two starts featured middle-inning blowups, but he avoided that at a time when the Cubs desperately needed him to. Hendricks has had an amazing May, as evidenced by this nugget from our friends at MLB Stats on Twitter.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) May 30, 2019
- For the second straight start, Cole Hamels was only able to go four innings. He’s surrendered nine runs over eight innings in his past two starts, which certainly represents the worst stretch of his otherwise successful Cubs tenure. Perhaps most alarmingly, Hamels failed to record a strikeout.
- Houston is apparently not a good place to be a 35-year-old Cubs lefty, because Jon Lester also saw his rut continue at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night. Lester did at least manage some length, but gave up seven runs in just 5.2 innings pitched. He has had a rough stretch after a very good start which saw him leading the league in ERA not all that long ago.
The Cubs haven’t been playing very well lately and that didn’t necessarily change in Houston. They got through a rough stretch in the beginning of the season and are firmly in the midst of their second, having won only one of their last five series. Every new hot streak has to start somewhere, though and Hendricks’ dominant outing could very well be a catalyst.
With that said, the events in the stands during Wednesday night’s game reminded us harshly that there are more important things in life than baseball. The news we’ve heard so far about that incident is, thankfully, very good, though the Astros have yet to release official word. Find someone you love and give them a hug.
The Cubs head north to face the Cardinals for a weekend set with Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana, and Hamels scheduled to take the bump. St. Louis’s rotation hasn’t been great and Paul Goldschmidt isn’t hitting like the MVP candidate the Cards traded for an extended, which is why they’ve dropped 17 of 24 games.
But you can generally throw the records out in this matchup, especially when it’s in St. Lou, as Pat Hughes is fond of saying. And the Redbirds have something to prove after being swept by the Cubs at Wrigley in the season’s first series.