Halfway through Thursday’s game, things looked bleak for the Cubs. Starter Tyler Chatwood struggled somewhat predictably and the home team was down five runs. Then Chicago’s offense exploded for nine runs and the new-look bullpen was able to preserve the win.
Kyle Schwarber gave the Cubs a quick lead with a leadoff homer against Bryse Wilson, but it did not last long as the Braves tied the score in the top of the 2nd on a single by Ozzie Albies. They added three more in the 3rd thanks to a Dansby Swanson double and two-run shot by Freddie Freeman.
Swanson made it a 6-1 game with a two-run single in the 4th inning, as Chatwood rapidly regressed to the mean. The Chicago comeback began with an Anthony Rizzo walk in the bottom of the inning. Javy Báez then doubled and both men came home on a Jason Heyward single. A Wilson wild pitch chased Heyward home and cut the deficit to 6-4.
The Cubs kept the pedal down in the 5th inning with the help of a Nick Markakis error, as his dropped fly ball allowed Kris Bryant to reach second. Rizzo sliced a blooper that bounced out of play for ground rule double and J-Hey smoked a triple to right-center off of new pitcher Josh Tomlin to tie the score. Victor Caratini put the North Siders ahead for good with a two-run jack to right.
Steve Cishek took over in the 6th and immediately surrendered a solo shot to Albies, the Cubs destroyer. The home team got the run back after Daniel Descalso and Addison Russell singled and Descalso scored on a Tyler Flowers passed ball to bring the score to 9-7.
Brandon Kintzler and Pedro Strop each pitched 1-2-3 innings to get the game to the 9th, then Craig Kimbrel made his Cubs debut looking for the save. Kimbrel made quick work of the first two batters before a Ronald Acuna Jr. double and a Swanson walk brought the go-ahead run to the plate. Freddie Freeman hit a grounder to first, but the closer didn’t break to first. Luckily, Rizzo’s diving attempt was just in time to end the game. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
The offense did not quit today, putting together good at-bats and chipping away at the early lead. The bullpen also held a talented Braves lineup to just one run.
The bottom of the 4th inning was huge. The Cubs looked dead in the water after the bad early start, but started climbing back and pouring it on, not letting the Braves get comfortable and settle in with a big lead.
Starts That Matter
- Chatwood’s underlying numbers indicate that he is not much better than last year and Thursday’s game very much proved the point: 5 IP, 6 R. 6 H, 5 K, and 4 BB.
- Heyward had two more big hits and has been the Cubs’ best hitter in June.
- Kintzler continues to good work this season and has become one of Joe Maddon‘s most consistent ‘pen options.
That was a big win for the Cubs. The biggest comeback of the season and the debut of an actual legitimate closer. Perhaps most important of all, the legendary Cookie Monster was there to witness it.
Chicago heads to Cincinnati to start a three-game series with the Reds. Friday’s game starts a 6:10 CT with Cole Hamels facing off against Sonny Gray. WGN has the television coverage and 670 The Score has you on the radio.