Bryant Returns, Mills Dominates
The Chicago Cubs pushed their win streak to four Monday night as they nudged the Royals for a 2-0 victory to reach a record of 8-2, their best start to a season since 2016.
Alec Mills looked as great as ever on the mound getting Whit Merrifield to ground out to second baseman Nico Hoerner, and striking former Cub Jorge Soler out to start the game, but then the Royals gave the Cubs a first inning scare. Ryan O’Hearn came up to hit a ground-rule double on a beautiful fly ball down the left field line, followed by a single from Salvador Perez. With 2 outs and runners on the corners, Mills would successfully get next man up Franchy Cordero into a first pitch ground out to Anthony Rizzo to end the Royals rally.
The game would stay quiet until the bottom of the fifth inning when the Cubs got going. Nico Hoerner started things off drawing a walk from Royals starter, Danny Duffy, followed by a single from Ian Happ, and then another walk to Kris Bryant. With the bases loaded and no outs, the Cubs looked to be in a great position to capitalize. Unfortunately to most Cubs fans’ frustrations, the team managed only one run in the form of a sac-fly from Javier Baez to allow Hoerner to score from third. It wouldn’t be until the seventh inning when the Cubs would bring in their next run. Kris Bryant finally got into the home run column as he smoked a line drive to left-center field on a night the wind at Wrigley was blowing in.
Mills pitched a solid game for the Cubs, and at the moment appears to be as great a 5th spot in the rotation as most teams could hope for. He finished with a line of 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO. In earning his second win of the season, Mills was the first Cubs starter to complete a full seven innings of work since Kyle Hendricks pitched his complete game shutout on Opening Day. When asked of his performance, Mills told ESPN, “It was a team that got rid of me a couple years ago. Understand the business, and my job is to make it hurt whenever I face them.” Fans will remember that the Cubs and Royals made a deal in early 2017 that sent Mills to Chicago in exchange for outfield prospect Donnie Dewees. Dewees never appeared in an MLB game for Kansas City before being traded back to the Cubs in 2019, where he still remains in Triple A Iowa.
Rounding out the game, Cubs manager David Ross turned to Casey Sadler for the second day in a row to come in and get two quick outs before being replaced following a line drive single from Jorge Soler. Ross handed the ball off to Rowan Wick, who came in and got the four-out save to earn his second save of the young season. This is now the second save opportunity in a row that big name signee Craig Kimbrel has not been turned to. When asked, Ross told Jesse Rogers of ESPN days ago, “He’s frustrated. He wants to work through it. He wants to be better. We’re here to help. We need him to be good if we’re going to have a lot of success.” Ross appears to be optimistic Kimbrel can get back on track, but as for now, expect the first year manager to roll with a platoon of closers that may feature Wick, Jeremy Jeffress, and possibly even Kyle Ryan and Ryan Tepera.
The Cubs (8-2) next take on the Royals (3-8) tonight at 8:15pm EST. The Cubs begin their third trip through the rotation as Kyle Hendricks (1-1) 4.05 ERA attempts to redeem himself after an off-night in Cincinnati last week. Rookie, Brady Singer (0-0) 3.60 ERA gets his third start for Kansas City.