Cubs Continue Winning Ways, Best Record in MLB
After a weekend long hiatus, following the MLB postponing their series in St. Louis with the Cardinals over COVID-19 concerns, the Chicago Cubs returned to play Tuesday night for the first time since last Thursday, when they were blown out by the Royals 13-2. This was a concerning point in the season for this team, as it marks the first time they had lost by eleven runs, with the starting pitching faltering early. Tyler Chatwood alone gave up eight of Kansas City’s eleven runs in his 2.1 innings of action.
How the Cubs would respond to coming off a big loss and four days of no baseball (scheduled day-off on Monday), would set the tone for this team moving forward. The Cubs faced off against a familiar opponent in their first game “back,” the Cleveland Indians. The game took place at Progressive Field, marking only the second visit the Cubs have made to Cleveland since winning the World Series back in 2016. Jon Lester was handed the ball for Chicago while the Indians had to make an adjustment with their rotation. Rather than facing Mike Clevinger, who was scheduled to pitch, the Indians had to re-schedule their rotation after it was reported both Zach Plesac and Clevinger left the Indians team hotel in Chicago this past weekend during their road trip to play the White Sox. The two will both be out for an undetermined amount of time to quarantine.
Lester showed more flashes of dominance in his third start of the season Tuesday night. Similar to his previous outings, Lester did not go past the sixth inning, but he was nothing but relentless on the mound allowing just 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, and striking out 4. Lester also lowered his 2020 ERA to just 1.06, which is the third best ERA in all of Major League Baseball. Indians manager Terry Francona spoke in awe of Lester’s performance when he told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, “He’s a different Lester than maybe we’ve seen … years go. He cuts the ball in on the righties and he throws a changeup away. You can’t hit both. We’re kind of in that mode right now where we’re trying to hit everything.”
Speaking of Lester’s changeup, if fans can remember this year’s Spring Training out in Mesa way back before the shutdown occurred, Lester was throwing his curveball more, but since returning and going through the brief Summer Camp, Lester told Bastian it was his changeup that he was seeing better results from, “The changeup and the curveball sometimes flip-flop. So, you kind of have to ride that wave. I’m riding that right now with the [changeup] and it kind of played into the game plan tonight with these guys.” As for Ross? The Cubs manager told Bastian, “Nothing fazes [Lester]. He’s the ultimate competitor. He’s going to figure out a way to win, to beat you, and he’s going to give it everything he’s possibly got.”
In addition to a brilliant performance from Lester, the Cubs offense also awoke much earlier than fans were hoping for in the form of seven runs. Personally, I was expecting this Cubs team to only muster maybe one or two runs after being out of live action for so long, but this has me very excited moving forward.
Jason Heyward was the man of the night for Chicago, as he got things going in the second inning when he hit a line drive to center in order to allow Willson Contreras to score the game’s first run. Adam Plutko would do a decent job holding the Cubs to only a one run lead until Cleveland’s bullpen took over. The Cubs absolutely broke this game open in the sixth inning in the form of five more runs. Willson Contreras got going in the RBI column after hitting a sac-fly to center field with the bases loaded allowing Kris Bryant to score. One batter later, Ian Happ would hit a sharp ground ball up the middle, just barely missing the glove of Francisco Lindor, allowing Javier Baez to score to increase the lead to 3-0. The very next batter, Jason Heyward, struck again but this time in the form of a 3-run shot to right field for his second home run of the season.
The bottom of the sixth inning would see Cleveland get their only run of the game when Franmil Reyes hit a line drive double to deep right field, bringing Lindor home all the way from first base. The Cubs would then get that run right back in the next half inning, in the form of a wild pitch from Logan Allen that would get away from the catcher, bringing Jason Kipnis home from third, for his first run scored at Progressive Field as a member of a team that was not the Indians.
Play ball! pic.twitter.com/MFs1Yc01CM
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 11, 2020
Following the great win Tuesday night, Lester told ESPN of his teammates, “It’s nice to see these guys show up with energy today. Like I’ve said before, I think that’s what Rossie kind of brings to these guys. It’s that kind of accountability of, hey, maybe we get beat today, but we’re going to have energy. We’re going to be in every pitch, we’re going to grind. We’re going to need to do.” Hopefully this kind of energy remains present within the clubhouse and this core as the Cubs continue to keep churning out wins.
The Cubs 11-3 record and .786 win% is now the best in all of baseball, only being trailed by a surprising 12-5 Colorado Rockies team who has a .706%, the only other team above .700.
The Chicago Cubs (11-3) will next face off against the Cleveland Indians (10-8) tonight at 6:10pm EST in the final game of their brief visit to Progressive Field before returning home to Wrigley on Thursday to face Milwaukee. Kyle Hendricks (2-1) 3.54 ERA will get his fourth start of the season as Carlos Carrasco (2-1) 2.50 ERA gets the nod for the Indians.