Cubs SWEEP, Bryant Update, Cubs Lead NL
The Chicago Cubs earned their first series sweep of the 2020 season as they narrowly defeated the visiting Pirates 2-1 in extra innings.
Jon Lester took the mound for the Cubs, and despite giving up a first inning home run to Kevin Newman, the left handed starter looked slightly better than his first outing in Cincinnati last week. Lester finished with a line of 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO. For Cubs fans, it’s comforting to see the strikeouts rising for Lester, who’s velocity has been a question mark these past couple seasons. Lester did not earn the win.
As for the Pirates, the starting pitching was great in seeing Steven Brault go three innings before being relieved, and was in the midst of a perfect game. The Cubs managed to get to the Pirates bullpen later on in the fifth inning when Willson Contreras got things going on offense with a line drive to the left field wall securing a leadoff double. The next at bat, Kyle Schwarber added a line drive of his own to center field. Even with third base coach Will Venable giving Contreras the stop sign, Contreras continued rounding third base heading for home. Jacob Stallings lost the ball from his glove mid-tag, thus allowing the Cubs to earn their first run of the ballgame.
The Cubs then turned to Casey Sadler to start the seventh inning after Cubs manager David Ross decided Lester’s day was done. After the narrative the Cubs bullpen has written thus far this season, there was plenty of reason for skepticism as the Cubs were deadlocked with the Pirates in a late 1-1 game. Sadler and Dan Winkler finished regulation as the two combined to allow only 1 hit, 2 walks, and struck out 3 over the last three innings of normal play. The skies opened up at Wrigley following the bottom of the ninth, and the game was forced into a rain delay.
Returning for extra innings, it was an eventful top half of the inning for the Pirates, who looked to secure their second run of the game. Per the new extra innings rule, the batter who made the last out, Jacob Stallings, began the top of the tenth standing on second base. Josh Bell started things off with a sharp base hit to left field which triggered Stallings to opt to round third and head for home. Schwarber threw such a beautifully on-target bullet from left field that Chicago Bears starting quarterback, Mitch Trubisky should be envious of, all the way to Contreras who stood ready to take the charge from Stallings. Contreras held on, and kept the game tied at 1. Bell advanced to second, and Ryan Tepera would sit the next two batters down via line out and ground out.
It would not be until the bottom of the eleventh inning until the next run was scored. David Bote began the bottom of the eleventh as the runner on second, and following a pop fly to right field from Anthony Rizzo, Bote was able to advance to third. It was Javier Baez who hit the eventual winning RBI on a ground ball up the middle of the field to allow Bote to safely cross home plate. Following the game, Bote told ESPN his views on the new extra innings rule, “It’s definitely different. With the season we’re in this year, it definitely makes sense. But if you were playing a World Series game, you wouldn’t want it decided like that.” This was the first game the Cubs went to extra innings this season, and if you’re a Cubs fan, you’re breathing a sigh of relief that Baez came through to play hero ball once again. Jeremy Jeffress earned his first win as a Cub in relief.
Kris Bryant Update:
ESPN also provided an update on former MVP third baseman Kris Bryant, “Chicago star Kris Bryant was out of the lineup for a second straight game, a day after reporting a stomach ailment. Bryant was tested for the coronavirus on Friday and Saturday, and the Cubs said both tests were negative. He is scheduled to be tested again on Monday. Ross said Bryant was feeling better Sunday and the team will follow the MLB protocols.”
This is great news. Not only does Bryant have the ability to get hot at the plate at any moment, but he brings a presence to this lineup and locker room that the Cubs are incomplete without. It sounds as though he should be returning sooner than later, and he will be tested again today.
Cubs On Top:
With Sunday’s win over the Pirates, the Cubs claimed the best record in the National League at 7-2 with a .778-win percentage. Their record is also good enough to claim a tie with the Minnesota Twins for the 2nd best record in all of baseball, trailing only the New York Yankees.
The Cubs (7-2) next take on the Kansas City Royals (3-7) today at Wrigley Field at 8:15pm EST. Alec Mills (1-0) 3.00 ERA gets his second start of the season facing off against Danny Duffy (0-1) 5.79 ERA.