Today’s game certainly didn’t lack for tension, but, thanks to critically-timed insurance runs, it felt slightly less likely to erupt into insanity than it would have if Brian Schlitter took that 8th inning ball with a mere 2-1 lead.
Jon Lester was fantastic today, notching strikeout after strikeout in key moments, and, although he gave up some hits, he did what the Cubs needed: for seven strong innings, he put the Cubs on his back. For their part, the offense did exactly what they needed to do, too: for six innings, they made Gerrit Cole work – even scored a couple on him – and got him out of the game. That allowed the Cubs to pick up a couple more runs on the taxed Pirate bullpen, and provide comfort for when the Cubs had to turn to their own bullpen.
Which, well … Schlitter got the ball to start the 8th, gave up two hits, and was promptly pulled. But before too many folks could get five minutes into their “here we go again” routine, Phil Coke did his job, Jason Motte did his job, and the inning was over.
And then Travis Wood came in for the save.
Yeah, you read that right. We’ll find out if this was just a one-time thing, where the bullpen was taxed and Wood was needed and was able to throw as he normally would between starts (Joe Maddon once did that with Matt Garza in Tampa Bay). Or we’ll find out if this is the start of a bullpen transition for Wood, opening a spot in the rotation for Tsuyoshi Wada, who is on the same schedule. (UPDATE: Yeah, sounds like Wood is staying in the pen. More on that soon.)
Anywho, six wins in a row. Hooray!