The 2016 Cubs seemed to be best able to win by bludgeoning other teams. The 2017 Cubs seem to be best able to win when they go down by several runs in the early going.
So it was AGAIN tonight, for the third straight game, as the Cubs went down 5-2 in this one, only to tie things in the 9th inning (with two outs) on an Anthony Rizzo rocket homer. In the 11th, Kris Bryant knocked in Albert Almora Jr. with a sac fly, and the comeback win was complete.
Cubs pitchers seemed to have some issues with the strike zone all night (it did look pretty bad on TV), and maybe there was a little squeezing going on that contributed to the hits Jon Lester gave up, but there was also quite a bit of hard contact. In total, Lester gave up nine hits and two walks in just 5.2 innings, and it was shades of the last time he pitched in Great American Ballpark – his final regular season start of 2016 was just 5.0 innings, with five earned runs on six hits and three walks. Maybe some of these Reds in this ballpark just see him really well. Fortunately, the bullpen was mostly very sound once again, giving the bats a chance to break through.
Although the Cubs managed a couple deep homers off of Tim Adleman, that was it in the early going. The offense had a number of scoring opportunities, but failed to come through with runners in scoring position again and again until the Rizzo homer. The most egregious cases came in the 7th and 8th innings, when the Cubs put the first two runners on base … and then netted three straight outs. Failing to cash in on golden opportunities like that will cost you no matter what team you’re playing. (The Cubs also had two on and just one out in the 6th and the 9th. Yup: tying run reached the plate in each of the final four innings, and the Cubs didn’t score until they were down to their final out. It was a pretty frustrating final four innings … and then exhilarating, because baseball.)
But the Rizzo homer did happen, and Bryant managed to hit one juuuuust deep enough for Almora to score on a close sac fly, and the Cubs won again!