Maybe the Cubs should play tired more often.
Although this game was close for the first six innings (Chad Kuhl was very good, save for an Anthony Rizzo solo blast in the second), the Cubs bats woke up as soon as the Pirates bullpen took over.
Indeed, the action started in the 7th when Albert Almora Jr. scored on Addison Russell’s pinch-hit home run (his second of the season), and continued in full force over the next two innings.
Arguably the biggest play/series-of-plays happened in the 8th, when Anthony Rizzo (single), Javy Baez (single) and Kyle Schwarber (intentional walk) found themselves on base with no outs. That’s when the Cubs new backup catcher, Chris Gimenez, hit a grounder to short that was brought to the plate for a double-play the hard way.
Rizzo slid into catcher Elias Diaz, knocking him over and forcing his throw to first into right field, allowing Baez and Schwarber to score. The play went under review (presumably to see if the slide at home was clean (it definitely was)) and at one point both managers were out on the field arguing. After a lengthy review, however, the umps got it right and the Cubs were up 5-0.
In the ninth, singles from Russell, Bryant, Rizzo, and Baez (plus a wild pitch) led to a couple more runs and put the game out of reach – though it did allow us the pleasure of a rare pinch-hit appearance from Pedro Strop, who flew out to center, but clearly wanted so much more than that.
AND ALL OF THAT is to go without having yet mention the very best part of today’s game: Mike Montgomery’s stellar performance. He won’t likely earn a permanent spot in the rotation based on any one single start – the Cubs mostly know what and who he is by now (and have a very full rotation … usually) – but he should be able to get some more looks with Tyler Chatwood working on things and Yu Darvish awaiting an MRI. And with a confidence building start like today, Montgomery will surely have the back of his manager.
And, sure, it wasn’t a super lengthy start overall, but Montgomery lasted a lot longer than anyone expected, throwing 5.2 scoreless innings with just two hits, no walks, and five strikeouts. It was undoubtedly a wonderful performance and something we always knew Montgomery is capable of delivering from time to time.
After he exited, the bullpen shut things down (as they do), giving up exactly nothing (plus two strikeouts) over 3.1 IP. Altogether, the Pirates managed just two hits and no walks – talk about a frustrating day at the plate … yeesh.
And finally, Luke Farrell, called up earlier today, closed out the blowout and the Cubs got their second consecutive W.
As for the Pirates? Well, they got the big old “L.”