Cubs Record: 38-15 (1st Place NL Central)
W: John Lackey (6-2, 2.88)
L: Archie Bradley (2-1, 4.94)
MVP: John Lackey: 6.2 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 9 K, 2 BB.
The Cubs continued an excellent homestand against the Diamondbacks on Friday and John Lackey extended the recent run of excellent pitching. Highly touted D-Backs hurler Archie Bradley appeared ready to meet Lackey’s challenge.
Lackey and Bradley traded zeroes through the first five innings of the game. Finally, the Cubs would strike first in the bottom of the sixth when Chris Owings got a bad read on a hard-hit liner by Anthony Rizzo that rolled all the way to the wall for an RBI double.
Things kind of got away from the Snakes in the bottom of the 8th inning. Addison Russell knocked in two with a double into the left field corner. Javy Baez played add-on, plating three more on a little league home run created by a double and an Arizona error. Six runs was more than enough for the Cubs pen, as Adam Warren, Pedro Strop, and Justin Grimm (poor Hector Rondon was denied yet another save chance) closed out the game for the Cubs’ 38th win on the season.
Lackey was dominant in his 6.2 innings of work Friday. The book on Lackey has been that he pitches aggressively to contact and works quickly. He has flipped the script so far this season, however, and is striking out hitters at a much higher rate. Today was no exception, as the crusty vet picked up nine K’s and a lot of weak contact, even on some of the Arizona hits. After an iffy beginning to his Cubs career, the towering Texan has been worth the money this season.
Rizzo is starting to heat up the past few games too. The Cubs first baseman got on base three times Friday, including hitting the game-winning double in the sixth. Archie Bradley was very tough to hit with 10 K’s on the day, so it was good to see Rizzo earning those NL-leading All-Star votes.
Perhaps the biggest hit of the game came off the bat of Addison Russell in the 8th. The D-Backs were one out away from ending the inning with no damage before Russell came through. Facing Paul Goldschmidt to lead off the ninth with a slim one-run lead would not have been a walk in the park.
I’m going to tweak the rules here a little bit with the bad portion of today’s game. The bottom the 1st would more accurately be described as weird. Kris Bryant struck out and doubled…in the same at bat. Allow me to explain:
Welington Castillo (I still like Beef, by the way) was expecting a curve ball on 1-2, but Archie Bradley threw a fastball. KB swung and missed and the ball clanged off a confused Wely’s mask. Everyone was caught off guard, most notably home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, who called it a foul tip (which it wasn’t) allowing the at-bat to continue.
To add a cherry on top of the goofy frame, Castillo hit Rizzo in the side of the head with a throw back to the mound. Anthony responded with a mock push of his former teammate after the “beaning.”
So about the defense offered by the Arizona National League ballclub today. Chris Owings broke the wrong way on Rizzo’s hard-hit liner in the sixth inning. Owings, who had moved to shortstop by the 8th, fired the relay throw on Baez’s double into the crowd for a little league homer. Not to be outdone, catcher/outfielder Chris Herrmann dropped Tim Federowicz’s routine fly ball immediately after the Owings error. It has been that kind of year so far for the Snakes.
Saturday afternoon, a (hopefully) healthy Jason Hammel (6-1, 2.09) does battle with Edwin Escobar (0-1, 18.90) at 1:20 CST. It will be Escobar’s second career start in the majors, and, as his ERA attests, the first one did not go well. The Astros tagged the young lefty for eight runs in 3.1 innings on that day. The Cubs will look to follow suit and keep the good times rolling.