In the 101 Major League Baseball Seasons since Wrigley Field was erected in 1914, the Chicago Cubs had won just a single playoff series – the 2003 NLDS vs. the Braves. That series was decided in five games, the last of which took place in Atlanta at Turner Field. Therefore, when Hector Rondon threw the slider (seen above) that struck out Steven Piscotty to end the game and the series, the Cubs were celebrating their first ever postseason series win on Wrigley turf. That’s not the only storyline here either – this was an exciting game for the Cubs. Steven Piscotty hit a two-run homer in the top of the first to open the scoring before a single out was recorded. Javy Baez had another strong game in place of the injured Addison Russell, hitting a three-run shot off of Cardinals starter John Lackey in the second inning following a two-out RBI single to opposing pitcher Jason Hammel (who was hitting eighth). In the top of the sixth, Tony Cruz hit an RBI double with two men on base to make it 4-3. With runners on second and third, Brandon Moss hit a single to right field that would’ve put the Cardinals on top if not for a laser throw from Jorge Soler which cut down Cruz at home plate. However, Anthony Rizzo responded by yanking a low-and-away slider out of the park off of Cardinals’ lefty Kevin Siegrist to put the Cubs on top for good. In the next inning, Siegrist surrendered a mammoth dinger to rookie Kyle Schwarber, which landed on top of the expansive scoreboard in deep right field and put an exclamation point on the Cubs win. Also, neither starting pitcher in this game went more than 3 innings – but, both recorded base hits!
Now, you don’t often win games in the regular season when your starting pitcher gets yanked after 3 innings – and if you do, it requires a great effort from your bullpen as a unit. This is absolutely what happened for Chicago on Tuesday, as seven different relievers combined to toss the final 6 innings, allowing 5 hits (3 of which came in the 6th off of Trevor Cahill) and 1 walk while striking out an eye-popping 13 batters, more than two per inning. Below is the breakdown for the Cubs’ pen’s work on Tuesday night. For an explanation of statistics, please refer to our inaugural middle relief report.
As you can see, the Cubs relievers shined bright on the big stage (with the exception of maybe Cahill). Justin Grimm was especially nasty as the first man out of the gates, retiring the side in order (following the Cubs’ only error of the night which allowed Randal Grichuk to reach base safely), all on strikeouts. Travis Wood worked a clean 5th, picking up a couple strikeouts of his own before allowing a leadoff single to Jason Heyward in the 6th and being removed from the game in favor of the aforementioned Cahill, who struggled. He allowed a single to the first batter he faced (J. Peralta), got the next two to strike out swinging, and then allowed the double to Cruz and single to Moss before being bailed out by the arm of Soler in right field. Fernando Rodney, acquired mid-season after being let go by the Mariners, picked up a strikeout of Matt Carpenter and induced a Matt Holliday flyout (sandwiching a walk in between, for good measure) before Richard came on and struck out Heyward on a nasty 96 MPH sinker. Pedro Strop looked good in the eighth, allowing no baserunners and striking out a pair. This might have been the most promising appearance of the night for the Cubs, as the setup role which once belonged solely to Strop has been in flux recently, and if Strop can be more solid in that role down the stretch for Chicago it would make things much easier for Joe Maddon and company (but let’s be honest, Maddon’s gonna find a way to make it work and we know that). Rondon got two quick outs in the ninth before Carpenter lined a first-pitch single into left field. This didn’t phase Rondon, who proceeded to put away Piscotty on three pitches – all of which were 87 MPH sliders. The last of the three was particularly filthy, starting in the zone and running down and away into the dirt (although I don’t have to tell you that, you watched the GIF above like, 15 times, right?). The Wrigley crowd went berserk, Miguel Montero applied the tag quickly and the celebration began.
The Cubs now await the winner of the final NLDS game in Los Angeles (10/15, 8PM), which will feature a matchup between two of the NL’s best in Jacob deGrom and Zack Grienke. Today, one ALDS Game 5 is already underway (Texas at Toronto, Hamels vs. Stroman) and one is slated to begin later tonight (8PM, Astros @ Royals, McHugh vs. Cueto). So far the Division Series have yet to disappoint and I have high hopes that the excitement will continue, if not escalate, as we get into the Championship Series. Check back in tomorrow for a recap of how my ALDS predictions fared, and most importantly, enjoy the games!