Cubs Record: 51-26 (1st Place NL Central)
W: Kyle Hendricks (6-6, 2.76)
L: Cody Reed (0-2, 9.00)
MVP: Javy Baez: 3-5, 2B, RBI, R
After perhaps the most insane baseball game of the season, the Cubs looked to sweep the Reds in Cincinnati Wednesday afternoon. Kyle Hendricks faced off with rookie hurler Cody Reed in the last of the three-game set. The craziness picked up right where it left off.
In the first inning, Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant singled putting men on the corners for Rizzo. Anthony blasted a line drive to left-center field that careened off the face of center fielder Billy Hamilton, who had the leave the game. The ball skipped into the corner and all three runners scored on an inside the park home run.
The Cubs padded the lead through out the game. Willson Contreras and Javy Baez knocked in runs in the third, Addison Russell hit a homer in the 4th, followed by Albert Almora’s first career blast later in the inning. Hendricks and Matt Szczur picked up the final two RBI in a nine-run Cubs attack.
All that offense was more than enough for Hendricks, who went 6.2 innings on a career-high 117 pitches to save the bullpen. While not as sharp as his start against Pittsburgh, the Professor was able to turn in a quality start: 6.2 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 5 K, 2 BB. Justin Grimm and Carl Edwards took care of the final seven outs in a Cubs 9-2 romp.
Javy Baez had a very good day at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a double and a run batted in. It was defense, however, that earned him the MVP today. In the bottom of the 5th, Jay Bruce came to bat with a man on first and one out. Bruce hit a grounder to second and Baez somehow tagged Joey Votto, did a complete spin, and threw to first to complete the double play. If you didn’t see it, look it up, because my description doesn’t do it justice.
Ben Zobrist, also had quite the all-around game today. He reached base three times with two hits and a walk, scoring twice. Again, his biggest contribution might have been on the defensive side. In the bottom of the 3rd, the right fielder gunned Votto at the plate trying to score after a Bruce single. Adam Duvall homered leading off the next inning, so things would have been much more interesting without number 18’s play.
Joey Votto is still really good at baseball. Don’t let the .244 batting average fool you, the Reds first baseman is as scary as ever. Today, he walked three times and singled while working brutally long at-bats. He will go on a tear in the very near future, hopefully after the series at Wrigley next week.
Jumbo Diaz appeared to throw intentionally at Kris Bryant in the top of the 8th. I’m not exactly sure why this happened. Payback for Kris’ big game on Monday? Anger at Hendricks’ safety squeeze in the 7th? Whatever the reason, I thought it was a petty move by the Reds. Was Diaz acting on his own? Or was he ordered to give the code red? Not sure it really matters, I’m just happy the Cubs didn’t retaliate.
Billy Hamilton has been a thorn in the Cubs side since he debuted for the Reds. But no one wants to see what happened to the Reds center fielder today. He was down for several minutes after taking Rizzo’s liner to the face in the 1st. At last report, Billy is in the concussion protocol. If all goes well, he will be back bugging the Cubs next week.
Thursday night the Cubs take Manhattan. Well, Queens actually, as they open a four-game series with the Mets. John Lackey, (7-4, 3.29) looks to rebound from a tough start last time in Miami. Left-hander and bone spur victim Steven Matz, (7-3, 3.29) goes for New York at 6:10 CDT. I feel a lot better about the NLCS rematch than I would have if the Cubs hadn’t swept the Reds. A split would mean a winning road-trip, and I think we would all take that.