After suffering a heartbreaking loss on Saturday, the Chicago Cubs made a change in their starting rotation by moving Kyle Hendricks to Monday. This opened the door for former Orioles right-hander Brian Matusz making his debut with the North Siders.
Who said teams needed to be able to hit home runs in order to push runs across the plate? If you’re familiar with Chicago Cubs (63-41) skipper Joe Maddon, then you know that he loves taking the small ball approach and proved it during last year’s divisional series against the Cardinals.
But before Maddon called upon southpaw Jon Lester for his pinch-hit appearance, his call to start Matusz (0-0, 14.00 ERA) hit a brick wall. The Mariners (52-51) were not fooled by the 29-year-old right-hander and made him pay with multiple home runs.
Matusz was called up from Triple-A Iowa by the Cubs and made his first big league start in four years.
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In three innings of work, Seattle tagged him with six earned runs on as many hits while drawing two walks, and two strikeouts before Carl Edwards Jr. entered the game in relief. Nelson Cruz got things going in the first with a two-run monster shot out to left field, giving Felix Hernandez (5-4, 3.46 ERA) an early lead.
In the first inning along, Brian’s pitch count reached 27. Things didn’t get any better for him in the second as second baseman Robinson Cano launched his 23rd home run of the season out to deep right field — Seattle’s second two-run homer of the day that made it 4-0 in favor of the visiting team.
They refused to let off the gas, hammering their third two-run homer in the third inning, making it back-to-back-to-back innings in which they recorded two runs. Only this time, it was Dae-Ho Lee who took Matusz deep, making it 6-0.
Hernandez was originally on the verge of picking up his sixth win of the season, holding the Cubs to two earned runs with five walks and eight strikeouts in five innings of work. Chicago finally got on the board when King Felix walked in a runner during a brief two-run fifth inning.
Travis Wood played a key part in tonight’s game by moving from the mound (for the second time this year) to left field, only to find himself back on the bump. Wood made a spectacular play out in left field on a towering fly ball, looking back to the Ivy covered wall and recording the out.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo smoked a line drive out to right field, recording his 29th double of the aging campaign, putting himself in scoring position. Rizzo would come around to score on Addison Russell‘s RBI base knock to left field, moving Zobrist over to third and advancing to second on the throw.
The Cubs inched closer by a run when Willson Contreras managed to beat out what could have been a game-ending double-play. Russell later scored on a wild pitch by Cishek, sending these two clubs into extra innings.
We’ll fast forward to the 12th where Jason Heyward nearly ended this game with his first walk-off homer in a Cubs uniform but missed the basket out in left-center by at least four feet. Heyward made his way to third on a Contreras flyout to center.
This is when things took a weird turn. Jon Lester entered the game as a pinch-hitter with a batting average around .075 and was obviously looking to lay down a bunt. That’s exactly what he did and for that, the Cubs extended their lead to 7.5 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Missed it? Here’s the video courtesy of MLB.com‘s official website: