Chicago Cubs return to Cleveland, promptly crush Indians in opener

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs returned to Progressive Field for the first time since Game 7 two years ago – and took the fight to the Cleveland Indians all night long.

Much of the pregame on the broadcast centered around the last time the Cleveland Indians played host to the Chicago Cubs. And there were certainly consistent elements – namely, the weather. As rain – yes, rain – fell all night, the Cubs left no doubt or uncertainty, wrapping this game up in the early innings.

Chicago (11-9) backed starter Tyler Chatwood to an early lead, scoring twice in the top of the second. First, Kyle Schwarber sent a rocket into the right field seats. Then, struggling outfielder Ian Happ got his night started with a run-scoring single to make it 2-0.

The Cubs played another in the third and two more in the fourth. Willson Contreras smacked his first homer of the year and then Schwarber and Happ each added homers to make it a 5-1 ballgame.

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Chatwood did everything he needed to in order to notch his first win in a Cubs uniform. He allowed just one earned run on four hits over six-plus innings. This marked the first time a Chicago starter pitched into the seventh this year.

In the top of the seventh, Maddon put his boot on the throat of the Indians. Despite carrying a 5-1 lead, the Cubs put men in motion multiple times in the inning – executing to perfection. First, Albert Almora plated Jason Heyward on a safety squeeze.

Then, an RBI groundout off the bat of Javier Baez plated Happ, who had singled earlier in the inning. A hard-hit Tommy La Stella single capped the scoring in the inning and made it 8-1.

But, even then, the bats weren’t done. Chicago added two more runs in the ninth for good measure – courtesy of an Anthony Rizzo RBI single and a run-scoring La Stella groundout.

What Stood Out

At first, I felt the ‘What Stood Out’ was Schwarber’s two-homer game. I wrote a piece earlier in the day about how potent his bat had been and it seemed like a good place to go with it. Instead, I have to say: Ian Happ’s night at the dish was outstanding.

Each of his three hits went to a different part of the diamond – including his impressive opposite-field home run that brought back PTSD-ridden memories of Rajai Davis‘ game-tying blast in Game 7. Given how much he’s struggled this season, seeing him put together a three-hit effort after showing promise in Denver over the weekend was fantastic.

Takeaways from the Win

Every single Cub in the starting lineup recorded at least one hit. They attacked pitches in the zone, punishing any mistake Josh Tomlin made. They roughed him up for four homers in just 4 2/3 innings, raising his ERA on the year to 9.24.

As for Schwarber, who hit both of his long-balls against Tomlin, the first left the bat at north of 117 MPH. The slugging outfielder is the epitome of locked in right now and, if he can keep this up, he’ll be a huge asset as the season progresses.

Next: Baez swinging more than ever this year - with great results

What’s Next

These two teams wrap up this brief two-game set Wednesday night in Cleveland. Jon Lester (2-0, 3.10) squares off against Trevor Bauer (1-2, 2.67). That contest wraps up the Cubs’ current road trip. The team returns to Wrigley Field Thursday night to open a four-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers.