Within five days, the Chicago Cubs won three games with walk-off home runs. No walk-off singles. Nope. It’s all or nothing–and they’ve gone ‘all in.’
Maybe it’s because the expectation for the Chicago Cubs is as at its peak. And I’m not ‘comparing’ these two–but it’s felt a little bit like 2016 in the last few weeks. Clearly, this game of baseball can change its mind in a heartbeat and turn on you. The Cubs went from worst to first in a month. So you can’t assume anything in this game. But these games they’ve won in the past week? They lost those at the end of last season.
When the Milwaukee Brewers picked up Gio Gonzalez, I giggle a bit internally. They’ve been riding the arm Zach Davies, who Craig Counsell doesn’t seem to trust a whole lot past the sixth. But with that bullpen, he really doesn’t have to. Gonzalez outdueled Jose Quintana, and their bullpen proved to be better on that day. Davies was up on Saturday, but he would have to face the ageless Cole Hamels, who has had a resurgence since coming to Chicago. If you don’t think winning can change a player, see Hamels.
Hamels made just one mistake in his seven innings of work. It was a fastball down the heart of the plate that Hernan Perez took out to center field. Aside from that, he allowed just three hits while striking out five and walking three. Hamels career at Wrigley Field was impressive before he came to Chicago. I guess it sort of made sense to bring him in.
Usually, when there’s a unique slide in a Cubs’ game, you’re expecting it to come from Javier Baez. In this case, it was David Bote scoring from first on an Albert Almora double. With the wet conditions, fielders had to be cautious when making plays. So tentative was the word of the day of most balls.
Maybe it wasn’t as smooth as Baez, but I’m sure he appreciated it. Regardless, it tied the game at one in the bottom of the fifth, giving the Cubs plenty of time to score again and even the series. But when I say ‘plenty of time?’ 15 innings wasn’t what I had in mind.
The bullpens matched each other inning for inning. The Cubs had a few chances, but couldn’t break through for the winning run. In the end, it was Burch Smith for the Brewers and Tyler Chatwood for the Cubs. After these two, it was going to need to be a starter or a positional player, as most other relievers were ‘down’ for the day after pitching recently.
You might have hated the money the Cubs gave Chatwood. I KNOW you hated the number of walks he gave up in his first season in the rotation. And I’m sure many of you were ready to simply give up and cut your losses with him. So now, I hope you have admitted that you might have been wrong.
While he’s not starting–at least right now–Chatwood has been immeasurably valuable out of the bullpen. He went four innings, striking out seven and walking three, winning for the second time this season. These aren’t ‘garbage’ innings or low-leverage. Joe Maddon put him out there for four innings with the game on the line–and he came through –along with Willson Contreras that hit the walk-off blast to end the game in the 15th inning.
I’m not saying this is 2016, or that it will end as that year did. But it feels like it the last week. The series finale is tonight on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN. The Chicago Cubs Jon Lester (2-1, 1.41) will face Jhoulys Chacin (3-3, 5.03) as they look to win another series and remain in first place.