The Rundown: Bryant Blasts First Wrigley Homer, Lester Squeezed, Bullpen ‘Fixes’ Could be Ahead, Billy McKinney Raking

Last night’s game started off just how I’d draw up a Cubs win.

They flexed their muscles with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hitting back-to-back home runs in the first inning. And Jon Lester was pitching like the ace he is.

It was a really nice start to the homestand.

Bryant’s homer was his first at Wrigley Field (second overall), and was the first with the Wrigley bleachers (which opened Monday night) back in operation.

The Cubs’ offense also continued to work counts, driving up last year’s NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom’s pitch count. He was forced to exit the game after finishing the fifth.

Lester was pitching very effectively, but in the top of the sixth he gave up back-to-back home runs. He then ran into a very questionable strike zone, which jacked up his pitch count. Despite being obviously frustrated and exasperated with the home-plate umpire, he finished the sixth without any further damage.

Overall, it was another solid outing for Lester — his third in a row. He had his breaking stuff working well, keeping it low and getting a lot of swings and misses. He recorded six strikeouts on the night.

It would have been nice for him to go at least seven, but Justin Grimm, Zac Rosscup and Hector Rondon were able to shut the door for the 4-3 win.

Talking about the bullpen

Before yesterday’s game, Jed Hoyer admitted the Cubs brass had a discussion about the bullpen, writes Jesse Rogers. No big surprises there, as the bullpen hasn’t been as good as we maybe could have expected — even considering injuries to Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez.

“At some point we do have to talk about fixes,” Hoyer said.

So we’ll have to wait and see what kinds of fixes they have in mind.

A bit of good news for the bullpen: Ramirez threw a bullpen session yesterday and Hoyer said it went well. Ramirez has been on the disabled list since mid-April with a sore shoulder, and we’ll likely see him sometime in June (assuming no setbacks).

Other fixes could include Felipe Paulino, who the Cubs signed to a minor-league deal yesterday, and Anthony Varvaro, who cleared waivers after being designated for assignment and will be heading to Iowa.

I’m hoping the return of Grimm will help get things back on track. Everything worked out decently last night.

Other notes

* OF Billy McKinney has been raking for Myrtle Beach, and he was rewarded by winning Carolina League Player of the Week accolades from In a nine-game span, McKinney went 13-for-30 with four doubles, two triples, one home run, 12 RBIs, eight walks and only two strikeouts. If you’re wondering if that’s good … yes, yes it is. McKinney, who is only 20 years old, came over along with Addison Russell in the Jeff Samardzija trade last summer. Yesterday, the young outfielder went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

* The Cubs will face highly touted pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard tonight, which should be exciting. Jake Arrieta will be on the mound for the Cubs, so it could be a really excellent pitching match-up. I have a good feeling for the Cubs’ chances because I picked up Syndergaard in my fantasy baseball league (you care, I know), and a great majority of my pitchers this year have been awful. So, you’re welcome Cubs.


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