Cubs record: 58-37, 1st NL Central
W: Jason Hammel
L: Jimmy Nelson
S: Hector Rondon (17)
MVP: Dexter Fowler
It is great to have Dexter Fowler back from the DL and he wasted no time in acclimating himself back to the leadoff spot. He led off the game with a home run to center to get the Cubs on the board.
One inning later, Fowler was at it again, this time with a two-run double to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead. Anthony Rizzo added a sac fly later in the inning t0 push it to 4-0 lead.
Jason Hammel gave up runs in the 4th and 5th innings to make it 4-2. He only made it through 5 innings, but the pen — specifically Travis Wood, Justin Grimm, and Carl Edwards Jr. — picked him up.
Miguel Montero added a big insurance run with an RBI single to right in the 8th to make it a 5-2 game. That’s where it ultimately ended, with Hector Rondon shutting the door for what has been a rare save for him.
Obviously, having Dexter Fowler back at the top of the lineup is a huge boost to everyone. He reached base 4 times and was a triple shy of the cycle. Joe Maddon had a pretty robust 1-3, following Fowler with Kris Bryant and Rizzo. That makes a pretty tough 1st inning for any pitcher.
Willson Contreras had some really good ABs and drew 2 more walks tonight while scoring a run. He has now drawn 13 walks in 29 games and has an OBP north of .375. He also unleashed one of the most impressive throws you will ever see to almost cut down a runner at home who had no business being almost cut down at home.
Like I said, some of the pen did a really good job coming in for Hammel in what was a short 5-inning start for him. Carl Edwards Jr. was probably the most impressive though coming into the game in the 6th inning after Hammel gave up a leadoff double. With the heart of the Brewers order coming up, he induced a groundout from Ryan Braun and then K’d Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter to end the threat.
Hammel got the win and wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t very solid either. He only made it through 5 innings and gave up 2 runs (both earned) on 4 hits (1 HR and 2 doubles), with 2 walks and 4 K’s. Not a terrible line, but he didn’t do a great job of pitching with the lead and it would have been good to see him go a little deeper into the game against the Brewers.
Javier Baez’s stolen base attempt in the 8th inning with one out and a man on 3rd was a little questionable. It didn’t matter in the end, but the ugly part was his slide. He kind of jammed his lower leg/ankle on the bag and looked uncomfortable (he also got tagged in the head/face). He did stay in the game to play defense in the 8th and 9th, so he appears to have avoided injury. From a baseball sense, it wasn’t worth the risk to steal second and from a health standard, man, that slide was a bit scary.
Game 2 will be Saturday night at 6:10 PM (CST) and will feature John Lackey (7-6, 3.75) going up against Zach Davies (6-4, 3.79) for the Brewers. Davies has been on a bit of a hot streak and has a 2.95 ERA over his last 13 starts. Hopefully the Cubs can continue grinding out ABs and get him to work early and often.