Cubs record: 61-40, 1st NL Central, (6.5 games up)
W: John Lackey
L: Chris Sale
S: Aroldis Chapman (1)
MVP: John Lackey
The saddest two days of the year are the first day of winter and the last game of the Crosstown Cup. The Cubs won tonight to split the series with the White Sox, which, alas, kept the trophy on the South Side.
This one was pretty uneventful compared to the previous games in the series as John Lackey ended up outdueling Chris Sale. The latter gave up six hits and three walks to the Cubs, who were able to scratch out two runs against one of the best pitchers there is. The first run came in the 1st after Dexter Fowler walked to lead off the game and Kris Bryant immediately doubled him home.
The same duo got it going again in the 3rd when Fowler was hit by a pitch and Bryant walked with no outs. Ben Zobrist singled to plate the second run, and that was all the Cubs needed to secure the victory. Lackey only allowed four hits, one walk, and one run and the Sox were shut down from that point forward.
This game also featured a glimpse of why Theo and Company paid so much for Aroldis Chapman as it really ended up shortening the game. After Lackey’s superb six innings we saw Strop in the seventh, Rondon in 8th for two outs, and Chapman slamming the door for the final four outs.
This is a really formidable way to finish a game. Neither Strop nor Rondon was perfect, but they didn’t allow any runs. Strop walked Dioner Navarro but was never in danger of giving up a run, really. Rondon served up a leadoff double to Tyler Saladino, but struck out Adam Eaton and induced a Tim Anderson groundout before giving way to Chapman with two outs.
It was an early hook for Rondon and I personally think he looked a little peeved to not have a chance to strikeout Melky Cabrera. He only threw eight pitches and is more than capable of getting out of a man-on-third-with-two-outs jam (his 11.4 K/9 is the highest of his career).
However, Maddon might have been too excited to use his new toy in a high-leverage situation. Chapman didn’t disappoint, striking out Saladino to end the inning.
Lackey was in total control all night long. He got off to a shaky start by giving up the run in the first, but if Tim Anderson doesn’t beat out an infield single, Lackey probably finishes the game with a shutout. He really locked in after that early hiccup and was able to cruise from that point forward. This was his best start since June 8. He had given up two or more earned runs in his last eight starts, and it was great to see a shutdown performance from him tonight.
That Strop, Rondon, Chapman combo is going to be BAD, ladies and gentleman (I mean this as positively as possible). The deal is never going to not feel icky, but in terms of baseball stuff, the trade for Aroldis Chapman makes the back end of the Cubs bullpen arguably the best and most dominant in the game.
Nothing ugly in this one.
Interleague play continues for the Cubs as Jon Lester faces off against the Seattle Mariners. Hisashi Iwakuma takes the mound for the Seafarers; the 35-year-old has gone 10-2 in his last 12 starts with a 3.69 ERA. Should be fun to watch the Cubs take on a team they don’t always play that often. As for Lester, three of his last four starts have been really bad (8.1 total innings pitched with 17 earned runs), but he did pitch a gem against the Mets back on July 18. Those three bad starts all came on the road and the lefty is 5-2 with a 2.18 ERA at Wrigley. Hopefully a homecoming is all he needs to turn in a solid performance. We will find out tomorrow at 1:20 CST, you can find me in the bleachers if you yell my name over and over again around center field concessions or at Hot Doug’s.