Cubs Record: 65-41
W: Jason Hammel
L: Jose Fernandez
S: Aroldis Chapman (22, 2 as a Cub)
MVP: Dexter Fowler and Jason Hammel
Jason Hammel had a rocky first frame, but pitched out of trouble and then was locked in the rest of the way. Dexter Fowler was a one-man wrecking crew on offense and played a role in all 3 of the Cubs’ runs tonight.
Fowler led off the bottom of the 1st with his 4th triple and then scored on an infield single from Willson Contreras, a bouncer up the middle that required a diving stop by Marlins shortstop Hechavarria.
In the 3rd inning, Fowler created a run almost entirely on his own. He hit a one-out single, then stole second (8th stolen base) and advanced to third on a single to LF by Contreras. Then things really got weird.
Anthony Rizzo flew out to shallow LF, too shallow for Fowler to even try to score, but Contreras had ventured away from first base enough for Christian Yelich to think he had a play. As he threw the ball towards first, Fowler broke for home and just beat the throw. Contreras tried to make it to second base when the throw home escaped catcher JT Realmuto, but was cut down to end one of the slowest developing double plays in recent memory.
Chris Coghlan led off the bottom of the 5th with a single and advanced to second on a balk by Jose Fernandez. Two outs later, Fowler stepped to the plate and hit a sharp single to RF to score Coghlan for the 3rd run for the Cubs.
As you can tell from the recap, Fowler was outstanding and went 3 for 4 with 2 runs. He is hitting .289 and OPSing at .883 as he continues to show just how valuable he is to this Cubs team.
Hammel needed 22 pitches to make it through the 1st inning, but really settled in and was on cruise control the rest of the way. He was pulled a little early, but made it through 6 shutout innings on just 80 pitches. He improved to 11-5 on the year and has an ERA of 3.07.
With Kris Bryant getting a day off, Contreras hit second and responded well to hitting between Fowler and Anthony Rizzo. He went 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI (18) to bring his average to .272 after scuffling a bit recently.
Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman finished off the final two innings without much fanfare. Rondon gave up a couple hits, one of which led to Dee Gordon coming into the game to pinch run. Rondon then picked the runner off of first after 3 or 4 throws over and then got out of the inning unscathed.
Javier Baez looked like he was back to his old ways of constantly swinging for the fences and struck out three times, leaving 5 men on base.
Baez didn’t carry his offensive issues with him to the field and he made one heck of a barehanded play on a chopper down the third base line to lead off the 9th inning for the Marlins. He broke in immediately, grabbed the ball on two bounces and fired a perfect throw to Rizzo for the first out of the inning.
As I alluded to earlier, it seemed like Joe Maddon pulled Hammel a little early. In hindsight it would have been nice to see Hammel come out for the 7th inning. He was lifted for a pinch hitter in the 6th, I assume because there were men on base and the Cubs had a chance to stretch the lead. But Hammel was really pitching well and looked like he could have gone a little deeper. The second-guessing was then fueled by Pedro Strop giving up two runs in relief.
Strop came into the game in the 7th and had a bit of a rough go, giving up a leadoff single that kind of led to an unraveling of things. The next batter hit a chopper right back to him and he then turned to make a throw to 2nd to start a double play, but instead threw the ball into CF.
The next batter hit a run scoring single, bringing Ichiro to the plate, who Strop actually struck out. The next hitter hit a ground ball back towards Strop again that actually hit off of him and went into right to score another run and make it 3-2. He struck out the next guy and then Maddon went to Travis Wood to face lefty Yelich.
Wood retired Yelich on a low sinking line drive to LF that saw Coghlan slide to make the inning-ending, lead-saving catch.
Strop was so close to getting out of the inning without incident but did himself no favors with the throwing error on what should have been a double play for sure.
The Cubs will finish their season series with the Marlins Wednesday afternoon at 1:20 PM (CST). They have won 6 out of their last 7 and are playing at a very confident level right now. John Lackey (8-7, 3.69) gets the ball for the Cubs against Tim Koehler (8-8, 4.18) for the Marlins.