Game 2 of Wednesday’s doubleheader was one of those rubber games that fans could look back on at the end of the season as a pivotal win. Coming at the end of five games played in three days, the winner of this final game determined the winner. For the Cu bs, winning three games and the series is quite different from losing three and the set to the St. Louis Cardinals. Adbert Alzolay led the way with a brilliantly pitched game, and the Cubs put together just enough offense to give the exciting young prospect the victory.
Judging by my opening paragraph, it would easy to assume that Alzolay would find his way into this section, but there will be more on him in a minute. The Cubs have been struggling to score runs in key moments over the last several games. Sure, the final scores reflect an offense that is getting work in. Take Game 1 of this Wednesday doubleheader, for instance. The final score showed the Cubs scoring three runs, which is respectable, but they left numerous runners on base in critical situations. This one had all the hallmarks of more of the same. Until it wasn’t, that is.
The Cubs scored two with a clutch two-RBI single in the second, but David Bote was once again a hero for the Cubs. With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, Bote drove a single up the middle, giving the Cubs the lead. It was yet another clutch moment from Bote who was also the hero in Game 2 of the Monday night doubleheader with a late three-run homer to propel the Cubs to victory.
The Even Better
Yeah, I know, I’m breaking from convention, but when a team wins a big game, sometimes you need to focus on the positives. The stellar outing by Adbert Alzolay warranted a change in methods. The Cubs started the day with a disappointing outing by Alec Mills. Still, Duane Underwood Jr. and Jason Adam were able to eat the remaining innings meaning the Cubs ‘pen was in pretty good shape heading into the nightcap. Alzolay made it clear that David Ross wouldn’t need to rely quite so heavily on the ‘pen as he might have anticipated.
Alzolay finished with a solid line of 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R (unearned), 1 BB, and 6 SO. His breaking ball was sharp, and Cardinal hitters seemed off-balance all night. When his defense let him down in the bottom of the fifth, it didn’t seem to faze him as it often does with young pitchers. He minimized the damage and finished the frame, undoubtedly earning the thanks and respect of his defense.
Honorable mention here based on his struggles this season is Craig Kimbrel. Not too many vets would respond well to losing his closing job after such a long career of sustained success. Still, he went about his business, working with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and David Ross to fix whatever was going wrong, be it mechanics or otherwise. It showed tremendous faith by Ross in his veteran closer to go back to him in such a must-win game, and Kimbrel answered the bell, striking out three of the four batters he faced. The only blemish in his outing was a hit-by-pitch to Tommy Edman.
Jeremy Jeffress walked two and surrendered the lead in the sixth, but he has been huge for the Cubs in the early going, so I’m not ready to take him to task over it. Instead, I am going to shift to something I haven’t had to talk about yet this season, and that was a hiccup on defense. On the day, Cubs outfielders threw out two runners on the base paths. Ian Happ gunned down Brad Miller in Game 1, and Kyle Schwarber threw out Matt Carpenter in Game 2. That was the positive. The bad came in the bottom of the fifth.
Tyler O’Neill grounded sharply to David Bote, and the throw across the diamond was a bit high. The normal sure-handed Anthony Rizzo is about as good as it gets at first base, but for whatever reason, the ball clanked off his glove, ending up out of play, allowing O’Neill to reach second. O’Neill later scored on a sac fly. Rizzo had to stretch for the ball, but it was a play he would typically make one hundred times out of a hundred. The error was surprisingly charged to Bote, but in this writer’s humble opinion, that one was on Rizzo.
After a whirlwind of games to start the week, the Cubs finally get a day off before welcoming Windy City rivals, the Chicago White Sox, to Wrigley on Friday. Jon Lester will take the mound for the Cubs. The White Sox will send lefty Dallas Keuchel to the bump. The White Sox have a high-powered, young offense that has been a lot of fun to watch for stretches this season, though they will enter the series as banged up as any team in baseball. This could be an excellent test for the Cubs as they look to continue building on their winning ways.
First pitch on Friday will be at 7:15 pm CT on Marquee Network.
Featured Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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