Jaime Garcia takes the hill tonight at home against Jason Hammel. Jaime is coming off a truly sublime 101-pitch (?), 13 K CGSHO performance against the hapless Brewers last week. Hammel is the Northsiders' good-not-great fourth starter (behind Arrieta and old Red Sox buds Lester and Lackey). El Birdos should have the pitching edge but Lord knows it's unwise to underestimate the Cubbies' offensive game. Garcia is a wiffleball-chucking collective hallucination and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to watch him twirl.
Little happened in the first inning. In the second inning, Matt Adams (he of the recent struggles) singled sharply to center. Randal Grichuk worked a solid at-bat that ended in another single. Yadier Molina (he of the recently revived optimism about his offensive abilities) stepped to the plate, his devotees and sycophants eager to praise his imminent production. Unfortunately, Adams broke on Hammel's motion in his first pitch, which turned out to be a pick off in reality. Adams got caught in a rundown. Yadi promptly tripled (only the sixth time this has happened in the history of the world!), scoring the jaguar god.
In the fourth inning, the small bears struck back. Jorge Soler worked a full count and ultimately walked. Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero singled, packing up the bases. Jaime dominated and struck out ol' molasses-swing hisself, Addison Russell, to get the second out and to give us all optimism that we might get out of this unscathed. Unfortunately, this was a mean trick by the universe, as Jason Hammel hit a single on a 1-1 count to score Soler and Zobrist. Cubbies lead, 2-1. (nevermind that it would have been 2-2 if Adams had not gotten picked off like a big gravy train on crumbling, soggy biscuit wheels.) Inning ended without much more fanfare.
After this, the Cubs threatened some, the Birds threatened some, but nobody did anything. (I frankly don't have the heart to recap the wasted opportunities. We had some good chances and just absolutely squandered them.) Jaime Garcia's final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 7 K, 4 BB (damn the cubs have a markedly improved approach this year as a team), whatever ERA because ERA is a terrible stat. Jason Hammel finished his work with a line of 6 IP, 5 H, 6 K, 0 BB and 1 HBP. We had an Oh sighting: 1 H, 2 K, 0 ER this year, 100 wonderful nicknames. Seung-Hwan Oh is really, really great and fun to watch. If you haven't read this fangraphs article about him, you really should consider it.
Jonathan Broxton's Large Pants carried a man onto the field who pitched the 8th for el birdos. That man walked Anthony Rizzo, struck out Jorge Soler (his third such result this night), got some other guy to ground out, walked one Miguel Montero, and got Addison Russell to groundout. Good job, pants. In fact, great job, pants. Let's give those billowing pants a big round of applause.
Bottom 8th: Matthew Carpenter nailed one up the middle, almost taking Travis Wood's head off, taking first base, and taking Wood out of the game. Pedro "no really I'm good now, guys!" Strop picked up the ball. Hazelbaker
reclaimed the magic, driving Marp in struck out, looking more and more like the AAAA guy some people thought he was. Holliday tried, but did not achieve. Reclamation project Matt Adams got his third hit of the evening, Matting Matt Marpenter in and tying the game walked. Intentionally. Good job, Mayo. The jaguar god Grichuk hit a three-run dinger struck out, ending the inning and bringing his career record against Strop to 5 PA, 5 K. Damn. Still 2-1 Cubbies.
Bowman in to pitch the top o' the ninth. 2 nice K, 1 fantabulous wong play (his second of the night, btw) to bring the good guys to the bottom of the ninth needing a mere two runs to walkoff the dreaded Cubs. (I don't know if you can tell, but I'm sort of writing this as I'm watching the game. I'm totally not projecting what I want to happen.)
BOTTOM OF THE NINTH:
Famous righty Hector Rondon in to pitch for the Cubs.
Yadi, leadoff single. Eric Fryer in to run.
Wong flew out.
Diaz flew out.
Famous lefty-masher Jedd Gyorko struck out against the famous righty Rondon. Cubs win 2-1.
El Birdos try to salvage one against the prohibitive NL Central favorites tomorrow, with El Gallo taking the mound against the largely hapless Kyle Hendricks. Tune in for the day game, starting at something like 11:50 CDT.