Game Eight – Cubs 9, Reds 2
WP – John Lackey (2-0) LP – Alfredo Simon (0-1) Save – None
The Cubs equaled the best start in franchise history after eight games with the methodical win over the Reds. The Cubs have started 7-1 after eight games 11 times in the 140 years of the franchise, four times in the last 81 years (1969, 1975, 1985 and 2016).
These Cubs do not give at bats away, no matter the score or the inning. The Cubs walked 10 times and forced six Reds’ pitchers to throw 188 pitches on Wednesday night. Reds’ starter Alfredo Simon could not get through the first inning. Simon made 49 pitches and recorded only two outs before Bryan Price went to his bullpen in the first inning.
The Cubs lead the majors with 48 walks. By the sixth inning, each of the Cubs starting nine had already worked a walk or reached base on a HBP. And it was a free pass by Kris Bryant with the bases loaded in the first inning that erased the one-run deficit five batters into the inning.
The Cubs sent 11 batters to the plate, scored five times and knocked Alfredo Simon out of the game in the first inning. Alfredo Simon and Dan Straily threw a combined 57 pitches in the first inning.
With the Cubs down 1-0, Dexter Fowler (1-for-4 with a double, a HBP and a run scored) led off with a double to right. Jason Heyward (1-for-4 with two RBI) went down swinging and actually made two of the three outs in the first inning. Ben Zobrist (0-for-4 with a walk and a runs scored) walked. With Rizzo at the plate and the Cubs down by a run, Fowler and Zobrist pulled off a double steal. Anthony Rizzo (0-for-4 with a walk and a run scored) walked to load the bases with one out.
Kris Bryant (1-for-3 with a home run, two walks, two runs scored and two RBI) walked and forced in Fowler with the tying run. Miguel Montero (1-for-3 with two walks, three runs scored and a RBI) singled to left. Zobrist scored and the Cubs took a 2-1 lead.
Jorge Soler (2-for-2 with a walk, a run scored and a sac fly RBI) continues to show improvement. Soler put together a complete game Wednesday with several excellent at-bats. With the bases loaded, Soler lifted a 2-0 pitch to left for a sac fly. Rizzo tagged and scored, 3-1 Cubs. Addison Russell (1-for-3 with a walk and a RBI) singled to right center. Bryant scored, 4-1 Cubs. And John Lackey (1-for-3 with a walk and a RBI) helped his own cause with a single to right on a 2-2 pitch. Montero scored, the Cubs took a 5-1 lead and Bryan Price went to his bullpen. Dan Straily hit Dexter Fowler to reload the base. Heyward could not check his swing and was called out to end the inning.
The Cubs put two more runs on the board in the third inning. And the inning started with a walk.
Miguel Montero worked a free pass to lead off the third inning. Soler singled and Russell walked to load the bases with no outs. Straily struck out Lackey and Fowler but Heyward atoned for making two of the three outs in the first inning.
Jason Heyward singled to right center. Montero and Soler scored, 7-1 Cubs. And the Cubs put the game well out of reach in the fourth inning.
Kris Bryant hit his first homer of the season with one out in the fourth. Bryant got all of a 2-0 pitch from Keyvius Sampson and pulled it down the left field line. The only question, would it stay fair? The ball hit the foul pole and the Cubs took a 6-1 lead.
Miguel Montero walked to restart the fourth. Soler singled to left. Russell grounded into a 4-6 fielder’s choice. But a wild pitch with Lackey at the plate allowed Montero to lumber in with the Cubs’ ninth run of the game.
The Cubs scored nine runs on eight hits with 10 walks and a hit by pitch while striking out nine times.
John Lackey had a good outing after laboring through the first inning. The Reds jumped on Lackey in the first inning, but scored only one run after loading the bases with no outs. Lackey struck out Brandon Phillips swinging for the first out. And Ben Zobrist made a sensational play on a ball hit by Scott Schebler to end the inning.
Lackey settled in after his teammates put a five-spot on the board in the first inning. Lackey gave up one other run on the night. Scott Schleber tripled to start the seventh and scored when Ivan DeJesus Jr. grounded out to Addison Russell. Trevor Cahill recorded the final out in the seventh inning.
John Lackey allowed two runs on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts on 90 pitches, 60 for strikes, in 6 2/3 innings.
Clayton Richard faced the minimum in the eighth and outside of a two-out walk by DeJesus, Neil Ramirez was sharp in the ninth.
The Cubs defense had a good night. The Cubs turned three double plays. Ben Zobrist made several excellent plays in the field, including the one in the first inning that likely changed the course of the game. Jason Heyward added another clip to his highlight reel with a diving catch in right center during the fourth inning.
With Wednesday’s win, the Cubs improved to 7-1 on the season.
The Cubs and Reds conclude the three-game series under the lights Thursday (7:05pm CDT) … Jason Hammel is scheduled to face Raisel Iglesias.