The Cubs opened the four-game series against the Nationals with a 5-2 victory and improved to 21-6 on the season, 15 games over .500 after 27 games. Ben Zobrist drove in four of the five runs and Kyle Hendricks shut out the Nationals for six innings.
The Cubs have now outscored their opponents 164-68, that’s a plus-96 run differential tied for the second largest run differential through 27 games since 1900. The 1939 Yankees had a plus-96 run differential. The 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates had a plus-111 run differential.
The series with the Nationals continues Friday afternoon (1:20pm CDT) with John Lackey facing Max Scherzer.
Jason Heyward played for the first time since Sunday when he entered the game in the fourth inning, replacing Dexter Fowler in center field. Fowler was ejected from the game for arguing balls and strikes. Heyward passed the tests before the game but Joe Maddon wanted to give him one more day. When Fowler was tossed, Maddon had Heyward take his place instead of moving Kris Bryant to center and putting Jorge Soler in right.
Heyward took batting practice Thursday and said before the game he expected to be back in the starting lineup on Friday afternoon.
Dusty Baker returned to Wrigley Field and the old ballyard he knew well over a decade ago looks a lot different than the last time he managed a game from the visitor’s dugout.
The Cubs allowed Baker to use the new media room before the game, the right move by an organization focused on the present and future and not the past. Baker pointed out the Cubs’ new clubhouse “is like Saturday Night Fever.”
Dusty Baker met with the media, in front of a Nationals backdrop covering Cubs logos and sponsor, in a room that he can no longer call the dungeon.
Thursday’s Post-Game Reports
The Cubs won for the fourth time in as many days Thursday. Here’s a recap of the game and the post-game reports from Thursday night …
- CCO Recap – Zo Hits, The Professor Pitches and Cubs Win
- ESPN Chicago – Cubs shut down Nationals as winning streak reaches four
- ESPN Chicago – Cubs’ Ben Zobrist is happy right where he is
- Comcast SportsNet – Ben Zobrist channels ‘Zorilla,’ leads Cubs over Nationals
- Comcast SportNet – Dexter Fowler still steaming after first-ever ejection
- The Sun-Times – Cubs beat Nats in opener of marquee matchup of MLB’s top teams
- The Tribune – Cubs reach deep to pull out resourceful 5-2 victory over Nationals
Miguel Montero took batting practice Thursday. And reportedly it went well.
Montero is on the disabled list with back stiffness and is eligible to be activated on May 10.
Maddon told the beat writers that Montero had a good BP session and hit a couple of home runs. The Cubs have not provided an estimated return date. Maddon is not sure if Montero will need a rehab stint before he’s activated.
Cubs Pitching Stats
The Cubs offense gets a majority of the headlines. The pitching staff has been really good through 27 games. Here are a few stats …
• Kyle Hendricks made the 50th start of his big league career on Thursday. The Cubs improved to 33-17 in games started by Hendricks. The last time the Cubs won 32 of a pitchers first 50 starts was 30 years ago. The Cubs went 32-18 in Rick Sutcliffe’s first 50 starts. The last time the Cubs won at least 33 of a pitchers first 50 starts was almost 70 years ago. The Cubs were 35-15 in games started by Hank Borowy. Hendricks improved to 17-11 with a 3.45 and 1.12 WHIP with Thursday’s win over the Nationals.
• Cubs starting pitchers have a 2.12 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and have given up 125 hits with 152 strikeouts in 174 1/3 innings. The 2.12 ERA is the second lowest in Cubs history through 27 games according to Elias. The 1918 Cubs had a 2.05 ERA.
• The Cubs have allowed two or fewer runs 18 times in 27 games this season. According to Christopher Kamka, that’s the most times the Cubs have done that through the first 27 games since 1907. The 1907 Cubs’ staff allowed two or fewer runs 19 times.
• The Cubs have had scoreless appearances by starters in nine of 27 games this season … Jake Arrieta (4), Jason Hammel (2), Jon Lester (1), John Lackey (1) and Kyle Hendricks (1).
The Iowa Cubs placed RHP Pierce Johnson on the 7-day DL on Thursday retroactive to May 3 with a lat strain.
The positive news for the Cubs and Johnson is that he did not hurt his pitching arm or shoulder. The bad news is that Johnson ended up on the disabled list once again with a non-arm related injury. Johnson was placed on the DL for the second time this season.
Johnson made four starts before going back on the DL. Johnson was 0-2 with a 5.17 ERA and 1.66 WHIP. In 15 2/3 innings, he allowed nine runs on 18 hits with eight walks and 20 strikeouts.
The Cubs promoted RHP Stephen Perakslis to take Johnson’s place in the rotation, at least for Thursday’s game against the Sounds. The I-Cubs activated LHP Scott Barnes from the DL to replace RHP Spencer Patton. The Cubs recalled Patton to fill in for RHP Neil Ramirez while he is on the bereavement list.
Matt Murton can’t seem to catch a break this year. Murton missed a majority of Spring Training after undergoing an appendectomy early in camp. Murton accepted his assignment to Triple-A Iowa but started the season on the disabled list.
Murton strained an oblique before Monday’s game and Thursday he was placed on the 7-day DL retroactive to May 3 with an oblique strain.
In 11 games, Matt Murton hit .261/.280/.304 with a double and a .584 OPS.
News and Notes
• Thursday was a rather historic day for Major League Baseball. With the Cubs and Nationals playing at Wrigley and the Red Sox taking on the White Sox on the South Side, it was the first time in the history of the game four first place teams played in the same city on the same day.
• According to Rob Bradford, living life as Cubs have fit Jon Lester, John Lackey and David Ross just fine.
• Comcast SportsNet: Ben Zobrist, Daniel Murphy and a new Mr. October for Cubs?
• Entering play Thursday, four Cubs were on pace to walk at least 100 times this season: Dexter Fowler (125), Anthony Rizzo (118), Ben Zobrist (112) and Addison Russell (100).
• Dan Cohen pointed out the Cubs run differential of plus-96 is more than the total runs scored by the Yankees this season. The Yankees are 9-17 on the year and have scored 89 runs.
• Cubs prospect Donnie Dewees is playing big at South Bend according to the Tribune.
This Day in Cubstory
2015 – Cubs released Blake Parker
2013 – Cubs released Cory Wade
2011 – Cubs released Max Ramirez
1998 – Kerry Wood struck out 20 Houston Astros in arguably the most dominating pitching performance in the history of the game. Wood one-hit the Astros in a 2-0 Cubs’ victory. The 20-year old Kerry Wood tied the Major League record of 20 strikeouts held by Roger Clemens and set a new National League mark for strikeouts in a nine-inning game.
1986 – Cubs released Dick Ruthven
1958 – Cubs purchased Paul Smith from the Pirates
1941 – Cubs traded Billy Herman to the Dodgers for Johnny Hudson, Charlie Gilbert and $40,000.
1934 – Leo Burke, born
1934 – Tom Baker, born
1922 – Vic Aldridge collected five hits, most by a Cubs pitcher, in five trips to the plate and he drove in a run in an 11-7 win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
1906 – At Pittsburgh’s Exposition Park, the Pirates became the first team to cover the grass to prevent it from getting wet during a rainstorm. A canvas tarp was used to keep the infield dry a day before the Cubs opened a series at the park.