The Cubs won for the sixth time in as many games Monday with an impressive 2-0 victory over the Dodgers. Travis Wood and the backend of the Cubs bullpen stepped up when Jason Hammel was forced to leave the game before the third inning with cramping his right hamstring.
Wood retired all 12 batters he faced over four perfect innings. Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon set down the last nine batters in a row to end the game … 21 straight retired by the bullpen in seven innings. Counting the last four outs recorded by Jason Hammel, the Cubs staff did not allow a baserunner after a first inning walk to Adrian Gonzalez.
Joe Maddon said he planned for Wood to throw two innings when he entered the game. Because he was so pitch-efficient his performance allowed the Cubs to leave Wood in the game. Maddon pointed out Wood was spectacular.
According to multiple reports, Monday was the first time the Cubs retired 25 straight batters since May 15, 1960 when Don Cardwell set down the last 26 he faced to no-hit the St. Louis Cardinals. Monday was the first time since Sept. 26, 1948 the Cubs bullpen completed at least seven innings without allowing a hit. And according to Christopher Kamka, Travis Wood became the first Cubs’ reliever since Randy Martz (April 18, 1982) to pitch at least four perfect innings.
Jason Hammel is not expected to miss his next start after leaving Monday’s game with cramping in his right hamstring. Hammel said he did not understand why he cramped up because he “drank the equivalent of Lake Michigan in water Sunday night to prepare for pitching in warm weather.”
Joe Maddon said Travis Wood or Trevor Cahill could fill in for Hammel if needed Saturday against the Diamondbacks. Wood and Cahill are stretched out more than Adam Warren and Clayton Richard right now. Maddon indicated Monday that if the Cubs had to switch gears it would depend on the matchup whether Wood or Cahill would make the spot start. Wood said he would be ready to start if needed.
Joe Maddon moved Ben Zobrist to the top of the lineup Monday and from second base to right field in the opener of the four-game series with the Dodgers. All Zobrist did was start the two-run fifth inning. And he reached base two more times while extending his hitting streak to 16 games, which equals a career-high.
Zobrist went 1-for-3 with a walk and a runs scored. Zobrist has reached base safely in each of his last 35 starts and is hitting .351/.452/.538 with 11 doubles, seven triples and a .990 OPS on the season. Zobrist has more walks (33) than strikeouts (23) in 171 at-bats.
Over his last 27 games, Zobrist is hitting .418/.496/.673 with seven doubles and six home runs for a 1.169 OPS. And since April 21, Zobrist leads the majors with a .412 batting average and a .503 on-base percentage.
According to the Sun-Times, Ben Zobrist has succeeded in exceeding expectations.
Dexter Fowler did not play Monday and it wasn’t just a day off for the Cubs’ centerfielder and leadoff man. Fowler has been dealing with a sore right heel.
Fowler has slowed down, just a little, since his incredible start to the season. Over his last 26 games, Fowler is batting .294/.400/.480 with six doubles, two triples and tree home runs for a .880 OPS.
Dexter Fowler, for the season, is hitting .316/.433/.537 with 15 doubles, three triples and six home runs for a .969 OPS. With everything equal, it’s hard to imagine where the Cubs would be without Fowler and the way he’s played over the first two months of the season.
RHP Trevor Clifton turned in another good outing Monday for High-A Myrtle Beach. Clifton picked up the win after allowing two runs on seven hits with no walks and six strikeouts. The only two runs Clifton surrendered came on one swing of the bat, a two-run homer in the first inning.
Over his last seven starts, Clifton has allowed seven earned runs in 38 1/3 innings.
The 21-year old right-hander is 3-3 in nine starts with a 2.35 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Clifton has allowed 15 runs, 12 earned, on 39 hits with 18 walks and 51 strikeouts in 46 innings.
As previously pointed out, Trevor Clifton is one of the young pitchers in the system to keep a close eye on.
News and Notes
• According to ESPN Chicago, even when things go wrong, they end up going right for the Cubs.
• Anthony Rizzo’s double Monday had an exit velocity of 108.8 mph, his seventh hardest batted ball this season according to Daren Willman. Before the double that plated Jason Heyward from first base, Rizzo’s last extra basehit was on May 14, a three-run homer against the Pirates.
• The Sun-Times asked can Jake Arrieta recapture last summer’s precision as he faces the Dodgers for the first time since last August’s no-hitter.
• The Dodgers offense the last two games against the Cubs: 0-for-27 (Aug. 30, 2015), 1-for-28 (May 30, 2016). The Dodgers have one hit in the last 18 innings against the Cubs, both games started by lefty Alex Wood. According to Christopher Kamka, the last time the Cubs allowed one or zero hits in two straight games against the same opponent was Sept. 14-15, 2008. Carlos Zambrano no-hit the Astros at Miller Park and Ted Lilly and the Cubs’ pen tossed a combined one-hitter the next day.
• Comcast SportsNet reported Miguel Montero heating up brings a dynamic presence to Cubs lineup.
• Joe Maddon reflected on veterans on Memorial Day prior to Monday’s game and admitted his one regret in his life is not serving in the military according to Comcast SportsNet.
• The Cubs are on top at Memorial Day thanks to five names (Arrieta, Lester, Lackey, Hammel and Hendricks) according to ESPN Chicago.
• The Cubs topped Baseball Tonight’s power rankings, but the Pirates took a huge leap forward. The Cubs have a 6 ½ game lead in the division over an excellent Pirates team with two big arms on the way from the minors.
This Day in Cubstory
2008 – For the first time in 100 years, the Cubs entered June with the best record in baseball at 36-21
2006 – Cubs acquired Phil Nevin from the Rangers for Jerry Hairston Jr. and cash
2004 – Cubs traded Damian Jackson to the Royals for Travis Dawkins
2003 – Cubs released Rod Beck
2003 – Cubs beat the Astros 1-0 in 16 innings, the longest 1-0 game for the Cubs since a 17-inning win over the Boston in 1901. Houston set a franchise record with 23 strikeouts and the Cubs set a franchise record by striking out 23 times
1988 – Jeff Pico threw a four-hit shutout against the Reds to win his Major League debut 4-0. Pico became the first Cubs pitcher to post a shutout in his big league debut since Bill Lee in 1934.
1967 – Kenny Lofton, born
1966 – Ron Santo established a National League record when he appeared in his 364th consecutive game at third base. Santo’s streak began on April 19, 1964 and will end at 390 games after he was hit in the face by Jack Fisher and suffered a broken cheek bone.
1948 – A record paid crowd of 46,965 at Wrigley Field saw the Cubs split a doubleheader with the Pirates. Cubs won game one 4-3 and lost game two 4-2. Andy Pafko collected five hits and homered in each game
1920 – Grover Cleveland Alexander homered in the bottom of the 10th inning to win his own game 3-2 over the Reds at Wrigley Field.