Back in the Saddle Again? – Cubs/Tigers Series Review: Cubs Win Series 4-2/8-9(F/10)/5-1

The Cubs took two out of three against a Tigers team that is really bad at fielding and similarly bad at hitting, besides yesterday’s game, which they won in extras. The Cubs also saw the return of most of their important players from the 10-day IL, including Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ and Jake Arrieta.

However, Alec Mills was placed on the 10-day IL today with a strained lower back. Mills is the go-to inning-eater in the bullpen when the starter collapses and needs to be pulled after three innings, which happens more often than any of us want. So pitching could be a bumpy ride over the next week and a half. Luckily, the Cubs are about to play four against a bad Nationals team before they face the first-place Cardinals, so hopefully we can rack up some more wins there.

May 14, 2021
Cubs 4, Tigers 2
WP: Arrieta (4-3) LP: Skubal (0-6)
Box Score

The Cubs came into this game much healthier than either series that came before this. Jake Arrieta pitched his first game in two weeks and looked pretty solid doing it. Hoerner was finally back in the lineup, despite not getting a hit or walk this game. Luckily, the Tigers are atrocious on the field, committing multiple errors that allowed some other Cubs to get on base and score runs.

First it was Kris Bryant making the Ricketts’ trade bait dreams come true to open up the game with a two-run homer in the 3rd inning. Then Rizzo doubled to score Jason Heyward, who had hit a double earlier to get on base. Finally, a Baez popup that for all intents and purposes should’ve been an out ended up getting dropped by the Tigers fielder, allowing Bryant to score that same inning after taking a walk.

Arrieta pitched pretty well up until the 6th inning; he had allowed 2 hits, 1 strikeout, and 1 walk up until then. The Cubs defense was good behind him as always, making double plays every time a Tiger made it on base. That is, until the 6th inning when Arrieta allowed back-to-back solo homers, the first one to Jake Rogers whose mustache rivals anyone’s in the league, and Robbie Grossman, who hit his third homer of the year.

That was the end of Arrieta, who all in all had a good first game back. The Cubs bullpen was able to keep the lead, as we saw Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel for one inning each. They all recorded 0 hits, 0 walks, and 4 strikeouts between them to get the W. Kimbrel had 3 of those 4 strikeouts to shut down the Tigers entirely at the bottom of the 9th.

May 15, 2021
Cubs 8, Tigers 9 (F/10)
WP: Fulmer (3-2) LP: Kimbrel (0-2)
Box Score

This game was much more of a back-and-forth affair offensively for both teams, especially since both teams’ starting pitchers got pulled in only the 3rd inning. The endless parade of bullpen pitchers immediately giving Tigers players runs, hits and walks made this game a tough one to watch.

The Cubs began the game strong, as leadoff hitter Joc Pederson was able to triple to start things off on the right foot. Kris Bryant was able to draw a walk immediately after and Anthony Rizzo was able to bat them both in with a double: 2-0 Cubs. But Trevor Williams did not have a good start to this day, giving up two doubles, a walk, a single, and a force-out that allowed the Tigers to score three runs. After allowing another hit and a walk in the 2nd inning, he was yanked for Alec Mills.

The Cubs were luckily able to make offense happen in the 3rd inning, as a single, double and RBI groundout helped the Cubs tie the game. Then Matt Duffy doubled to put the Cubs ahead, but it wouldn’t prove to be enough.

Mills wasn’t much better than Williams on the mound, as he allowed two singles, a walk and a wild pitch that ended up scoring a runner in a bases-loaded situation. The Tigers tied the game again with a ground-out RBI that put the Tigers ahead, making Rossy yank Mills. The replacement, Justin Steele, was also bad — shocker.

Matt Duffy came to save the day with a huge THREE-run homer in the 5th inning that put the Cubs back on top 7-6, and then we sat back and watched in horror as the 6th inning saw Dan Winkler unable to get 3 outs and get replaced by Rex Brothers, the fifth pitcher of the day. Then Brothers loaded the bases in the 7th and got yanked. Ryan Tepera played too, getting a strikeout and allowing a single for the Tigers to tie the game. Keegan Thompson pitched the 8th, getting three strikeouts to keep them alive to the 9th, and two more strikeouts to get them to the 10th inning.

It was Matt Duffy’s time to shine today, honestly, which I’m certainly not mad at thanks to his flat play lately. His hit in the 10th to put the Cubs up again was his 5th RBI of the game, leading all players on the field. Then, Craig Kimbrel came in to pitch, but he was unable to come in clutch for us like he has so many games before, letting the Tigers score two and walk off the game 9-8.

Throughout all of this, Ian Happ had no hits today and struck out twice on his first game back from being on the IL. He made plays he needed to make in the outfield, however, and would improve offensively in the following game.

March 16, 2021
Cubs 5, Tigers 1
WP: Hendricks (3-4) LP: Boyd (2-4)
Box Score

The Cubs’ pitching did not completely collapse like last game, despite Kyle Hendricks and his ugly track record of starts so far this year. After making it past the elusive 7th inning, he was able to pitch almost 9 innings and finish with 8 hits, 8 strikeouts and 0 walks. He was, as always, helped out by the defense behind him, who were pretty solid against the Tigers’ bats. The good defensive plays of the game included a double play and a Hendricks pick off in the 3rd, which you rarely see these days.

As for the offense, the Cubs were able to get ahead in the top of that 3rd inning, after Happ singled and Contreras walked. With some stellar baserunning, Happ was able to score from 2nd after Kris Bryant RBIed him in and grounded into a force out simultaneously. Javier Baez struck out swinging characteristically, however, to end that inning.

Happ doubled again in the next inning, scoring Duffy to make it 2-0 Cubs. In the 6th, Duffy hit yet another single, and a David Bote double scored him to increase the lead. Hoerner was able to sac fly Bote to make it 4-0, and then Happ hit a solo home run to make it 5-0 Cubs. Happ went 3-for-4 today, looking much better today since getting off the IL.

By the 9th inning, it was time to pull Hendricks, and Dan Winkler relieved him with no outs and runners on first and second. With the help of the defense and the hinderance of a replay review that said the third out was not an out at all, the Cubs were able to secure the win and hop the Reds for third in the NL Central standings.

Like I said above, the Cubs turn right around and play a four-game series against the Nationals through Thursday, as both Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber return to Wrigley for the first time in different uniforms — prepare yourselves for yet another montage video, as the Cubs marketing department is so skilled and experienced at making those.

Lester has started three games with the Nationals this season, going 5 or 6 innings each, striking out ten batters and sporting an impressive 2.25 ERA. In his last two starts, the Nationals have lost both games. Schwarber has a .213 batting average so far this year on a team that has trouble scoring runs. In Lester’s first start with the Nationals, Schwarber hit the 2-run walk-off homer to win the game for the team.

Thanks to the lack of offense on the Nationals’ part, they sit at the bottom of the NL East with a 15-20 record, four games back of the first-place Mets. Their last series, a wild one against the Diamondbacks, saw the Nationals win 17-2 and then turn around to lose 11-4.

Although emotions may be running high for players in both dugouts this week, the newly-mostly-healthy Cubs will need to continue hitting well and making zero defensive mistakes to continue their climb back to .500. And maybe I shouldn’t even mention the fact that the Cubs need to see their starters play well while the team is without Mills. See you Thursday to wrap those games, and go Cubs go.