The Cubs came into this series on an eleven-game losing streak, the second losing streak that long of the year. They’ve been getting skulled by teams that are playing any type of meaningful baseball, most recently getting swept by the Miami Marlins, despite the Miami Marlins being 4th in the NL East and eleven games back.
And yet, the Cubs came in against a theoretically-playoff-caliber Reds team and won their first series since the July 25, before the trade deadline, if you can remember back that far. Led by pitching marvel Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs continued their momentum through to this afternoon’s game. Ian Happ ended yesterday’s game with the winning homer and started this game out with a homer that began a deluge of offense for a team that has sorely needed some. Nowadays we will take the little victories.
August 16, 2021
Cubs 5, Reds 14
WP: Miley (10-4) LP: Steele (2-2)
It was Justin Steele’s second career start, and he did just about as well numbers-wise as his last start against the Brewers. Despite five strikeouts in four innings, he also allowed five hits and two runs, and the Cubs offense were showing us they didn’t have what it took to even make this game a close one.
The homer Steele gave up was a two-run homer in the bottom of the 4th after allowing a walk. Up until then, he had been keeping the score at zero and even impressively getting himself out of a jam in the 3rd inning. With no outs and runners on the corners, Steele struck out two in a row and forced weak contact to get the third out.
Things got marginally worse when Michael Rucker replaced Steele on the mound in the 5th inning. Once again it was a walk and a two-run homer that doubled the hole the Cubs found themselves in. Despite this, he stayed in an inning longer, and that homer was the only hit he gave up.
As for the offense, there was none to speak of until the 8th inning, when they decided they wanted to score runs on a completely different Reds team—between innings, Cincinnati had replaced their pitcher, first baseman, right fielder and shortstop to give their best guys some rest during their current playoff push. It was a no-brainer after the Reds scored EIGHT runs the inning before, making it 12-0 mostly thanks to the antics of Dan Winkler on the mound and Rucker not getting any outs to start the inning either.
The Cubs scored five during what was essentially a minor league game to close things out, highlighted by an Ian Happ double—he’s been struggling so much this season that any hit by him is a means for half-hearted celebration. It seemed like just about the entire lineup went up to bat, and the ones who didn’t get a hit were Patrick Wisdom, David Bote, and Sergio Alcantara. The Reds piled on a few more in the bottom of the 8th, however, to render things even more meaningless than they were before.
August 17, 2021
Cubs 2, Reds 1
WP: Hendricks (14-5) LP: Gutierrez (8-4)
The Cubs finally snapped their 12-game losing streak with this game, which you’d have to be really incompetent not to do with Kyle Hendricks on the mound. He went four innings without allowing a hit, giving up only three walks and having three strikeouts to boot. Arguably the best player on this new Cubs team, he now leads all starting pitchers in the league with wins in 14.
Hendricks’s first jam came in the 5th inning, with a walk and a single putting runners on first and second. This would be the first time all game a Reds runner was in scoring position; despite this, a strikeout and a groundout ended the inning for the Reds, who just couldn’t figure out Hendricks. Nick Castellanos, the Cub That Got Away, hit a solo homer in the 6th, but that was the only run the Reds would score all game.
Meanwhile, some offense from Frank Schwindel—who’s on a six-game hitting streak, by the way—helped bat in Rafael Ortega who absolutely hauled ass from first base to make it happen. Happ continued his offensive streak by hitting a solo homer in the 6th, which ended up being the winning run for this Cubs team.
In a whirlwind of big-brain pitching, Rowan Wick loaded up the bases in the 7th inning as relief for Hendricks. Surprisingly to everyone, Wick got two strikeouts to keep the bases loaded and no additional runs scored. Rossy, however, knew he wasn’t gonna keep playing with this fire, replacing Wick with Adam Morgan, who got Joey Votto of all people to ground out and end the inning, keeping the Cubs ahead.
We also saw some good stuff from Codi Heuer, who came in and closed out the last two innings for the Cubs. He allowed no hits and struck out two batters in a pretty impressive performance, although the bar here is quite low and I will reserve my long-term judgment until I see more.
August 18, 2021
Cubs 7, Reds 1
WP: Rodriguez (1-2) LP: Mahle (10-4)
Another win the Cubs needed, and it’s made all the more sweeter since it meant putting the Reds now two games back of the second wild card spot. (Though with Yu Darvish injured, will the Padres be able to hold on?) The offensive deluge coming from the Cubs instead of against the Cubs was also a welcome change for those of us watching.
Only Matt Duffy and Frank Schwindel didn’t have hits in this game out of all the position players; the offense was spread out pretty evenly throughout the lineup, and home runs were pretty plentiful by all. Ian Happ’s solo homer in his second straight game led things off for the Cubs, while Michael Hermosillo homered today as well in his second big-league game this season, which makes for a good story.
Things really got away from the Reds early on, as the 2nd inning saw a walk, Hermosillo’s homer, a single, a sac bunt, a single and a double as just about the entire lineup got an appearance against Tyler Mahle, who had a pretty awful game and gave up the majority of the runs. The Reds’ bullpen wasn’t stellar, either, giving up four hits and two more runs in five innings, including a Sergio Alcantara home run in the 6th.
The offense came at a good time for Adrian Sampson, who made his season debut on the mound as the starter after not playing in the MLB since 2019. Although he only pitched four innings, that’s sort of the way things go for this team as Rossy and Co. try to stretch out pitchers and see who could have the wherewithal to be a starter on an actual major league team, which this isn’t. Despite allowing five hits, Sampson gave up only one run, no walks and struck out two batters. Though this didn’t put him in line for the win, it wasn’t an awful appearance overall.
The bullpen allowed only one hit, and it was in the 9th inning by Trevor Megill. The pen also had eight strikeouts today, a pretty obscene number. Despite Rowan Wick’s shaky performance yesterday, today’s inning-long appearance by him wasn’t too shabby and kept his 0.00 ERA (???) intact.
It’s good to win a few, and the fun continues as the Cubs visit the Kansas City Royals, who are somehow worse than us and a team I’d equate to the gum stuck on the bottom of my shoe. (Of course now that I say that, the Cubs will drop all three games. Please don’t do this to me, baseball gods.)
The story, of course, is that Keegan Thompson is getting called back up again to make his first-ever MLB start as the Cubs continue to examine their pitchers in the system. Hopefully the momentum keeps rolling and the Cubs can at least get a win that day for his first career start. The bar is still quite low here. See you then, and go Cubs go!