Addison Muscle and Hector the Protector Help Cubs Defeat Red Menace

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the Cubs for saving the fireworks for the only part of the game I could watch. You see, I had taken my son down to Bloomington, IN to see Wild Kratts Live and was only able to start listening in 3rd inning. Sorry for the sidetrack, but I know you all love my anecdotes so I know you’re cool with this one quickie. No long story, just that it was sooooo worth missing the early part of game — which included my former favorite Ryne — because I was busy watching my new favorite Ryne having an amazing time.

Anyway, I wasn’t home until the 7th, just as the Cubs finally chased Reds starter Brandon Finnegan. The former Royals reliever had looked unhittable through 6 2/3, actually was unhittable for 20 outs. But just like Cincy’s 5-1 record, the momentum in this game wasn’t built to last. Finnegan allowed only a single base hit, to David Ross of all people. But then he walked Matt Szczur on four pitches and manager Bryan Price figured 111 pitches was enough. I had sincerely hoped for a reboot of the Dave Roberts/Ross Stripling debacle from the other day, but you won’t find me complaining about how things turned out.

Caleb Cotham, who used to pitch in Gotham, walked Dexter Fowler to load the bases and bring in lefty Tony Cingrani from the pen to face Jason Heyward. J-Hey singled home two runners but Kris Bryant grounded out to end the inning with the Cubs still down 3-2.

The Cubs held the Reds in the top of the 8th and then got another chance at Cingrani, who was not sharp. Though he was able to induce harmless grounder to second from Anthony Rizzo, he put the next two batters on base with 12 pitches. Ben Zobrist walked with only one strike and Jorge Soler, after looking like Jordan Spieth on 12 at Augusta when he halfheartedly waved at a slider to go down 1-2, worked the count full before getting hit by a pitch that traveled about 54 feet and bounced into his leg.

Price then turned to Jumbo Diaz, whose first pitch was fat enough to justify his moniker all on its own. Wanna see what happens when you pipe a 2-seam fastball middle-in to a guy with serious gap power?

Addison Freaking Russell (I hear he’s in the process of legally changing his middle name from Wayne). I say again: Addison Freaking Russell. There’s a reason I made these shirts. The rumble of the crowd made it sound as though a series of fighter jets was doing low-level flyovers. Earlier in the evening I had watched as my son was glued to the show taking place before him. Now it was my turn.

“The booth is literally shaking,” Len Kasper said before comparing reaction to that from Kerry Wood’s homer in the 2003 NLCS. It was probably just my imagination, but I could actually see the thrumming of the 41,000 assembled fans. And we’re only 7 games in, folks.

Thom Brennaman’s call was slightly less expository. If, that is, you consider being as silent has the “h” in his name for 24 full seconds to be informative. The dead air may have actually gone on longer, it’s just that the video cut out before Marty’s kid started talking again. Maybe he was just letting the scene tell the story for him though, huh? Yeah, I’m sure that’s it.

Coming into the game, the Reds and their 5-1 record were a bit of a surprise and for most of Monday night it looked like they might be able to keep things going a little while longer. But lost in the crack of Russell’s bat and the roar of Cubs fans was the fart noise of all the air being let out of the Big Red Balloon. Sure, they’ll jump up and bite the Cubs and others over the next 155 games and they may even string together a few wins here and there. I think this game may have marked the end of their contention though.

Where Russell had effectively shut the door on the Reds, Hector Rondon came on and nailed it shut. He needed only 12 pitches to hang three backwards K’s on Jay Bruce, Adam Duvall, and Scott Schebler, none of whom stood a chance. It certainly helped that home plate umpire John Tumpane appeared to have been embracing the target of the low strike, but Rondon was working his fastball-slider combo masterfully.

I could go outside right now and roll around in the mud in my back yard and I still wouldn’t be as filthy as the Cubs closer. Rondon kept the ball down and he did it with a heater that sat 94-96 mph, augmenting it with a tight slider that danced from 83 to 87. He went to the slidepiece only three times, only one of which he threw for a strike, but it was the perfect foil for that down-and-dirty fastball.

We’ve seen the Cubs jump on starting pitchers right out of the gate and we’ve seen them grind games out. Now we have seen them go from listless to lightning in a bottle in the late innings. Would it be redundant for me to say again that the Cubs can beat you in so many different ways? What about if I said they’re fun to watch? I hope you’re not tired of hearing either, ’cause I’ve got the feeling this won’t be the last time I bring them up.

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