A Tip of the Recap – 6/8 (Cubs 8, Phillies 1)

Cubs Record: 41-17 (1st in NL Central)

W: John Lackey (7-2, 2.63 ERA)

L: Brett Oberholtzer (2-1, 5.83 ERA)

MVP: John Lackey (7.0 IP, 0 ER, 8 Ks)

Typically when we do recaps here at Cubs Insider, we break the game down into the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. However, when you beat a team 8-1 on the road and your starting pitcher gives you 7 shutout innings, it’s pretty hard to find something “bad” or “ugly” without sounding too nitpicky. So today I’m bending the formula a bit and presenting the good, the better, and the best. If this is problematic, please feel free to tweet @Vote4Witry.

With that in mind, I also want to point out just how weird today’s game was. It started about 20 minutes late due to a rain delay, and then just two pitches into the game, Phillies starter Vince Velasquez had to be relieved with an arm injury. The Phillies likely won’t know the severity of Velasquez’s injury until later this week, but given a history of arm issues that includes a Tommy John surgery, expect them to be cautious going forward.

The offense took some time getting started against the Phillies bullpen before a Javier Baez single got the Cubs on the board in the 5th. After that, things really took off behind home runs from Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist. Even Albert Almora got an RBI in his first Major League start. John Lackey and Pedro strop combined for 8 shutout innings and 11 strikeouts (Strop struck out the side in the 8th). Clayton Richard took over in the 9th, giving up a run, but minimizing the damage.

The Good

As the first pick of the Epstein/Hoyer era, expectations for Albert Almora have always been a bit different than everyone else’s. And while his road to the majors has been a bit longer than fellow 1st round picks Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, Almora delivered in the field and at the plate in his first start today. If you haven’t seen it already, check out the video below for Almora’s cannon throw home to nail Odubel Herrera. Almora has always been lauded for his glove, and we saw why today. While we don’t quite know how long he will be with the Major League club, it is great to see a young prospect step up and deliver. Almora also had his first hit and RBI in the 8th.

The Better

Today was unseasonably cool in Philadelphia, with temperatures struggling to even reach the 60’s. Combine that with the rain and wind that hit right before gametime, and you have conditions that weren’t really conducive to offense. That didn’t seem to matter to the Cubs, who got 5 of their 8 runs via small ball. It’s encouraging to see contributions from all over this lineup. Ben Zobrist, who had been struggling in the month of June, busted out of his slump in a big way today, going 2-for-4 with a solo home run.

The Best

When John Lackey signed with the Cubs in December, the reaction from Cubs fans was…mixed. And while there may still be some stalwarts who still don’t like Lackey, he’s really done a good job the past couple of starts, including today. It bears mentioning that the Phillies aren’t an offensive powerhouse this year, but the way Lackey continually attacked hitters bodes well for continued success. The veteran righty retired the final 16 batters he faced and racked up 8 strikeouts in 7 innings pitched. Lackey has been praised throughout his career for his competitive spirit, and that has really emerged so far in 2016.

Coming Attractions

The Cubs will have the day off tomorrow before starting a three-game set in Atlanta this weekend. Jason Hammel is currently slated to go against Bud Norris in a 6:35 pm start Friday on CSN Chicago. Hammel is coming off a strong start at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks in which he went 7 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on one hit. Norris is coming off a strong emergency start against the Dodgers, taking the loss on 5 innings pitched with 1 earned run.

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