A Tip of the Recap – 8/31 (Cubs 6, Pirates 5)

Cubs Record: 85-47 (1st in the NL Central; 15 (!) games ahead of St. Louis)

W: Jason Hammel (6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K)

L: Ryan Vogelsong (5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K)

S: Aroldis Chapman (1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K)

MVP:  Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant led the offense and Jason Hammel was masterful in 6 innings of work, allowing the Cubs to complete the three-game series sweep of the Pirates. It was a decent effort by the Cubs, who made some awesome defensive plays and were very productive at the dish. The bullpen did its best to make the game interesting. Trevor Cahill ran into some trouble in the top of the 7th, but an impressive defensive play by Addison Russell bailed the bullpen out. Travis Wood came in and was not effective one bit. Luckily, Felix Pena was effective and was able to limit the damage to 2 Pirate runs in the 8th inning as the Pirates attempted to mount a comeback. That threat of a comeback was quelled by Aroldis Chapman, but not before he made it interesting by giving up 2 hits, walking 1, and throwing 3 wild pitches. The Cubs’ magic number to clinch the division now stands at 16, which means they’ll likely clinch earlier than pretty much anybody expected.

 The Good

Kris Bryant was so good Wednesday night. Be it with the glove, the feet, or the bat, he did everything right today. I counted three excellent plays in the field: a diving catch to take a base hit away from Josh Harrison, a backhanded snag that he corralled and threw to first from almost third to get an out, and reaching into the stands and caught a fly ball. He collected a pair of hits, one of which was a big fly to give the Cubs a lead they would not relinquish, walked once, drove in one, and scored two runs. He sure had himself a day.

Addison Russell made a ridiculous diving play near the left field foul line in the top of the 7th that saved at least 2 runs. He sprinted from his defensive position, dove, slid a little bit on a knee, and caught the ball as his body hit the grass. That description is rather poor, so just watch this clip that our own Evan Altman captured.

Russell also went 1-for-2 with a run scored and 2 RBI.

Jason Heyward had another fine day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. It’s been great seeing him start to hit well. Hopefully this continues into September and October.

The Bad

Travis Wood was pretty bad, pitching only a third of an inning and giving up 2 runs on 2 hits and a walk. He hasn’t looked all that great as of late, which I’m guessing is a fatigue-related issue. Thankfully, he will be able to rest a bit with the roster being expanded to 40 men tomorrow night.

Aroldis Chapman was also not great, and had a lot of trouble locating his pitches. Luckily, he didn’t give up the lead. This is more than likely a fatigue issue as well, as he’s appeared in 10 of the Cubs’ last 16 games. Roster expansion couldn’t come at a better time.

The Ugly

Both pitching staffs had control issues, as there were 14 total free passes given (8 by Cubs pitchers and 6 by the Pirates). With these control issues came a multitude of mound visits. With a multitude of mound visits came a much longer game than is preferable. Unless you prefer your games to be 3 hours and 48 minutes.

Coming Attractions

The Giants come to Chicago Thursday as Mike Montgomery (4-5, 2.60 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) squares off against former Cub Jeff Samardzija (11-9, 4.00 ERA, 1.21 WHIP). Let’s hope Shark is welcomed to the Friendly Confines properly, by which I mean I hope the Cubs hit him hard and score many runs off of him. First pitch is at 7:05pm local time.

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