By Harry Colmery
4/20/17 11:02 a.m.
Today’s charter to Cincinnati will be a bit more fun as the Cubs took the final two games of a tough series with the Brewers. Addison Russell teed a ball off with a Callaway to left field in the ninth inning that defeated Milwaukee 7-4 for the rubber game victory.
It looked like quite the familiar scene on Wednesday as the Cubs dug themselves into a 4-1 hole through four innings. Kyle Hendricks’ early season struggles continued (5 IP, 4 H, 2 K, 4 BB, 4 ER, 2 HR) against a Brewers team that has been tearing the cover off the ball so far this year. Eric Thames was somehow held without a hit — although that did entail walking him three times. Fresh off a three-year stint in Japan, Thames is hitting .408 this season to go along with seven home runs and a 1.459 OPS (I’m not kidding, that’s the real number). He seems like a cool dude…
Once again, the Cubs lineup picked up their starter, adding onto Albert Almora Jr.’s solo home run in the second inning. Willson Contreras and Russell each notched RBI singles in the sixth and eighth innings, respectively, before Kris Bryant tied the game with one of his own in the ninth. Russell set the party off two batters later.
To top it all off, the Cubs bullpen provided déjà vu, bridging the gap to the exciting ninth inning. Mike Montgomery, Pedro Strop, Koji Uehara and Wade Davis combined for four scoreless innings, allowing only two hits. Davis, a two-time All-Star in Kansas City, appears to be a brilliant acquisition, having allowed no runs, three hits and only two walks in seven and one-third innings pitched.
Aside from the rotation struggles, the final two games of the series are reassuring signals that the Cubs are more than capable of once again establishing themselves as the best team in Major League Baseball. Hendricks has been too consistent in his young career to panic about, and John Lackey is a proven veteran who has shown few signs of decline nearing 40 years old.
On the other hand — Brett Anderson may be worth keeping an eye on. Anderson was spectacularly bad in his last start on Tuesday (3.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER) and put up a deceptive five scoreless innings (3 H, 4 BB, 2 K) in a win against the Dodgers on April 13. Maybe I’m being too harsh on Anderson, who carries 4.4 ERA through three starts, but the burden of proof is on him. Anderson has been a solid Major League pitcher when he’s been on the field (career 3.87 ERA) — but that’s the problem. His nine-year career has been decimated by injuries and, as a result, he has started only 53 games in the last five seasons.
But hey, don’t mind that (mind it a little bit). The Cubs scored 19 runs in the series with Milwaukee and the bullpen seems to be improving every day. Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Lackey will throw in Cincinnati, giving the Cubs a chance to take control of the division.