Cubs notes: Positive regression and the return of three key members
Before Wednesday’s game, Ian Happ aptly summed up what a lot of the Cubs hitters are feeling:
“You gotta trust the process and trust the baseball gods,” he said. “It’s a long season. They’re gonna be good to me at some point.”
Well, the baseball gods were certainly good to the Cubs lineup Wednesday night in a 16-4 win over the Mets.
The Cubs came into the day as the unluckiest team in baseball with a .227 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) that illustrated they were due for some positive regression. But manager David Ross has been quick to point out the lineup also needs to make more contact and put pressure on the opposing defense.
On a freezing night at Wrigley Field, Ross’ team made its own luck. They continually made contact in big spots all night, leading to some good fortune on bloop hits and groundballs and also took advantage of the woeful Mets defense (4 errors).
The Cubs scored 7 runs in the 4th inning, 3 in the 5th inning, 4 in the 6th and 2 more in the 8th inning. Javy Báez’s grand slam, Willson Contreras’ hustle double and Jake Marisnick’s double off a position player (Mets shortstop Luis Guillorme) were the only extra-base hits on the evening.
Báez struck out 4 times in Tuesday’s game but rebounded with the big blast and 3 runs scored.
“The first thing you gotta do is flush it after the game and after a team win,” he said. “To me, it really matters — I really want to do good for the team, but I also want to win. I’m a big team player.”
The game actually began with the Cubs hitting a few rockets right at Mets defenders but the “baseball luck” floodgates opened from there.
In total, they finished with 13 hits, 8 walks and a hit batter as they enjoyed their second monster offensive game of the week.
The 16-run outburst was the best offensive showing for the Cubs since Sept. 15, 2019.
“Offensively, this was definitely the kind of game that all of us live for,” said Matt Duffy, who had 3 hits and 3 RBI. “It just seems easy, everybody’s clicking, everybody’s involved.”
As expected, Adbert Alzolay will rejoin the Cubs rotation this weekend and start Saturday’s game against the Brewers.
It will be his 3rd straight start against Milwaukee to open the 2021 season.
The Cubs sent their promising young right-hander down to the alternate site last week. With off-days last Thursday and this past Monday, they didn’t need five starters in the rotation and the move was a way to help manage Alzolay’s workload all season.
Kyle Hendricks will likely take the ball Friday in the series opener with the Brewers. Jake Arrieta is on track to throw the finale Sunday at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs are also back to full health on the coaching staff after bullpen coach Chris Young and first base coach Craig Driver tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month.
Driver returned to his post Tuesday night and Young rejoined the bullpen for Wednesday night’s game.
“It is really nice to have those guys back,” David Ross said. “There’s a lot of work that the coaching staff puts in. Those guys are big parts of our success. They do a lot of work that nobody gets to see and they’re huge pieces to this team.”
In their absence, everybody has been stepping up for the Cubs. That includes pitcher Alec Mills, who filled in for Young and was reading off scouting reports to his fellow relievers as they warmed up Tuesday night.
“That made me laugh pretty good,” Ross said.
Mills, meanwhile, threw 3 shutout innings out of the Cubs bullpen Wednesday night and picked up the win.
The Cubs close out the series with the Mets Thursday night on Marquee Sports Network. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m.
Trevor Williams takes the ball for the Cubs against Mets lefty Joey Lucchesi.