Javy Báez, Kyle Schwarber lift virtual Cubs to another series win
Whether it was a hot hitter or one trying to find his early, virtual season groove, the Cubs got the offense that was missing from Tuesday’s virtual season game against the Pirates.
A day after notching just 3 hits, the Cubs rode a pair of stellar offensive performances from Javy Báez and Kyle Schwarber to grab a 7-3 win over the Pirates and win the opening home series. The Cubs improved to 4-2 and are tied with the Reds for first place in the NL Central, a game ahead of both the Brewers and Pirates in our MLB The Show 20 season simulation.
Báez, who has been swinging a hot bat early in the season (.348/.400/.739 slash line), continued his strong offensive output, going 2-for-5 with 3 RBI in the win.
Schwarber, meanwhile, has been struggling to start the virtual season, entering the game 2-for-18 on the campaign. In the rubber match against the Pirates, he showed signs that he’s ready to bust out of his early-season funk.
Schwarber connected on a pair of solo home runs, including one in the 2nd inning that hit off the right field scoreboard (eerily similar to the moonshot he hit against the Cardinals in the 2015 playoffs) giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
Starter Kyle Hendricks kept the Pirates hitters at bay throughout most of the game, pitching 6.1 innings and allowing just 3 runs in his second quality start of the year.
The Pirates tied it in the 4th and threatened to take the lead, but Hendricks showed his moxie. With runners on first and second and 1 out, Hendricks induced an inning-ending double play to limit the damage.
Schwarber and the Cubs immediately rallied to take back the lead. He belted his second homer of the game, this one an opposite field shot to left-center field. Two batters later, Jason Heyward continued his strong start to the season, ripping a single to left field against the shift. After an Ian Happ strikeout, Jason Kipnis — another player who has struggled to find his rhythm this season — ripped a double to the gap in left-center, scoring Heyward.
It was just the 2nd hit of the season for Kipnis, who is hitting .125 on the season.
After the 3 runs, Pirates ace Jameson Taillon kept the Cub hitters in check, striking out 7 in 5.1 innings.
Taillon’s offense paid back his stellar performance. In the 7th, José Osuna hit a game-tying double off Alec Mills, an uncharacteristic mistake for the Cubs bullpen which has otherwise been strong thus far.
This season, Cubs relievers have pitched to a 0.58 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with 16 strikeouts in 15.2 innings.
Luckily for the Cubs pitchers, the offense fared better against the Pirates bullpen than they did against Taillon.
In the bottom of the 7th with runners on first and third, Báez ripped a single to center, scoring Kris Bryant and giving the Cubs the lead for good.
The Cubs added insurance runs in the 8th. David Bote singled to left scoring Victor Caratini and Báez singled with the bases loaded to seal the Cubs win.
The Cubs scored 4 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 2.2 innings against the Pirates bullpen.
The top of the Cubs lineup showed signs that they are also breaking out of their early season slumps. Bryant went 2-for-4 with a walk and 2 runs scored, while Anthony Rizzo was 3-for-4 with a walk. Rizzo has seen his batting average jump up to .318, while Bryant has gotten his average up to the Mendoza line.
Arguably the Cubs’ hottest hitter, though, is Heyward. He was 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored Wednesday and is now hitting .391 with a 1.087 OPS on the year. Only Báez (1.139) has a higher OPS on the Cubs.
Here’s how the teams lined up:
Kris Bryant – 3B
Anthony Rizzo – 1B
Javy Báez – SS
Kyle Schwarber – LF
Willson Contreras – C
Jason Heyward – RF
Ian Happ – CF
Jason Kipnis – 2B
Kyle Hendricks – P
Kevin Newman – 2B
Adam Frazier – LF
Bryan Reynolds – CF
Josh Bell – 1B
Colin Moran – 3B
Gregory Polanco – RF
Erik González – SS
Luke Maile – C
Jameson Taillon – P
Here’s the full game:
The Cubs are off Thursday before hosting the Diamondbacks on Friday. Catch all the virtual action on our Facebook, @WatchMarquee, at 1 p.m.