September 19, 2015. The Cubs have arrived earlier than expected in 2015, keeping pace with the Cardinals and the Pirates for NL Central crown, the most wins in the league and most wins in the MLB. You will see some familiar names, but what jersey will they be wearing?
The Cubs went newer than new school, opening the game with Travis Wood to go against Michael Wacha. In 2015, Wacha was breaking out in a big way while Wood was in his first season not starting. The Cubs got to Wacha early on a Jorge Soler walk was followed by a Kris Bryant RBI double, and then a Starlin Castro single scored Bryant making the game 2-0 after one.
Things stayed calm for a few innings, but in the bottom of the fifth, the day's big producers were at it again. Jorge Soler led off the inning with a shot, and KB followed up with one of his own. The score was 4-1 Cubs, and between the two of them, they had scored all of the runs and drove in three of them.
In the top of the sixth, Kolten Wong was back. This time he'd been hit by an errant Trevor Cahill pitch. Tempers had flared the previous day when Anthony Rizzo was hit twice and 88 MPH gunslinger Dan Haren plunked Matt Holliday in the dome. The race to the first place was on, and there was fresh bad blood to go with the long-standing rivalry. In the home half, Tommy La Stella come on to pinch hit, decided that it was 3 AM somewhere, and singled to center scoring Chris Denorfia, who was on second after a single of his own and advancing on a sac bunt from David Ross. The score was now 5-1 Cubs, and things looked to be well in hand.
Ah, how a bullpen can make you sweat. In the top of the seventh, Cubs pitcher Clayton Richard got the heart rates up when he found himself with runners on first and second with one out after a rare Rizzo error. A groundout moved the runners up one base, and the Grim Reaper Justin Grimm was asked to get the final out of the inning, which he succeeded at.
In the eighth inning, the MLB's most notorious archer, Fernando Rodney, was tasked with blanking the Cardinals, which he did with only one blemish. It was a hit batsman, and the batter was Kolten Wong, again. Warnings were issued to each bench.
A refresher on how warnings from the ump go — any future batters hit will result in an immediate ejection for the pitcher and his manager. Why bring that up? Because Cubs closer Hector Rondon hit the first batter he faced of course! Bye-bye Hector, bye-bye Joe Maddon. The Cubs called on Zac Rosscup to finish slamming the door, and on his fifth pitch he gave up a bomb to Matt Carpenter. 5-3. After allowing singles to Tommy Pham and Jason Heyward, the Cards had runners at the corners with nobody out. That crooked pitching line matched the hat of the third man asked to end this game, Pedro Strop. Thankfully, it was 2015 Strop. He sat down Jhonny Peralta on three pitches, one away. Yadier Molina was up next, and his sac fly scored Pham but J-Hey was unable to move past first, putting the Cards down to their final out with the score sitting at 5-4. Stephen Piscotty was the next batter... would Piscotty 2 Hottie live up to that billing? Not with the Cubs middle infield for the next decade lined up:
The Cubs have their work cut out, but when you are chasing a team in the standings and 70% of your remaining schedule is against that team, you control your own destiny. 2019 may have had more valleys and fewer peaks than we prefer, but it ain't over yet.
Featured Photo: MLB