The Cubs train is rolling right now and is showing no signs of slowing down as they topped the White Sox, 6-5 in the opener Friday at US Cellular Field behind some solid relief pitching and a couple of big bats. The Cubs have now won eight straight games and 14 of 15 to climb to 66 – 48 and just a game and half back of the first wild card spot and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The latest heroes in this amazing run were the bullpen and the bats of Chris Coghlan and Anthony Rizzo. After starter Kyle Hendricks lasted only 3.1 innings while allowing five runs on eight hits, it looked like the Cubs current streak was headed for it’s end but Clayton Richard came on for two innings of relief and allowed only one hit to get the Cubs to their late-relief men and keep the game in hand. Yes, Clayton Richard was the hero; the same guy who has twice been designated for assignment this year and picked up by no one off the waiver wire each time. He earned high praise from his teammates and manager alike on Friday:
“He was huge,” Anthony Rizzo said. “Clayton coming in, giving us those innings was huge. He threw up zeros.”
“He really defined the game at that point,” Manager Joe Maddon added.
Richard enabled the Cubs to extend the game but they needed some big bats to get over the hump and bag another W. They got exactly what they needed from Chris Coghlan who hit a three run homer in the third to put the Cubs up 4-2. After they fell behind 5-4, Coghlan came through again with another homer to center to knot the game at five a piece. Anthony Rizzo stepped up just after with a jack to the right field seats to put the Cubs on top for good and for the second straight game the Cubs hit back to back homers in the same inning.
Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, and Hector Rondon closed out the game allowing one hit over 3.2 innings and Strop provided some theatrics as he and Alexei Ramirez got engaged in a little back and forth with Ramirez on second and Strop trying to keep him honest on the bag. After Ramirez wagged his finger at Strop, effectively telling him he wouldn’t catch him off the bag, Strop struck out the final two batters and turned towards Ramirez and delivered not one, but two emphatic fist pumps to show him who was really in charge. It was fun to watch and provided an emotional boost to the Cubs fans watching in the seats and at home as Twitter went nuts after Strop’s antics.
This team is truly special to watch and they are showing up everyday believing they will win; knowing someone among them will step up to make the difference. From Clayton Richard to Chris Coghlan and everyone in between, this team is full of feel-good, bounce-back stories; guys who have suffered through slumps, injuries, and bad luck to find their way back to the lineup and help their team get a W. I’m not sure how long this charmed streak will last but it’s been a blast to watch. The fun is definitely back on the North Side. Let’s see how far these Cubs can take it!
Tonight it’s the Cubs Arrieta vs. Quintana for the Sox at 6:10PM CST.
Let’s Go Cubs!