It’s easy to talk about offense and home runs.
But there’s more to the game than offense, and the Cubs showed that by beating the Cincinnati Reds 2-1 in 11 innings Sunday night. Well after many of the 33,201 fans had gone home, Starlin Castro had a game-winning hit for the second straight night, driving in Chris Coghlan for the victory.
The win moved the Cubs to a season-high seven games above .500 and was their eighth walk-off of the year. And manager Joe Maddon really liked how they got there.
“I give our guys a lot of credit for hanging in there and then eventually pulling it out how we did,” Maddon said. “Those are the things that get you to the promised land, so when everybody gloms on just offense and hitting, I don’t.
“I love the pitching, I love the defense, I love the base-running,” he added. “I love when you play the whole game, because hitting’s not going to be there every night.”
The Cubs hitting wasn’t there but Jon Lester, the bullpen and defense kept them in the game.
After struggling in his first two June starts, Lester looked more like the pitcher who got a six-year, $155 million deal from the Cubs. He went seven innings and gave up one run and five hits, doing his part in saving the bullpen before the game went long.
“You know with this stretch we’ve been on we’ve used our bullpen a lot. Still didn’t help,” Lester said. “We went extra innings. We ended up using them anyway, so could have gone eight, could have gone nine. We still used some guys.”
Despite that strong start, Lester fell behind in the sixth. Billy Hamilton, who stole three bases against Lester and added another two in the 10th, doubled to start the inning then swiped third. Brandon Phillips’ soft liner to center fell in, bringing in Hamilton to put Cincinnati and Anthony DeSclafani in front.
Cincinnati could have had more in the inning but the Cubs defense came through. Joey Votto doubled to left and appeared to have driven in Phillips. But after a review, Phillips was called out after a relay from Coghlan to Castro to David Ross.
The Cubs got even in the seventh. Ross led off with a double and advanced to third on Jonathan Herrera’s sacrifice bunt. Following an Addison Russell walk, Dexter Fowler drove in Ross with a sacrifice fly to right.
In the ninth, Jason Motte got into a jam. He allowed a leadoff Votto single and a double off the wall in center by Todd Frazier before intentionally walking Jay Bruce to load the bases. He escaped by getting Brayan Pena to pop out to center, striking out Eugenio Suarez and then having Kristopher Negron fly out to center.
Obviously, Maddon gave credit to Motte for what he did, but also the defense in both innings. He lauded relays in both innings that kept runs from scoring, and how quickly Fowler got the ball in on Frazier’s double.
“Everybody digs the long ball,” Maddon said. “What won the game tonight was really great execution and fundamentals by our guys.”
DeSclafani went 6 1/3 innings and gave up one run and six hits.
With his first-inning double, Kris Bryant extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
Brian Schlitter earned the win in relief.