The Cubs desperately needed an innings-eating outing from their starting pitcher. Cole Hamels gave it to them, going 6 2/3 with a pair of solo home runs surrendered — and a few jams wriggled out of — in a 3-2 victory over the Reds that helped the team maintain its 1½-game division lead over the Brewers.
“They’re going to win their games,” Hamels said. “We just have to take care of ourselves and really worry about the scoreboard that we have.”
Some real, live hitting would go a long way for a struggling offensive team, too. After six innings of here-we-go-again zeroes against Reds starter Matt Harvey, center fielder Ian Happ hit one a long way — a three-run blast in the seventh off reliever David Hernandez.
It broke an 0-for-15 slump for Happ and was his first homer in his home park since July 19. It also gave him 10 homers against the Reds since his major league debut on May 13, 2017, the most of any player in that span.
“That was pretty great,” he said. “Been a while since I’ve had one of those. Been a while since I’ve had a hit.”
Of course, the game just had to come down to the Cubs bullpen, didn’t it? That was the case in a series opener between the teams that just so happened to be only the second Friday-night game in Wrigley Field history.
On the same day it was announced that Pedro Strop would miss the rest of the regular season due to a strained left hamstring, a procession of non-go-to-guys saved the day.
Officially, Jorge De La Rosa got the save — his first as a Cub and his first as a major leaguer. It was the 37-year-old left-hander’s 426th appearance, 241 of which came as a starter. But it never would’ve happened without a key out recorded by Dillon Maples and an enormously clutch eighth inning by recent acquisition Jaime Garcia.
All Garcia did was retire Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett in order. For those of you scoring at home, that’s one of the great hitters in Reds history, followed by this season’s 101-RBI man, followed by the leading hitter in the National League.
De La Rosa allowed two men to reach in the ninth, but a one-out strikeout of Tucker Barnhart eased the pressure and Scott Schebler’s fly-out ended the game.
“First big-league save — wow,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Good for him.”
Clothes make the man
First baseman Anthony Rizzo had some explaining to do after he flew in uniform to and from Washington for Thursday’s uncomfortably wedged-in makeup game against the Nationals.
“We come off a tough loss, you can hang your head or you can have fun with what we have to do,” he said. “We can go there and pout, or we go into DC and you can have fun with it.”
Rizzo recalled going from his First Communion to the baseball field as a child and playing in his slacks. Speaking of attire, he had company on the trip back to Chicago — infielder Javy Baez also wore his uniform.
“Yeah, Javy’s always ready to play, too,” Rizzo said.