Fly the W: Cubs outslug Dodgers to win fifth straight
Matt Marton - USA Today Sports

Fly the W: Cubs outslug Dodgers to win fifth straight

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO - Anytime you lead the league in walk percentage and lead the league in lowest strikeout rate offensively, you will be in good hands. Although a small sample size, that is where the Chicago Cubs (5-2) offense sits as they have been red hot since the start of the season. Friday saw the Cubs offense going up against arguably the best offense in the game as the Los Angeles Dodgers (7-3) came to Wrigley Field for some weekend fun.

In what was a playoff-like atmosphere from start to finish, this game had a little bit of everything. From home runs to several big defensive plays this was the kind of baseball that fans love to see. However, it was an unlikely hero coming through the biggest play of the game as former Dodger Michael Busch laid out to rob James Outman of a game-tying single and clinched the series opening win for the Cubs 9-7.

When you talk about polar opposites in terms of starting pitchers, this was the game that best fits that mold, as Kyle Hendricks took on the hard-throwing youngster Bobby Miller. Among 157 qualified starters going back to the 2023 season, Miller ranks no. 1 in average fastball velocity, while Hendricks sits at 156. Neither one of these men made it through five innings, but it was Miller who was knocked around on his birthday, which you wouldn't have guessed early on.

Knowing what we know about this Dodgers lineup, Hendricks must be perfect to beat this team, which sometimes means a high pitch count. Hendricks needed 33 pitches to get through the first inning, but after a one-out double from Shohei Otani, Hendricks had the bases loaded and two outs. Looking to make a big pitch to escape trouble, Teoscar Hernandez smoked a single up the middle to give the Dodgers their lone lead 2-0. This was also the first time the Cubs trailed first all season as the relentless Dodgers offense came out strong.

The same can be said about the Cubs and their offense, as they got things rolling in the second inning. After striking out the side on just 14 pitches in the first inning, Miller was a victim of the Cubs' offensive approach, as a sharply hit ground ball from Christopher Morel changed the dynamic of the game. It's amazing what one swing can do, as Dansby Swanson connected for his second homer of the season to pull the Cubs within 2-1.

That was just the beginning for the Cubs, as a Michael Busch walk kept the rally going, and singles from Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal brought things back to even 2-2. Hoerner would come in to score on a wild pitch to give the Cubs the lead for good, 3-2, only to have Seiya Suzuki deliver another clutch double to push the lead to 5-2. For Suzuki, it was another ball hit over 100 MPH, as that was the end of the road for the Dodger righty.

Chicago continued to keep the pressure on, with Busch continuing his big game with a homer against his former team to put the Cubs in front 6-2.

That was the first homer of his Cubs career for Busch, and luck is finally starting to go his way. Anytime you are facing the Dodgers, it is important to add on, and after Los Angeles put a pair of runners on base in the fourth only to be left stranded, you started to get a bit of an uneasy feeling.

Facing the top of the order for the third time to begin the fifth, it was evident that Hendricks was running out of gas, with Mookie Betts ripping a leadoff single ahead of the Otani homer to pull Los Angeles within 6-4. Following a Freddie Freeman walk to keep the pressure on, it was Will Smith coming through for one of his three hits as his RBI double made things 6-5 and was the end of the line for Hendricks, who did pitch well up to that point before finishing his outing with five earned runs.

Thrown into a tough spot, you could make the case that Drew Smyly was the single most important player in this game as he not only stranded Smith on the bases, but went on to retire the first six hitters he faced before striking out five in his 2 2/3 innings.

With Los Angeles battling back, Dave Roberts called on Michael Grove in relief with the hopes of him giving then some much needed length.

For the most part, Grove gave that length as he lasted three innings, but it was a rough sixth that seemed to put the lead out of reach. With Hoerner starting things off with a leadoff walk, Yan Gomes finally delivered his first hit of the season as the Cubs had runners on the corner and the top of the order coming up. This is exacatly what you wanted if you are a Cubs fan as Ian Happ continued his impressive start to the season, coming through with an RBI triple to make things 8-5.

Happ was helped by a misplay from Hernandez on the play as he came around to score on the Suzuki sacrifice fly and capped off the Cubs scoring 9-5. As they did earlier in the game, the Dodgers continued to battle back and showed how tough their offense can be. Smyly did his best to finish things off, but with two men on and two outs, it was time to go to Julian Merryweather. Things didn't start well for Merryweather as he allowed a two-run single to Hernandez to make things 9-7, but most importantly, he was able to limit the damage to keep the Cubs in front.

One inning later, Merryweather walked Chris Taylor to start the inning before retiring the next three men. That included a strikeout of Betts and another deep flyout from Otani, as the Cubs were three outs away from a victory. Even with Adbert Alzolay on the mound and the meat of the Dodgers order nearly finished, nothing comes easy with Freeman and Smith picking up a pair of singles to start things off and had the Dogers in business.

With one out, Hernandez hit one to Swanson in the hole, and despite a great play, Hernandez was able to beat the throw for an infield single. Or so he thought as Counsell challenged the play and wound up winning the challenge, giving the Dodgers two outs. However, the danger was far from over as a hit from Outman would, at the very least, tie the game but potentially give them the lead if it was a homer.

Despite hitting one of the best balls he had all game, luck wasn't on Outman's side. The former Dodger Busch laid out at first to take a hit away and sealed the deal for the Cubs 9-7.

What stands out the most in this game was the four strikeouts and six walks from the Cubs hitters, who struck out just one time after the first inning.

The Cubs had nine hits in the game, with Swanson and Madrigal leading the way with two. Five others had one hit for the Cubs, with Cody Bellinger and Morel as the lone Cubs without a hit. This was the first game this season where Morel failed to record a hit. Los Angeles was led by Hernandez who not only had three hits, but also four RBIs to join Suzuki in that regard. The Cubs will look for the series win on Saturday as young left-hander Jordan Wicks squares off with Yoshinbu Yamamoto.

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