Three takeaways from Cubs' blowout win over Mets


by - Senior Writer -
The Cubs were happy after a 16-run performance (David Banks - USA Today Sports)
The Cubs were happy after a 16-run performance (David Banks - USA Today Sports)

There is nothing like baseball in January on the North Side. At least, that is how it has felt the past few nights as snow showers rolled through the area prior to first pitch and more cold temperatures awaited Zach Davies and David Peterson on the mound. Looking for a bounce-back start after two rough outings, Davies was better, but a high pitch count forced him out of the game in the fourth inning, trailing 2-1.

Thankfully, the offense didn't let the cold weather bother them as they erupted for seven runs on six hits in the fourth en route to piling it on the Mets 16-4. David Bote was responsible for four RBI's; Javy Baez picked up four RBIs with a sixth-inning grand slam, while Matt Duffy picked up three hits and three RBIs in a spot start at third base.

The Cubs also picked up a pair of RBIs from Jake Marisnick and solo RBIs from Anthony Rizzo, Eric Sogard, and Ian Happ as everyone in the lineup picked up a hit in the victory. Not only did the offense come to life once again, but the Cubs got some key contributions on the mound as they saved several pitchers from throwing additional innings.

Alec Mills entered the game in the sixth inning, and the team counted on him to give them an inning or two. Instead, Mills threw three shutout innings, allowing one hit to go with two punchouts. He also only needed 27 pitches to get through those innings, so there is a chance he can be used tonight. Shelby Miller also got some game action, and although not as crisp as Mills, Miller still tossed a scoreless frame which should bode well for his confidence.

The best inning of the year

After falling behind 2-0 through three-plus innings of play, the Cubs came to bat in the bottom of the fourth and perhaps delivered their best inning of baseball this season. It wasn't just the seven runs they pushed across, which was a season-high, but it was the way those runs came into score.

Not only did the Cubs pick up six hits in that inning, but they also showed tons of patience and great baserunning to put on an offensive clinic. Rizzo, Bote, Sogard, and Happ all picked up RBI hits in that inning, with Duffy earning a bases-loaded walk and Marisnick adding an RBI groundout.

It was the second time in as many games where small ball was leading to more runs scored, and that is something the Cubs are focusing on right now. David Ross said on Tuesday that they need to get guys moving to help produce runs. So far, the small ball approach they have done in recent games is working, and the Cubs should build off that.

The offense is heating up

I know it is only a small sample size, but it looks like the offense is starting to heat up and find their stride. After scoring 34 runs in the first 12 games, the Cubs offense has erupted for 36 runs in their last four, anchored by a 13- run output on Saturday and 16 run output on Sunday.

What stands out the most about that is how the Cubs are getting those runs as the home run ball hasn't been as prevalent lately. Yes, 12 of the 13 runs came off the home run on Saturday, but of their last 23 runs scored, only six have come via the long ball. The Cubs are putting the ball in play with more consistency and stringing together hits to produce runs.

We have talked about a while with this team as they needed to figure out how to string big innings together. The fact that they are getting these big innings more consistently without homers is a promising sign. What is even more impressive is the weather conditions they have had to deal with lately, which have not been easy.

Winter-like conditions the last two nights, coupled with the wind coming off the lake, does not make things easy for any offense. The Cubs are using that to their advantage to get the offense back on track.

Having a guy like Alec Mills is important

When the Cubs were putting their pitching staff together, Mills remained the biggest question. After starting 11 games last season, Mills was in line to earn the fifth starter spot out of camp, which eventually went to Adbert Alzolay. Mills was then sent to the pen, where he has proven to be an asset for this team.

Not only is he capable of making a start if the Cubs need him too, but he can do precisely what he did last night. In other words, he is the definition of a utility pitcher. Mills is someone who can give you multiple innings when needed, whether in a blowout game last night or just when a starter doesn't go deep.

That not only saves the rest of the bullpen but gives the Cubs an option to help keep teams honest, knowing he is essentially another starting pitcher. Mills also has one save this season, proving that he can handle high-leverage situations when called upon. Although not talked about enough on this roster, Mills is the most important piece to the pitching staff, and he showed why last night.

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