Cubs overcome Chatwood meltdown, win series finale versus Giants

by - Senior Writer -
The Chicago Cubs rallied around themselves after falling down 3-0, amassing 13 total hits and winning by five runs. (Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzicki-USA TODAY Sports)
The Chicago Cubs rallied around themselves after falling down 3-0, amassing 13 total hits and winning by five runs. (Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzicki-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — Overcoming the stacked odds facing them after woebegone starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood was tagged for three runs in the first inning, the Chicago Cubs experienced a quick turnaround and went on to defeat the San Francisco Giants by five runs in the rubber match between the two National League foes on Sunday night. Winning 8-3, the Cubs used a combination of adept small ball and a critical three-run homer to pull off the victory.

The first inning of the contest was one of the wackiest innings one could witness in a Major League Baseball game, as it featured five infield singles and several quirky defensive plays. The Giants produced a two-out rally off Chatwood that could essentially be blamed on Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, whose lethargy on back-to-back grounders resulted in a pair of infield singles and a 1-0 lead for San Francisco.

Following the infield hits, Giants outfielder Mac Williamson lined a two-run single to right that provided San Francisco with a commanding 3-0 lead. The Giants failed to score another run for the remainder of the ballgame, though, with the Cubs outscoring them 8-0 from then on out. The Cubs carried forward with the first-inning wackiness in the bottom half of the introductory frame, accruing three infield hits, all of which ricocheted off the glove of Giants starting pitcher Ty Blach.

The Cubs' first run came on an RBI double by Kris Bryant that bounced off the wall in center field and scored Albert Almora, Jr. In the next at-bat, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo came up with what was assuredly the strangest single of his career, as a hard-hit ball caromed off Blach's glove and proceeded to ricochet off the second-base umpire's leg before dribbling toward second baseman Pablo Sandoval. Rizzo beat it out for a single, and Bryant came all the way around from second to score on a hit that did not even leave the infield.

Rizzo tallied his 33rd RBI on the single and prolonged his incredible May turnaround. After a dismal April for the Chicago slugger that was hindered by a stint on the disabled list and plenty of strikeouts, Rizzo has compiled a .365 on-base percentage thus far this month.

Later in the inning, Russell redeemed himself by running out an infield hit of his own with two outs, thereby enabling Rizzo to score and tie the game at three runs apiece. The Giants had multiple opportunities to retake the lead in the ensuing innings but were unable to do so. Leaving 28 runners stranded on base over the course of the matchup, San Francisco was far from efficient at the dish, failing to take advantage of a dismal outing by Chatwood.

The third inning saw both teams collapse when presented with golden scoring opportunities. Each club failed to convert a bases-loaded opportunity into runs. In fact, the Cubs boasted a bases-loaded, no-outs situation after three consecutive walks were drawn to start the inning, and they came up empty-handed.

But Cubs second baseman Javier Baez saw to it that the Cubs took the lead and took the lead for good with a three-run blast in the fourth. Cranking an opposite-field shot 400 feet into the right-field bleachers, Baez compiled his National League-leading 42nd RBI as part of the three-run bomb that put the Cubs ahead 6-3. The 13th home run of the season by Baez also made him the first Cub to collect at least 40 RBI before Memorial Day since Derrek Lee did so in 2005.

In the next inning, Chicago added a pair of insurance runs as part of a two-out rally that was sparked by Jason Heyward's third triple of the season. After that, Tommy La Stella, who is establishing himself as the best pinch hitter in baseball this season, drove home Heyward with a single to left that came in a pinch-hitting spot. Almora, Jr., followed that up with an RBI double to deep right-center.

Going 3-5 while batting in the leadoff spot on the night, Almora, Jr., continued to make his case for being the Cubs' everyday center fielder, even flashing the leather with an amazing grab. Catching a deep fly ball hit by Giants third baseman Evan Longoria in the sixth inning, Almora, Jr., showed no fear as he plowed into the ivy at the edge of the warning track to make the grab.

While the Chicago hitters were solid on Sunday, compiling 13 hits and six walks, Chatwood's glaring issues will be the primary takeaway from the contest. Lasting only 2.2 innings, Chatwood gave up six hits and walked five as part of a sorry stint on the mound that saw him get taken for three runs in the opening frame.

Chatwood has already amassed seven five-walk starts this season, making the first pitcher to do so since Ricky Romero in 2012. Of course, what makes that statistical tidbit so especially glaring is that Romero used an entire season to accrue seven such starts. Chatwood, on the other hand, needed just two months. Whether or not the right-hander remains in Chicago's starting rotation will likely be a question that looms in the Cubs' clubhouse in the coming days.

Fortunately for Chatwood, he avoided picking up a loss, as Blach, who lasted a mere three innings, was just as poor while toeing the rubber. Seven hits, five runs and four walks were charged to Blach's name in his short-lived start. He was named the game's loser to become 3-5 overall. Giants reliever Pierce Johnson was less than stellar, too, giving up five hits, three runs and one walk in his three innings pitched.

Overcoming Chatwood's struggles, as well as the three errors committed by Cubs defenders on the evening, the North Siders triumphed by a final score of 8-3 at the Friendly Confines to conclude their three-game set with the Giants. Recent Cubs call-up Randy Rosario pitched 2.1 innings of one-hit ball in relief and received his first big-league win for his efforts. Taking two out of three from the Giants, the Cubs improved to 27-22 at the conclusion of Sunday's series clincher, while San Francisco regressed to 25-28.

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