Drew Smyly kept the Mets hitters off balance through five innings and the bullpen did the rest as the Cubs picked up their 21st win of the season.
Words by Eugene McIntosh
CHICAGO - After a 10 day, 9 game road trip that started in Minnesota, stopped in Houston and finished in Philadelphia, the Cubs returned to the Friendly Confines with a 2-7 record. They began their own 9 game home stand Tuesday night starting with the 25-23 second place NL East New York Mets. Make that the 25-24 NY Mets as the Cubs got back in the W column with a 7-2 win in front of 35,958. Nothing like some good old home cooking.
"It's nice to hear that song [Go Cubs Go] at the back end of a game," said manager David Ross. "This group doesn't waiver from just going out and playing good baseball. Guys continue to have their at bats. We're gonna need to do that throughout the season to be successful."
Cubs starter Drew Smyly picked up his fifth win of the season going five innings giving up four hits and fanning five while allowing two runs on 85 pitches. Smyly's growth over the years being able to read hitters and pick up on their tendencies has been a big key to his success. His unconventional knuckle curve had Mets hitters giving up on it upon release as the ball ended up right over the heart of the plate. "I don't know how it does what it does but my key is to throw it for strikes early and then try to get them to chase," said Smyly. "It's that easy. My mind set when I throw it is throw it for a strike and then once I get ahead in the count I just try to expand with it and get them to start chasing."
Smyly left in the top of 6 with a 6-1 lead and the bases loaded with no outs for reliever Jeremiah Estrada to face "The Polar Bear" Pete Alonso and the heart of the Mets order. The 24 year old Estrada showed his heart didn't pump any kool-aid. He was able to limit the damage as Brandon Nimmo was the only runner to score on an Alonso fielder's choice RBI. He got pinch hitter Daniel Vogelbach to fly out to center field and Starling Marte to ground out to Dansby Swanson to end the threat.
"It was amazing," Smyly said. "I mean that was definitely probably the turning point in the game or one of the biggest moments in the game. He bailed me out big time. He's really fun to watch pitch honestly. He kinda has that attitude of here it is, come hit it and he obviously has a super elite fastball. He attacks guys and as a pitcher that's what you have to do. He's not scared."
Estrada said he puts his faith in the man upstairs and lets the chips fall where they may. "When your name is called you just have to be locked and loaded. I've put a lot of work in to get where I am today. You've just gotta trust yourself and your stuff and do your thing." Estrada was surprised when he saw reporters headed to his locker. "I was much more nervous talking to you guys than I was facing Alonso with the bases loaded."
Cubs hitters ran Mets starter Tylor Megill (the brother of former Cubs pitcher Trevor McGill) outta there EARLY. He allowed six hits and six runs and manager Buck Showalter had seen enough after 3.2 innings.
The Cubs struck first in the bottom of 2 as Seiya Suzuki's first pitch 414 foot solo HR (6) off of Megill gave the Cubs an early 1-0 lead. Suzuki had 4 HRs and 7 RBIs on the road trip and picked up right where he left off. An oblique injury suffered in late February caused him to miss all of spring training and the first eleven games of the season. He started the season really slow but is finally at the point where he's had enough at bats to be back in the swing of things but says there's more to it.
"One of the most important things was that a lot of guys were kinda giving up on me. So I needed to start picking it up a little bit showing who I am out there,"Suzuki said.
The Cubs four run second inning was capped off by a Matt Mervis 2 run opposite field HR (2) which was his first at Wrigley. Mervis has made the adjustments so far offensively and he's also done a great job working with assistant coach Andy Green defensively at first base as he's saved his infielders a few errors in his short stint in the Bigs. (pun intended)
Cubs reliever Mark Leiter Jr. got pinch hitter Jeff McNeil swinging in the top of 7 with runners on first and second with Francisco Lindor on deck for a possible chance at tying the game. Leiter Jr. has been the Cubs go to guy out of the pen in high leverage situations with a team leading 29 strikeouts and hasn't allowed an earned run in 17 of his 19 outings.
Christopher Morel continued his historic pace as his solo bomb in the bottom of 7 extended the Cubs lead to 7-2 and his hitting streak to twelve games. He became the first Cub since Sammy Sosa to hit a home run in five consecutive games and the fourth player in MLB history to hit nine or more home runs in his first twelve games. (Luis Gonzalez was the last to do so in 2001)
Morel was asked how much he knows about Sammy Sosa. "That five in a row was in 98. I was born in 99."
*The Patrick Wisdom struggles continue. He was 0-4 with 4Ks tonight and is 16-89 (.179) in his last 28 games (since April 17) with 4 HR/10 RBI.