Another slugfest: Cubs power their way past Reds 10-6
The Cubs are hoping a little "length" to their starting lineup leads to a long run in the postseason.
The recent addition of second baseman Daniel Murphy has added to that lengthening. He hit his second homer in two days Saturday in a 10-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.
Joining the home run parade were Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez as the Cubs won their fourth straight to move to a season-best 22 games over .500, at 75-53.
Before the game, manager Joe Maddon was musing about the possible impending return of Kris Bryant to the lineup. Bryant, who is on the disabled list with a left-shoulder injury, could be back within a week as he heads out on a minor-league rehab assignment.
"It's just like Murph walking in the door," Maddon said. "You get a player back in your lineup, it makes a difference. The term that I use is that it lengthens the lineup. All of a sudden you look at these names, and wow, you're placing farther (hitters) down below that had been up maybe a little bit higher based on the thickness of the lineup."
Maddon acknowledged that Murphy has started that process since his trade from Washington on Aug. 21. Murphy has been the leadoff hitter in each of his first four games with the Cubs.
"Of course, no doubt," Maddon said. "I love the pitcher in the 8-hole (in the batting order). I love the way that plays coming around to maybe the third time through the batting order.
"Obviously, Murph's setting the tone for the whole group. Pro at-bat every time up there."
Murphy helped get things going with a 2-run homer off Luis Castillo in the Cubs' 3-run second inning to make it a 3-0 game.
Schwarber hit his 23rd homer of the season in the fourth, a 2-run shot. Baez hit No. 28, a solo line-drive to the opposite field in the fifth.
Murphy's .407 career batting average (48-for-118) at Wrigley Field is the highest among all active players with at least 100 at-bats.
He played it modestly after Saturday's game.
"It seemed like everybody liked hitting here today," he said. "We swung the bats really well."
Murphy also displayed a sense of humor. He received a big ovation from the crowd of 41,205 in the third inning, when he made a diving, backhand catch of Jose Peraza's line drive.
"Must have been as surprised as I was I caught it," he said. "No, Q (Jose Quintana) makes a really good pitch right there with a 2-0 count to Peraza, who's having a really good year. Fortunately it hung up enough for me right there to make a play on it. It's always cool to get cheered for defensive plays."
The one cause for concern was Quintana. He did get the victory, improving to 11-9 with a 4.33 ERA. However he lasted just 5-plus innings. Through the first three innings, he threw a total of 35 pitches. In the fourth inning alone, he threw 36, with the Reds scoring twice to come within a run at 3-2.
"From the sideline, there's no finish on the fastball," Maddon said. "I'm not seeing the finish. The (radar) gun says 91 (mph), maybe I saw one 92. But that thing at the end that you see, the best way I can describe it to you is it finishes differently when he's good. You can see from where the cut of the dirt is to the catcher, maybe you'll see a ball really jump at the end. Hitter reacts late. Another times, they're right on time. And they're on time right now."
Maddon said rest may be the answer over a mechanical adjustment for Quintana, who said he's feeling fine.
"For sure, I want to go more than 5," he said. "It was a battle. I had the bad inning in the fourth, got out of the jam, made adjustment for my command.
"I feel great. I feel really good. I think I get sometimes pretty good innings, quick. A couple times I got into trouble in one inning of games. I think the most important thing is to keep battling, keep fighting in the games and try to get the score close. Then you make adjustments."