Bote beats the wind, Cubs top Reds for fifth straight win
Sometimes, all it takes to win a baseball game is doing the impossible.
This was one of those cold days at Wrigley Field when the wind blowing in from left field might as well have been an extra brick wall. Patrick Wisdom hit a fly ball that probably would have bounced across Waveland Avenue on a normal day, but was caught on the warning track.
But sometimes a low line drive can make it through the wind. David Bote hit a rocket in the fifth inning that rattled around the basket in the left-field corner and turned out to be the only offense in the Cubs' 1-0 victory over Cincinnati on Friday.
Bote said when he first hit the ball, he broke into a full sprint hoping to turn it into a triple, because, well, what chance did he have of hitting a home run on this day?
"It was as windy as I've seen it," Bote said. "That was one of the tougher, gale-force winds that we've had since I've been here. A day like today, you hit the ball hard, you start running."
This was the Cubs' first shutout victory of the season. They extended their win streak to five in a row and have gone 11-3 over the last 14 games.
The Cubs finished with just 3 hits, while the Reds had all kinds of traffic on the bases. They put two runners on base in each of the first three innings, but Cubs starter Adbert Alzolay worked his way out of trouble every time.
Alzolay (3-4) eventually left with two outs in the sixth inning, after throwing a career-high 103 pitches. Andrew Chafin, Tommy Nance and Craig Kimbrel finished it off, extending the Cubs' bullpen streak to 38 innings and 12 games without allowing an earned run.
"For me, it was a great day on the mound," Alzolay said. "I got in trouble, I can say for the first time in a long time now, being in trouble the first three innings. For me, it's just part of my development. To be able to get out of those situations. So I feel that it's a huge step forward for me."
Both teams likely had 2 home runs each robbed by the wind. Alzolay also got a fortunate bounce in the third inning. Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart drove the ball into the right field corner with a runner on first. The ball bounced over the high wall in along the right field line for a rarely-seen Wrigley ground-rule double. The runner had to stop at third and Alzolay retired the next batter to end the inning.
"Whenever I'm on he mound, I don't really think about the weather, if it's cold, if it's hot," Alzolay said. "I'm just there to compete. I can tell you between innings, yeah, I feel the cold."
Alzolay lowered his ERA to 3.81, best among Cubs starters. Kimbrel collected his 12th save on his 33rd birthday.
Reds starter Vladimir Gutierrez, a 25-year-old Cuba native, made his major league debut and allowed just 2 hits over 5 innings, but one was the Bote drive that found its way through the wind.
"You can't try to hit homers when it's blowing out and you can't try to not hit homers when it's blowing in," Bote said. "You just go up there and put a good at-bat and hope for the best."
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls