The Chicago Cubs began a 14-game, 17-day losing streak against the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, taking on the two teams contending for the NL Central crown.
It’s a chance for David Ross’ team to prove their recent run of success is no fluke and for the Cubs to have a say in a run they’ve been out since losing nine games on May 8.
“We’re going to find out what we’re made of,” second baseman Nick Madrigal said. “We’ve been playing great baseball lately. We’ve got some good teams coming up, but now I’d run this team with anyone.”
The Cubs started the streak on the right foot Friday, staging an 8-7 comeback win over the Brewers before a semi-engaged 39,962 fans at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs have won eight of their last 11 games, though mostly against rebuilding teams like the Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins. Games now carry more weight, and the Cubs responded with the kind of excitement you see in teams fighting for a playoff spot.
With fighter jets flying over Wrigley practicing for this weekend’s Air and Water Show, the perfect weather streak continuing for the second week in a row and stacked beer glasses taking precedence over action in the stands, Friday was kind of a day in which the action on the field took a backseat to the simple pleasures of enjoying a day game at Wrigley Field.
But those who bothered to pay attention were treated to a great back-and-forth game that included three hits from Madrigal, home runs from Patrick Wisdom and Christopher Morel and another triple from Franmil Reyes, who has quickly become a fan favorite.
Reyes took his second 3-pointer in just nine games with the Cubs in the first inning, then scored on Ian Happ’s infield hit. Reyes had only three 3-pointers in his career in 481 games with the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Guardians.
Is it the shoes?
“Just taking advantage of what the game gives you,” Reyes said. “That’s one more thing that shows people that you have to rush all the time. If I hadn’t gotten to third and stayed on second, I wouldn’t have scored on the infield single Ian had there.”
The addition of Reyes and the return of Madrigal from the disabled list have coincided with the Cubs’ hot streak. Together, they have the feel of a fun-sized candy bar stacked next to a giant-sized bar, proving that players of all shapes and sizes can play the game.
Reyes has 14 hits in his first nine games as a Cub, the most since Nicholas Castellanos had 15 in his first nine games in 2019.
“This new opportunity, there are a lot of players who don’t get a second chance,” Reyes said. “I am very blessed to have achieved it.”
The Cubs trailed 2-0 early on, but led 4-2 after two innings. They trailed 5-4 in the fifth, but regained the lead on Wisdom’s two-run homer off Aaron Ashby. After the Brewers reclaimed the lead by scoring a pair of runs off reliever Kervin Castro in the sixth inning, the Cubs responded with Morel’s two-run homer off Hoby Milner in the bottom of the inning.
Michael Ricker, Mark Leither Jr. and Brandon Hughes closed it out with three scoreless innings.
Cubs starter Keegan Thompson endured his third poor performance in four starts, allowing five runs on six hits and three walks in 3 ⅔ innings. The Brewers hit three home runs off Thompson, whose ERA rose from 3.16 to 3.97 since early August, mirroring the end of last season. After moving into the rotation a year ago, Thompson posted a 7.11 ERA in his last five starts, increasing his overall ERA from 2.21 to 3.38.
“I’ll probably have some fatigue going into the season,” Ross said. “We’ll take a general look at that and make sure everything is on track, health-wise.”
Thompson could rest down the stretch with Wade Miley possibly returning soon from the IL. Kyle Hendricks heads to Arizona for a rehab assignment and deserves a chance to get a couple of starts in September to start the offseason on a positive note.
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With summer drawing to a close, what matters most for the Cubs is thinking hard for what they hope will be a breakout season in 2023.
Morel, one of this season’s bright spots, has three home runs in his last eight games. He said Reyes’ presence has helped the Cubs become a unit. Reyes was playing baseball with his children after the game, watching his little daughter run around as if she were his playpen.
“You’ve been able to see it, right?” Morel said through an interpreter. “He came in, he is making us feel more united, more like a family. You see their enthusiasm. Every time he is here he talks to us, he tells us to give everything every day and things will flow. And you can see that they are flowing.”
Morel then performed an impression of Reyes talking about hitting the triple, lowering his voice a few octaves and saying, “I’m trying.”
Reyes also struck out three times, and that swing-and-miss problem was one of the reasons the Guardians gave up on him. But Reyes wasn’t frustrated and said he missed a few shots.
“Everything is fine,” he said. “Tomorrow a new mentality. Same plane. I’m crushing it.