Alec Mills pitched against the Royals for the first time since they traded him to the Cubs in 2017.
On Monday, the Cubs won 2-0 in the series opener, with Mills claiming the W. Mills threw seven shutout innings and allowed just three hits.
Here are takeaways from the game:
Royals bow to Mills
Cubs manager David Ross has called Mills a “bullpen saver” once before. On Monday, Mills saved the bullpen again. This time, the Cubs relievers may have needed a rest even more than last week. The Cubs were coming off an 11-inning win over the Pirates.
The Royals selected Mills in the 22nd round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He made his major league debut in Kansas City blue four years later. But he pitched just three games for the Royals, all in relief.
Mills joined the Cubs in February of 2017 but hadn’t faced the Royals before Monday night.
"I understand the business, and my job is to make it hurt whenever I face them again," Mills said. "It took four years for it to happen, but I’m glad it did."
With Mills' performance lowered the Cubs starting rotaion's ERA to 1.95 after two starts apiece.
Bryant announces his return
What better way to announce your return than your first home run of the season?
That’s exactly what Kris Bryant did Monday, after missing two games for an upset stomach and MLB’s health and safety protocols.
In the seventh inning, Bryant launched a first-pitch cutter over the center field fence. His first homer of the year gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead.
Kris Bryant just said he told his son Kyler he’d hit a homer for him before he left today. He delivered. #Cubs— Taylor McGregor (@Taylor_McGregor) August 4, 2020
The Cubs had stranded Bryant on base twice already Monday night. He led off the first inning with a double, and walked to load the bases in the fifth inning. But it took a dinger to finally cross the plate.
Beating the odds and the runner
The cards were stacked against the Cubs when Adalberto Mondesi took off for second base, attempting a steal with two outs in the fourth inning.
Mills had just thrown a low changeup. In a bang-bang play, even the 8- to 9-mph difference between a pitcher’s fastball and changeup can be the difference between a catcher throwing the runner out or the runner sliding in safe. Then, the lower the pitch, the further the catcher has to move to start his throwing motion.
Willson Contreras handled the pitch and got off a quick on-hopper to shortstop Javier Báez. Báez made up for lost time on the pitching end by letting the ball travel to him. He caught the ball inches above Mondesi’s right hip, and Mondesi slid into the tag. That was the final out of the frame.
Left-handed pitcher Jose Quintana (left thumb) threw his scheduled "between starts" 30-pitch bullpen today, per the Cubs. Next, he'll stretch out to a two-inning simulated game Thursday in South Bend, while the Cubs are on the road.
Where they stand
The Cubs improved to an 8-2 record, maintaining their spot on the top of the National League standings.
The Cubs face the Royals at Wrigley Field for the second time Tuesday, before heading to Kansas City for a pair of away games.