Fans at Wrigley Field had to wait out three rain delays in Thursday’s Cubs/Diamondbacks game. For those who stayed, it was well worth the wait.
While maybe not as bonkers as Tuesday’s patently absurd Red Sox/Indians showdown, there was plenty of crazy to go around Thursday at Wrigley. For starters, the first pitch was delayed by an hour-and-a-half and even when the game finally got underway, dark clouds hovered over the field, threatening to unleash another torrential downpour at any moment. That downpour would come in the second inning, but not before the visiting D’Backs hung four runs on Cubs starter Jose Quintana in the opening frame. Goldschmidt began the game of his life by depositing a three-run jack into the left field bleachers. Brandon Drury did his best Goldschmidt impression two batters later, sending Quintana’s offering into the seats for his ninth home run of the season.
Quintana settled down after the second rain delay (this one lasted a mere 35 minutes), blanking the Snakes until the fifth inning, when Goldschmidt cranked his second home run of the afternoon. The two-run blast extended Arizona’s lead to 6-1. That capped a rough day for Quintana, who let up six hits and six earned runs over five lackluster innings.
It was easily his worst start since joining the Cubs last month and the third time this season the left-hander has allowed three or more homers. Thursday wasn’t the first time Quintana has thrown a clunker against the Diamondbacks. The 28-year-old was battered for eight hits and eight runs over 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the D’Backs on May 24, back when he was still a member of the White Sox. For the year, Quintana sports a 13.50 ERA against Arizona compared to 3.70 versus everyone else. Obviously Quintana will be crossing his fingers for the Cubs to avoid Arizona in October.
On paper, it looked like Thursday would be a great pitcher’s duel between Quintana, a known workhorse and one of the more consistent left-handed arms of the last half-decade, and former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. But what materialized was a good old-fashioned Wrigley slugfest.
Greinke survived a couple early hiccups before unraveling during a three-run sixth inning. Willson Contreras trimmed Arizona’s lead to one with a single swing, powering a 418-foot moon shot over the left-field fence for his second home run of the afternoon. Both of Contreras’ round-trippers came on first-pitch fastballs that Greinke misplaced up in the zone. Not content with his two long balls, Contreras scorched a bases-loaded single in the seventh, plating two more runs to give Chicago its first lead. That upped Contreras’ RBI total to six, setting a new career-high.
We know how this story is supposed to end—the Cubs slam the door and send the D’Backs crawling back to the desert. It would be nature’s way, the fulfillment of Darwin’s natural selection for the reigning World Champs to devour the unseasoned, happy-to-be-here Diamondbacks. But that’s not how it happened.
Hard-throwing 25-year-old Carl Edwards Jr. walked two batters to begin the eighth inning before giving way to newcomer Justin Wilson, who was among the most coveted relievers available leading up to Monday’s trade deadline. The ex-Tiger immediately allowed a base hit to Drury, chocking the bases for Jake Lamb. Cubs fans must have felt like they were watching a re-run of the night before when Lamb padded Arizona’s lead by delivering an RBI double off Wilson in the eighth inning. Lamb got the better of Wilson again, this time stroking a base hit to left field. Goldschmidt (of course) and J.D. Martinez sprinted home to give Arizona an 8-7 advantage.
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Lamb entered the series in an agonizing slump but has broken out for four hits and five RBI over his last two contests. The first-time All-Star has been among the top run producers in baseball this year, tying Goldschmidt for the team lead with 85 RBI. That’s also the second-highest total in the majors behind human stat machine Nolan Arenado.
But because life is short and success is fleeting, Lamb’s heroics were quickly undone by reliever Jorge De La Rosa, who allowed the game-tying run to come across in the bottom half of the frame. After the third and final rain delay, the D’Backs went to work again in the ninth, this time versus All-Star closer Wade Davis. Having spent most of his career in the American League with Kansas City and Tampa Bay, Davis had never faced Goldschmidt until Thursday. After what transpired, I’m sure Davis would prefer never to face him again.
Goldschmidt would not be denied on this day. He put the Diamondbacks ahead for good with his career-best third blast of the day, dropping the mic with a mammoth 428-foot rocket to center field. J.D. Martinez added to Davis’ misery by going deep in the very next at-bat, extending Arizona’s lead to 10-8.
I argued in my latest Power Rankings that Martinez may have the biggest impact of any player acquired at this year’s trade deadline. Martinez strengthened my case with another heroic display on Thursday. Though he hasn’t hit for a high average since coming over from the Tigers (.195), Martinez has already slugged six homers while contributing 14 RBI in only 41 at-bats for the D’Backs. Arizona’s lineup was already formidable enough with A.J. Pollock (.315 AVG since the All-Star break), David Peralta (.301/.354/.456 triple slash), Lamb (.535 slugging percentage) and Goldschmidt holding down the top four spots. With Martinez in tow, the Diamondbacks could quickly ascend to juggernaut status.
As usual, Fernando Rodney turned the ninth inning into a day at Six Flags, setting the rollercoaster in motion by issuing a pair of walks. But the closer eventually found his bearings, striking out the side for his 24th save.
For all the on-field drama that was waged Thursday, it was the rain delay antics that stole the show. It was all great—upside-down uniforms, pretend fishing, human bowling balls, funny masks and my personal favorite, the four-man bobsled—though it’s clear the Diamondbacks are more skilled in the timeless art of shenanigans than their Cub counterparts.
Thursday was slow, rain-drenched and messy. But man was it fun. Luckily for us, the Cubs and Diamondbacks are getting together again next weekend for a three-game set at Chase Field.
AL Quick Hits: Michael Fulmer was sent to the disabled list with right elbow ulnar neuritis. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year hopes to resume throwing in 10-12 days … The Orioles pulled off their second triple play of the season in Thursday’s loss to the Tigers. Their other triple play came against the Red Sox on May 2 … Dennis Eckersley finally addressed his conflict with David Price at the start of Thursday’s NESN broadcast, calling it an “unfortunate set of circumstances” while also acknowledging that he’s ready to “move on.” Price confronted Eckersley on a team flight for making what he perceived as critical comments about the team … Joe Kelly is expected to return to the Red Sox bullpen on Saturday after missing the past few weeks with a strained hamstring. Kelly has been one of the hardest throwers in baseball this year, averaging 98.9 mph on his fastball … Sonny Gray’s debut with the Yankees wasn’t quite what he was hoping for. He yielded four runs in a loss to Cleveland, though only two of them were earned … Jason Kipnis will conclude his minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus on Friday and expects to return Sunday against the Yankees. A strained hamstring has sidelined him for the past month … Cameron Maybin is slated to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday. Maybin is still tied for the American League lead with 25 steals despite missing the last two weeks with a sprained knee … Kole Calhoun (hamstring) saw his first game action since Sunday, grounding out as a pinch-hitter in Thursday’s win over the Phillies. He should be back in the Angels’ starting lineup for Friday’s series opener against Oakland … Several starting pitchers returned to the mound Thursday with Kendall Graveman, A.J. Griffin and Matt Garza all coming off the disabled list. Griffin was the best of the bunch (6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 4 Ks versus Minnesota) while Graveman was hammered for eight hits and seven runs over two disastrous innings in a loss to San Francisco … Steven Souza returned to the Rays’ starting nine Thursday after missing the previous two games with a sore foot. He didn’t miss a beat, supplying two hits (a double and a home run) and three RBI in Tampa Bay’s 5-3 win over Houston.
NL Quick Hits: It will be a while before someone reaches 3,000 hits again, but 2,000 hits is nothing to sneeze at. Nick Markakis recorded hits No. 2000 and 2001 of his career in Thursday night’s loss to the Dodgers. The 33-year-old has had a decent year, hitting .284 across 395 at-bats for Atlanta … Julio Teheran exited Wednesday’s start with a thigh cramp but plans on making his next turn Tuesday against the Phillies. Teheran has struggled to a 5.10 ERA over 22 starts this season … Thursday was a day of firsts across major league baseball. Braves rookie Ozzie Albies delivered his first major league home run as did Giants pitcher Ty Blach. Over in the American League, White Sox outfielder Nick Delmonico blasted his first career homer off Red Sox starter Rick Porcello … Adam Wainwright threw a successful bullpen session on Wednesday and is on track to return Sunday against Cincinnati. He’s missed his last two turns in the rotation due to back stiffness … Adrian Gonzalez began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday, going 1-for-3 in a loss to Las Vegas. Gonzalez has spent the last two months recovering from a herniated disc in his back. With Cody Bellinger firmly entrenched at first base, Gonzalez will likely settle for a backup role upon his return.