Saturday, May 25, 2024

The Nico Hoerner Game + More Good Keegan Thompson!

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All I was thinking about in extra innings was last year’s extra-innings game in Arizona, when the Cubs simply could not put away the Diamondbacks and lost in 13 innings. Well, it’s not 2023 anymore and the Cubs found a way to steal Monday’s series opener in Phoenix. Nico Hoerner was the hero on offense and this time around the bullpen came through to seal a 3-2 victory.

The Cubs offense has been slumping ever since last week’s series finale against the San Diego Padres and the struggles continued against the Diamondbacks. Michael Busch’s solo home run in the second inning was the only run the Cubs put on the scoreboard until the ninth inning.

With one out, Hoerner singled sharply to right field and then Mike Tauchman followed with a single of his own to left. Miles Mastrobuoni pinch hit for Miguel Amaya, but struck out for the second out. Down to their final out, Ian Happ saw a Kevin Ginkel slider bounce in the dirt and once Hoerner saw the ball get past Gabriel Moreno, he took off from second base.

Fortunately for the Cubs, Moreno had a tough time locating the wild pitch and thanks to Hoerner’s speed and aggressive base running the Cubs tied the game at two on an incredible exhibition of Hoerner’s talent.

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Hoerner came through again in extra innings, but this time it was at the plate. Despite the Cubs second baseman entering Monday’s game with a poor batting average of .182, there were signs that Hoerner was breaking out of his slump. His single to start the ninth inning rally was a line drive and the game-winning hit was another hard-hit ball to right field.

Cubs fans have been saying it for years, there’s no other hitter you want up at bat with the bases loaded when you absolutely need quality contact. Hoerner delivered Monday night.

It would have been nice if the Cubs offense added a few more runs, seeing that they had the bases loaded with no outs, but hey a lead is a lead!

And how about Keegan Thompson. Dude went through a hellish 2023 season, didn’t make the Opening Day roster this year, but he’s now thrown 4 shutout innings in his first two relief outings since being called up last week. Thompson wasn’t as sharp Monday as he was in Seattle Friday night, but he kept his composure, did not allow a hit and earned the win with two scoreless innings in extras.

You would obviously love for the Cubs to be hitting on all cylinders, but you have to be proud of the fact that they’re keeping it together despite the entire team not yet playing great all at once. The offense was on fire for the first 10 games and despite some bad bullpen performances and short outings from the starting pitchers they were winning. Now, the offense is slumping badly, but the pitching has stepped up and the relievers are getting the job done in close games.

By the way, a huge tip of the cap to Ben Brown. He went toe-to-toe with Merrill Kelly and actually pitched better than the veteran Monday night. Brown allowed just one earned run on one hit, while striking out four and walking a pair in six innings.

Brown’s command wasn’t good early, but after giving up a two-out RBI in the second inning he dialed in and ended his start by retiring 13 batters in a row.

Brown has been fantastic filling in for Justin Steele in the Cubs rotation.

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