CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs were a day late for Throwback Thursday, as Friday’s 12-1 drubbing of the Seattle Mariners had a decidedly April or May feel to it. There were the early runs, the good pitching and then the add-on scoring that turned a nice lead into a blowout.
All week, the headlines around Chicago were about the new-look bullpen anchored by flamethrower Aroldis Chapman. But not on Friday; it was the hitters' turn to shine.
“Up and down the lineup,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “[Ben] Zobrist is starting to show line drives. [Anthony] Rizzo same thing. [Kris] Bryant had a really good day at the plate. A really well-played game.”
Perhaps the best thing to come out of it was Jason Heyward's performance: The outfielder belted his fifth home run of the season and first since June 11. Even though he grounded out twice, he hit three balls in the air, including the one to right field that departed the park and another that nearly did to left.
“The home run to right would have been way, way gone had it not been for the elements,” Maddon said of the wind blowing in on Heyward's third-inning blast. “He looked really good. It’s in there. He’s well, he’s healthy, he’s working his butt off. Very happy for him.”
The Cubs have had some recent blowouts -- they beat the Chicago White Sox 8-1 on Wednesday -- but Friday’s affair felt more dominant because so many struggling players came through. Heyward might be the most noteworthy of the group, but he wasn’t alone in coming out of a hitting slumber. Zobrist is finally feeling it again at the plate, contributing two hits and a walk, while David Ross hit his first long ball in over a month. Even newly activated outfielder Chris Coghlan got back into the mix with a two-out, two-run single to break a scoreless tie in the second inning.
“We did a great job of taking what he gave us,” Coghlan said of the Cubs' efforts against Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma. “Up and down the lineup contributed.”
Eight hits by the Cubs over the first three innings knocked Iwakuma out of the game. After the struggling players broke out, then came the mainstays: Bryant was on base five times; and Rizzo doubled to unload the bases in the sixth and give himself 79 RBIs on the season. For one day, at least, the offense found its rhythm.
“It’s in there,” Maddon said. “It’s the ebb and flow of the season. Sometimes it goes away.”
The biggest boost could come from Heyward, written off by so many this season. It’s the same feeling many had about Jon Lester -- Friday’s winner -- during his inaugural campaign with the Cubs. It didn’t always go smoothly.
“I know what he’s going through,” Lester said of Heyward. “This year has been tough, I’m sure, for him.
“He’s been grinding. That was big for him to have that big swing for us. Everyone is in there rooting for each other, especially for him. He does so many things well.”
If hitting the ball consistently becomes one of the things Heyward does well, then watch out: The Cubs offense might really take off.
“He’s been a great professional,” Coghlan said. “For him to come up and hit the ball well was great.”
If Thursday proved what the Cubs' bullpen can be like in an October game, then maybe Friday was about the offensive possibilities. Remember, the weather can be warm in the fall, as it was last season, when the Cubs thumped the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs. Maddon has been promising a second-half run by his team, and so far the Cubs have been pretty methodical in keeping their heads above water. One more victory this weekend and it will be five consecutive series since the All-Star break they’ve won or split.
That feel of a run is starting to come around again, just as the team is getting healthy and about to move past the trade deadline. It’s at that point everyone will know who’s going to be around and part of perhaps something very special.
“After a hard-fought series with the White Sox, it was kind of nice to play a game like that today,” Maddon said.
The Cubs were used to playing those games early in the season. Maybe the nostalgia for April can become a reality again in August.