On a rainy night at Wrigley Field, the Cubs got to Sonny.
Reds starter Sonny Gray has stifled the Cubs since joining the Reds last season, but they broke through against him on Thursday to end his night early. Perhaps more importantly, the Cubs broke through offensively at home, where they’ve struggled this season.
Some quick takes from the 8-5 Cubs win.
It’s (not) always Sonny
Sonny Gray has had the Cubs number since last season, his first with the Reds, holding a 2.21 ERA in six starts. Over that span, the most hits (five) and runs (three) the Cubs tallied off him came back on May 15 last season.
They tied and eclipsed those figures with a big fourth inning Thursday.
After three scoreless innings, the Cubs scored five times in the fourth to end Gray’s night, the final run crossing after he exited. They loaded the bases on a single and two walks with one out, and Nico Hoerner knocked a two-run double off Gray into the left-center gap.
One batter later, Ian Happ snapped his cold streak, driving in two with an infield single that reached the edge of the grass. (Happ was 0-for-his-last-11 with eight strikeouts, entering that at-bat.) Hoerner’s double was the only ball to leave the infield in the inning.
Thursday’s eight runs are the second most the Cubs have scored at home this season. Their season-high is nine, set back on July 26 against the Brewers.
The Cubs have hit much better on the road than at Wrigley this season. In fact, they could set a new record for lowest batting average at home, obviously in a much smaller sample size.
Currently, the 2015 team’s .237 mark is the lowest batting average for a single season at home. Including Thursday’s game, the Cubs are hitting .213 (180-for-844) at Wrigley.
With roughly 150 at-bats remaining over five home games, they need to go 56-for-150 (.373) against Cleveland (two games) and Minnesota (three) to not set a new record.
The Cubs are hitting .252 on the road this season.
'Pen keeps it up
The Cubs bullpen entered Thursday with the best ERA in baseball since Aug. 28 and kept on rolling.
Adbert Alzolay pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing three hits, two walks and three earned runs on 74 pitches. His short outing meant the bullpen needed another big effort to keep the Cubs in the game.
Six Cubs relievers did just that, combining for 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball. The extent of the damage came against Dan Winkler, who allowed both runs (one earned) on three hits in the eighth inning.
"We got some really good innings out of the bullpen tonight and we needed that," Cubs manager David Ross said. "Those guys have continued to work and grow and perform. That was nice to see tonight. Those guys did a really nice job."
Dating back to that Aug. 28 series-opening game in Cincinnati, Cubs relievers hold a 2.03 ERA.
Oh what a night
Willson Contreras continued his hot September at the plate, going 4-for-4 with a walk, double and RBI. Contreras, who hit .172 in August, is hitting .457 in September.
"Every swing he takes right now, it feels like it's damage," Ross said. "Every swing is either straight back or a rocket somewhere. He's taken his walks too. He's gathered the strike zone of where people are trying to get him out.
"All around, just really good at-bats and a great night for him."
“Well, we’re in that spot where we’re atop the division but we have a lot of work remaining to accomplish one of our goals and win the division.” –Theo Epstein on where Cubs stand as season nears conclusion
The Cubs and Brewers start a three-game series on Friday at Miller Park. Jon Lester (2-2, 5.80 ERA) and Brandon Woodruff (2-2, 3.91 ERA) are the probable starters.