By Cat Garcia
In 2015, the Cubs were known for many things, one of them being their seemingly countless momentous come-from-behind wins that at times felt more impossible than improbable. The Cubs, who had started off 2016 going 5-1, returned to Wrigley Field for their home opener and collected their sixth win on the season in the same improbably fashion well remember. The win over Cincinnati served as yet another reminder that the magic from the 2015 season was not left in the past, but has been carried into the future.
Jon Lester got the start Monday evening and labored early on, throwing a 26 pitch first inning but escaped only allowing one run. Lester allowed five hits and five strikeouts, giving up three runs on the evening. However, the outing would look much worse for Lester while the Cubs offense was being no-hit by young Cincinnati pitcher Brandon Finnegan.
Finnegan, 23, came to the Reds organization from the Kansas City Royals as a piece of the Johnny Cueto trade. He spent much of his time with the Royals traveling between Triple-A and the big league roster serving out of the bullpen. Finnegan only began to test the waters as a starter in September of 2015 with the Reds, and in his second start of the 2016 season, attempted the bold; no hitting the Chicago Cubs, a daringly dubious task for any major league starter, much less one as fresh as Finnegan.
During his flirt with a no-hitter that lasted 6.2 innings, Finnegan was dominate with his changeup and sinker, but suffered shaky command, matching five walks against five strikeouts, with nearly half his pitches going for balls. The Cubs quickly capitalized on the fatiguing pitcher, and with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning David Ross would do the honors of igniting a late inning rally that was fondly familiar to Cubs fans.
After a questionable called strike on the outside corner to Addison Russell, Ross hit a line drive single on the sixth pitch of the sequence to break up the no-no. Promptly after, Finnegan would issue a four pitch walk to Matt Szczur before ending his evening at 111 pitches. Finnegan had not thrown more than 88 pitches at the major league level in his career.
Still with two outs in the seventh, Reds pitcher Caleb Cotham replaced Finnegan and promptly walked Dexter Fowler to load the bases. Cotham was removed from the game after five pitches and before recording an out.
Pitcher Tony Cingrani would then take over for Cotham and surrender a line drive single off the bat of Jason Heyward, his first hit at Wrigley Field, which would score two runs and put the Cubs within one of Cincinnati. Cingrani would continue to struggle in the eighth, walking Ben Zobrist, surrendering a wild pitch, and walking Jorge Soler via hit by pitch.
Addison Russell delivered what would become the game-winning hit during the spectacular come-from-behind-win when he hit a three-run home run off Cincinnati reliever Jumbo Diaz’s first pitch of the inning to score Zobrist and Soler, giving the Cubs the 5-3 lead. Hector Rondon came in and closed out what was a spectacular evening for the Cubs bullpen, striking out the final three Reds hitters of the evening in order.
Just as the Cubs proved to their fans in 2015, it’s not over till it’s over. The Cubs are now 6-1 on the season, and after an off day on Tuesday will continue this series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Wednesday evening. John Lackey will take the mound for the Cubs, and Alfred Simon for the Reds.