A flared blooper falling just beyond the outstretched glove of diving Chicago Cubs second baseman Nick Madrigal was the break White Sox outfielder AJ Pollock needed.
Pollock entered Wednesday’s series finale at Wrigley Field hitting .184, but a well-placed ball and a little luck put the Sox ahead in the sixth inning. The Sox bullpen locked it down, holding the Cubs to three hits over the final seven innings in a 4-3 victory at Wrigley Field to win both City Series games on the North Side.
The victory marked the third straight for the Sox. Meanwhile, the Cubs have lost 11 of their last 14 games.
“We’re minus two (under .500). Get over .500 by a bunch, and then start getting serious,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “But as long as we compete, I’m happy — not happy — but I know that those are our numbers. And we’re getting closer to getting healthy. We’re surviving.”
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks needed one more out with runners on the corners in the sixth to keep the game tied. Pollock managed to inside-out enough of a sinker to get it over a shifted Madrigal, who sprinted from the left side of second base in an attempt to catch the ball. Madrigal, though, could n’t close the gap that would have been a routine pop out in his normal positioning his.
The Sox got on the board in the first with a solo home run by José Abreu. Leury García also hit a solo shot in the third.
Home runs provided the Cubs’ offense, which again didn’t produce much against Sox pitchers. Nico Hoerner’s two-run home run and Patrick Wisdom’s solo homer — both in the second inning — gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
Gavin Sheets singled to left field to beat the Cubs’ shift in the fourth to tie the game.
The Cubs managed just one hit between Wisdom’s two-out home run in the second and his lead-off single in the eighth.
Madrigal’s soft single to right in the fifth represented the Cubs’ lone hit in that span, but he was thrown out at second by Luis Robert trying to stretch the play for an extra-base hit. Madrigal wasn’t sure whether Robert caught the ball and the umpire signaled it was not a catch, so he kept running in hopes of safely advancing.
“He’s just an uber athlete,” Sox starter Giolito said of Robert. “Unbelievable player, he caught that ball, the Madrigal little single. I mean, he caught the ball. But a lot of times a player will catch the ball, umpire calls it fair and play’s over and guy gets to second or whatever. Despite catching the ball, he heads up play, throws him out. That just shows how in the game he is. His talent is always playing at the highest level.”
Robert also made a fantastic play in the sixth, robbing Willson Contreras of extra bases on a potential game-tying hit with Ian Happ going on contact from first base. The Sox center fielder leaped into the brick wall to snag Contreras’ 106.5 mph liner to end the inning. The barreled ball had a .930 expected batting average — an xBA higher than two of the four home runs hit in the game.
“The ball, I would say, bounced their way a little bit more, but when you’re shuffling a little bit we’ve got to change our luck,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “We’ve had plenty of opportunities to push a run across there at the end and tie the ballgame up or make a pitch or make a play.
“I don’t think we played particularly bad, I just feel like there’s some things that didn’t go our way tonight.”
Giolito struck out 10 in 5⅔ innings, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks.
Hendricks had pitched well at Wrigley in three starts this year. Although he was generally efficient against the Sox, he couldn’t get out of the sixth before surrendering the go-ahead run.
“That’s executing pitches and getting what I want,” Hendricks said of the Sheets and Pollock hits. “It’s just baseball, I can’t control the result. I’ve got to keep making pitches like that and I’ll be right where I need to be.”
The Cubs’ greatest threat to tie or take the lead fizzled in the eighth. They wasted back-to-back singles against reliever Aaron Bummer to put runners on the corners. Bummer forced pinch hitter Yan Gomes to line out before Matt Foster entered to retire Seiya Suzuki on a foul out and struck out Ian Happ looking to strand the runners.
“That escape in the eighth inning, I’ll remember that for a long time,” La Russa said.
Wisdom and Madrigal went a combined 4-for-6 while the rest of the Cubs lineup finished 1-for-25.
“There’s times where we’re just one hit away,” Madrigal said. “I think we’re in the right position. It just takes one hit to really break through and I really don’t think we’re far off and need to change any game plans or anything. It’s part of baseball.”