HAPP IS ‘THE REAL DEAL’
Whether batting ninth or leading off, CF has been a driving force on offense
The Cubs have as much offensive firepower as any team in baseball, and even with names like Anthony Rizzo, Willson Conteras, Kris Bryant and Javy Báez, it’s been a group effort to keep things rolling.
The offense has hit a bump in the road as the lineup is still searching to find a rhythm, but the 7-8-9 spots in the order have done their job to contribute. The contributions from the lower-third of manager David Ross’ order have been significant during the shortened season.
“Here in this organization, it’s hard [for pitchers],” Báez said. “Even the guys on the bench are really good. I think most of the time the pitchers have to pick who they want to pitch to. When the guys deep in the lineup respond like that, it makes it even harder for [pitchers].”
Center fielder Ian Happ has made a majority of his starts this season in the bottom of the order, usually hitting ninth. Not only has he been a catalyst for the Cubs, he’s also been the team’s best hitter.
The success has gotten him bumped up in the order the last seven days.
Happ took over the leadoff spot on Tuesday against the Cardinals and continued to have the same success, going 2-for-3 with two walks and launching his fifth homer of the season in the third inning. The Cubs won 6-3.
Happ is slashing .313/.439/.627 with five homers, 13 RBI, 14 walks and a team-leading 1.066 OPS. He also leads the team in hits, RBIs and slugging percentage.
“Right now, it’s hard to take Ian Happ out of the lineup. This guy’s swinging the bat really well. His right-handed bats have gotten tremendously better for me,” Ross said last week. “He’s the real deal, in my opinion.”
“I think it takes pressure off the guys up top, and that’s the goal, right?” Happ said. “To be able to get all the way through, put pressure on the pitcher, one through nine, and not let up. I know the first five guys in the lineup are absolute bangers. So to make sure that once a pitcher gets through those five guys, you can’t relax, and they’re still tough [at-bats] all the way through, and you’ve seen that on a consistent basis.”
The production hasn’t stopped with Happ getting moved up in the order. The collection of Jason Heyward, Jason Kipnis, David Bote, Victor Caratini and Nico Hoerner all have had their hands in the success.
The bottom of the order is hitting .255/.350/.418 with eight homers and 31 RBI through Tuesday. The addition of the designated hitter this season has given the 7-9 spots more opportunities to produce.
“I think that definitely helps with that. I think the way that our roster is constructed, the DH definitely gives us another bat in the lineup that kind of lets us maybe move around positionally a little bit and make some adjustments depending on the pitcher.”
“One through nine, it seems like there’s not really a letdown in our lineup,” Bryant said of the success. “I can’t really remember a time playing for this team where it was really like that, where one through nine, there was just damage one after the other.”
1909 — The Philadelphia Phillies were rained out for the 10th consecutive day, a major-league record.
1913 — The Cubs tagged Grover Alexander for nine straight hits and six runs for a 10-4 triumph over the Philadelphia Phillies.
1921 — Detroit’s Ty Cobb got his 3,000th career hit at age 34, the youngest player to reach that plateau. The milestone hit was a single off Elmer Myers of the Boston Red Sox.
1934 — Moose Solters of the Boston Red Sox hit for the cycle in an 8-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park.
1951 — Eddie Gaedel, a 65-pound midget who was 3-7, made his first and only plate appearance as a pinch-hitter for Frank Saucier of the St. Louis Browns. Gaedel wearing No. 1/8 was walked on four pitches by Detroit Tigers pitcher Bob Cain and then was taken out for pinchrunner Jim Delsing. The gimmick by Browns owner Bill Veeck was completely legal, but later outlawed.
1957 — New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham announced that the team’s board of directors had voted 8-1 in favor of moving to San Francisco. The Giants would start the 1958 season in Seals Stadium.
1965 — Jim Maloney of the Cincinnati Reds no-hit the Cubs 1-0, in 10 innings in the first game of a doubleheader at Wrigley Field. Leo Cardenas homered in the 10th for the Reds.
1969 — Ken Holtzman of the Cubs blanked the Atlanta Braves with a 3-0 no-hitter at Wrigley Field. Ron Santo’s three-run homer in the first inning provided the Cubs’ offense.
1990 — Bobby Thigpen recorded his 40th save as the White Sox beat the Texas Rangers 4-2. Thigpen became the eighth — and fastest — to accomplish this feat.
Ian Happ is congratulated by Cubs manager David Ross (left) and bench coach Andy Green after his home run during the third inning.