DETROIT -- If there’s anything the Cubs have learned during their late-season resurgence, it’s that a window of opportunity seems to open for them in every game; they’ve just got to be ready to roll when it does.
Jameson Taillon wasn’t willing to wait on Wednesday, though. After he sat through a 34-minute rain delay to start the game, the Cubs' righty took matters into his own hands, carving through the Tigers’ lineup for five innings. When he stumbled, batterymate Yan Gomes was there to lift him late as Chicago took the series at Comerica Park with a 6-4 win in the rubber match.
“One of those outings that definitely feels better that we won,” said Taillon, who took a no-hitter into the sixth. “If we'd lost, then I'd have felt really bad, but I'm just super fired up that I was able to keep us in it and we were able to play really good ball down there in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.”
Taillon’s outing spared the bullpen some mileage during a stretch of 13 consecutive games with no off-day, and it also helped move the Cubs into sole possession of second place in the National League Wild Card race. Chicago entered the day tied with the D-backs, who were idle on Wednesday.
“Just being honest to the fan in me and the baseball competitor in me: This time of year, it gets really fun,” manager David Ross said.
The Cubs seemed to be having fun, too. Taillon struck out the side swinging in the second inning for the first time since July 16, 2022. Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson pulled off a double steal in the third -- Hoerner’s 33rd of the season; Swanson’s fifth -- then both scored on Cody Bellinger’s liner up the middle. Jeimer Candelario collected his third RBI of the series against his former team with a second-inning double.
For a while, Taillon had the best time of them all until Andy Ibáñez broke up his no-hit bid with a single into left field to start the sixth.
Two more Tigers singles loaded the bases, but Taillon battled back to strike out Riley Greene and coax Spencer Torkelson into a flyout.
Taillon quickly found himself in a 3-1 count against the next batter, Kerry Carpenter, forcing him to choose between giving up a run or throwing Carpenter something to hit. Taillon’s cutter nipped the corner of the zone, low and inside, and Carpenter caught all of it for a game-tying grand slam.
“We know he's feeling really good up there right now, he was probably going to be aggressive and look to do damage with runners on,” said Taillon, who struck out six and walked just one in his 5 2/3 frames. “It's one of those things where you obviously never want to walk a guy, but maybe just be a little more careful right there.”
As they have so often done lately, the Cubs' relievers followed their starter in a nearly seamless fashion while giving the offense a chance to respond. Michael Rucker took over for Taillon and threw a scoreless frame; Julian Merryweather followed him and blanked Detroit over 1 1/3 innings.
Their stinginess made sure that Gomes’ RBI line drive in the eighth was all the Cubs needed, but Hoerner’s sac fly in the ninth gave Adbert Alzolay room to do what he does: slam the door to earn his 19th save.
“We actually don't like playing these close games at all,” said Gomes, who finished 2-for-4. “Better to score some runs. But once it comes down to the last couple of innings, I feel like that’s what good teams do, just try to give ourselves a chance out there, and you know … it worked out.”
There’s a level of concern with most teams regarding bullpen use at this point in the season. The Cubs’ bullpen has the third-fewest innings pitched in the NL (446 1/3), but the club has also leaned heavily on its 'pen lately, particularly since losing Marcus Stroman to injury, and the relievers have been up to the task so far.
“We've got a little over a month left of the season, and we get to play a lot of those teams that are around us and ahead of us [in the standings],” Ross said. “And this is what you sign up for -- this is what I signed up for -- and this team has done a nice job of being really resilient in tough times and continuing to push through.”