CHICAGO – Jen-Ho Tseng’s debut for the Cubs lasted a fraction of the time the team’s brass spent cogitating over it.
The 22-year-old Tseng lasted only three innings, giving up five hits and five runs against the New York Mets on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.
Even if the front office overthought things, the Cubs still had too much talent and firepower for a gutted Mets side, beating them, 14-6, to sweep the three-game series. The Cubs are three games ahead of the Brewers and Cardinals, with the Cardinals coming to town.
Give the Cubs credit for overthinking it all the way through. Along with Tseng, manager Joe Maddon gave a first major league start to catcher Taylor Davis, who came up this month from Triple-A Iowa.
The Cubs changed their former Triple-A battery completely after the third, with Mike Montgomery coming in to pitch and Alex Avila entering to catch.
“With Jen-Ho and the solid pitcher that he is, if in fact we can do something like that let’s do it: Put a catcher back there that’s more familiar with him, with the way he likes to pitch,” Maddon said before the game.
Maddon met at length Wednesday with team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer about the moves. “He’ll do things in different counts that maybe a guy that has not caught him before might not have in his imagination ... We just thought the familiarity with Taylor and Jen-Ho might be good.
“I talked to both of them. They took it really well, actually, nice and calmly.”
Davis indeed was excited after being told about his start the previous night.
“It was a tough night to sleep, but we’re here now,” he said. “This is incredible. I’ve said the whole time that getting called up is great, but being called up on a team that’s winning and getting called up for the Chicago Cubs means so much more.”
Tseng gave up a run in the first inning as he walked one, hit one batter, struck out two and committed an error as he slipped and fell covering first base, dropping the throw from first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
“I was a little bit nervous with the first pitch, but after that, I felt more comfortable,” Tseng said through a translator. “On 3-2, threw a cutter behind a batter, and after that, I became more nervous. I didn’t think of pitching in the big leagues as coming so fast.”
Davis missed a throw to the plate in the second, as the Mets went up 3-0. But he got his first big-league hit – an infield single – in the bottom of the inning, and Tseng picked up an RBI on a groundout as the Cubs tied the score. Tseng gave up back-to-back homers to Dominic Smith and Travis d’Arnaud in the third.
The Cubs exploded with big innings, scoring five in the fourth and five in the sixth. Rizzo had a single in the first, a homer in the third and a double in the fourth. He also stole two bases. The home run was his 32nd, tying his career best.