Chicago — What a quaint holiday picnic the Tigers had going early Wednesday at Wrigley Field, after John Hicks and Nick Castellanos had homered early to put the Tigers on top, 2-1.
But a team that has had its headaches in 2018, both in failing to score later runs and in allowing too many by the other side, saw its Fourth of July Wrigleyville party and its hope for a series split wither as the Cubs won, 5-2.
The game had a separate casualty. Manager Ron Gardenhire disappeared into the clubhouse midway through the game with dehydration as bench coach Steve Liddle handled the closing innings.
"Just a little dehydrated and overheated," said Gardenhire, who downed five bottles of Pedialyte and was feeling fine afterward. He'll be back at work, he said, Thursday when the Tigers begin a four-game series against the Rangers at Comerica Park.
Wednesday's victory otherwise went over nicely with a crowd of 40,510, most of which were as happy to see the Cubs win as they were to see a beer vendor while Chicago broiled in a game-time temperature of 92 and a heat index of 102.
It wasn't the way the Tigers had hoped to wrap up a six-game road trip that would have given them a 3-3 finish only three days after they had said goodbye to an 11-game losing streak.
But the difference in teams was stark Wednesday in what they are able to do at pivotal times.
The Cubs showed their defensive chops as much as their knack for getting big hits when, in the sixth, center fielder Albert Almora Jr. shot down Jose Iglesias at the plate when he tried to score from second on Victor Martinez's pinch-hit single.
That third-base coach Dave Clark might have been a bit bold in waving Iglesias with none out and Almora owning the kind of arm that can be lethal to baserunners seemed as much of a factor as Almora's throw.
But that wasn't the way the Tigers saw it.
"I think we're trying to manufacture runs," said Liddle, who wasn't into quibbling with Clark's call. "It's not like we're getting 10 or 12 hits a game. I think we hit, what, .220 in the month of June?"
Neither was Clark into any revisionist thinking about sending Iglesias.
"A couple of things have got to take place," Clark said. "He's got to field the ball and he's got to make a perfect throw.
"And he did both."
The run didn't matter, not conclusively, when the Tigers simply didn't do all the things Wednesday the Cubs were able to string together in the latter innings.
The list included a dash of good luck on the part of the Cubs.
In the fourth, with the Tigers leading, 2-1, Javier Baez hit a leadoff single against Tigers starter Francisco Liriano, who thought it might be fair play to pick off Baez at first.
Liriano in fact had Baez caught as Baez, who knew he was in trouble, headed for second and a dead-duck tag at second — until Tigers first baseman John Hicks threw away the relay, sending Baez to third.
Liriano next walked follow-up batter Addison Russell. Liriano likewise was planning on keeping Russell tight to first, at the very least, as he made a pick-off toss to Hicks.
Baez was well off the bag at third and sprinted for home on the throw. Hicks had him, again, this time at the plate — until Baez veered with a head-first slip-and-slide that earned him a piece of the plate as James McCann reached futilely with a tag.
The Cubs got a go-ahead run in the sixth when Willson Contreras stepped into a Liriano fastball and drove it 430 feet into the left-center field bleachers.
Liriano pitched six relatively strong innings, worth an official quality start, on three runs and five hits. He struck out five and walked five. Liriano threw 107 pitches in heat that nearly turned his body into a prune.
"He did a tremendous job," Liddle said. "This is a fastball-hitting team and he pitched backwards today.
"He didn't just throw — he pitched."
Liriano's slider-change combination was his ticket Wednesday, mixed with a fastball that ran 91 mph on average and topped out at 94.
"It was tough — humid and hot," said Liriano, who was socked for long homers by Contreras and rookie David Bote, both on pitches Liriano conceded were too high.
"Just a couple of mistakes on fastballs up."
The Cubs got two more in the seventh against Tigers reliever Louis Coleman, with Contreras swatting a two-run double.