Castillo, Welington 1501 (Mitchell)

Game Seven Recap: Red 3 Cubs 2

Top Play (WPA): Welington Castillo connects for a two-run homer (.383) to get the Cubs within one in the bottom of the eighth inning. Matt Szczur started off the inning with a walk and Castillo knocked him in with the homer just into the basket in left. Despite manager Joe Maddon stating Castillo isn’t thrilled about his role—which Maddon said he likes to see—the Cubs third catcher has proven to be a strong option off the bench, hitting the ball hard in his limited plate appearances thus far. He also took advantage of former-Cubs closer Kevin Gregg, whose pitches lacked movement as he gave up runs for the second consecutive night.

Bottom Play (WPA): Mike Olt striking out to end the game (-.157) against Aroldis Chapman. It was a tough matchup for Olt, who was making just his second plate appearance since exiting Saturday’s in Colorado contest after getting hit by a pitch on the right wrist. Chapman regularly was pumping upper-90s gas—which may actually be a little slow for him—and finished off Olt, and the game, with a 100 mph fastball down the middle that Olt swung through.

Key Moment: After Castillo got his team within one run, the Cubs managed to continue the threat, putting runners on first and second with two outs. The hot-hitting Chris Coghlan then had a rough at-bat against southpaw starter-turned-reliever Tony Cingrani. The fastball-heavy Cingrani, who threw 11 pitches, 10 of them heaters, painted the outside corner with a couple fastballs, freezing Coghlan and getting ahead of the lefty 1-2 before pumping another four-seamer up in the zone that Coghlan couldn’t catch up to, ending the Cubs rally in the eighth.


Trend to Watch: The bullpen continues to be the strength of this club, putting up zeroes in their last 11 2/3 innings pitched. Zac Rosscup, who was called up prior to the game after infielder Tommy La Stella went on the DL with right ribcage inflammation, tossed a scoreless 1 1/3 innings and will provide Maddon a second lefty in the pen to pair with Phil Coke. It appears that this group will shorten the game—similar to the Kansas City Royals bullpen in 2014—if the offense can grab an early lead and the starting pitcher can get through six innings.

The one concern may be a bit of overuse in the early going. Cubs starters have failed to get out of the fifth in three games, and though the bullpen has been strong, the starters are going to have to eat more innings to save these arms during a long season. Jake Arrieta had a rough fourth that elevated his pitch count, but his ability to toss 6 2/3 on Tuesday evening certainly helped ease things for Maddon. The addition of Rosscup brings the arm count to 13, something Maddon felt was necessary due to that slight concern that some arms may start to get taxed out of the pen. It’s certainly not something you want to hear just seven games into the season, but the Cubs depth in this area could help relieve any stress that may occur over the remaining five-plus months.

Coming Next: In tomorrow night’s rubber game, former Cub Jason Marquis takes the mound against Travis Wood. Wood is one of those starters who failed to get out of the fifth in his first outing of the season, so it would be encouraging to see him regain some of his 2013 magic, when he tossed 200 innings, and go deep into the game. One of the keys for the bats will be to jump on Marquis early and build a lead that Wood can eventually turn over to the aforementioned lights-out bullpen. Of course, if the bullpen does get some rest, perhaps Rosscup (or another arm) can be sent down, meaning a position player could be recalled after Thursday’s off-day. Which means one thing: Bryant Watch! It was expected that Bryant wouldn’t make his debut until next week on the team’s road trip, but La Stella heading to the DL and Olt’s sore wrist has suddenly created a pressing need for an infielder. Friday is the first day that the Cubs can call up Bryant and still get an extra year of control, so it’s that opener of a three-game set against the San Diego Padres that everyone will be keeping a close eye on. When the time finally comes, it’ll be interesting to see how Maddon manages the bench with Bryant taking over at third and Olt, Alcantara, La Stella, and Herrera all battling for playing time. It’s certainly something Maddon excels at—he’s managed to handle three catchers just fine early on—and having a deep and talented bench can only help this team make it through the long baseball season.

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