Top Play (WPA): Anthony Rizzo blasted a 1-1 fastball (.141) that defied strong inward blowing winds before eventually landing in the construction site right-field “bleachers.” The 89 mph fastball was about belt-high, middle-in and also scored Dexter Fowler, who led off the game with a double to left.
It was nice to see Rizzo get things going with a deep fly, as he had been hitting the ball hard these last few days but had yet to show us his home-run trot—or even his extra-base hit trot—in 2015.
Bottom Play (WPA): Just when it appeared the Reds might have something cooking in the eighth, Kristopher Negron grounded into a four-six-three double play (-.038).
Starlin Castro made a diving play to his left to snag the sharply hit ground ball and flipped it to Jonathan Herrera to start a twin killing that was bang-bang at both bases. Had that ball gotten through, the Reds were looking at a bases loaded, nobody out situation and the top of their order due up.
Key Moment: Joey Votto’s error on a potential inning-ending double play ball in the bottom of the fourth inning. The misplay allowed the inning to continue, and the Cubs would take advantage, adding an insurance run two batters later, extending their lead to 5-0.
Trends to Watch: Can the strong bullpen performances continue in the coming weeks? The committee currently has the second best ERA in the majors (1.50) and they’re holding opponents to a paltry .191 batting average through 24 innings pitched. Those numbers might not be sustainable, and it’s just a small sample size, but they’re refreshing when compared to 2014’s marks.
Another trend to keep an eye on is Travis Wood’s control and ability to get ahead of hitters. In 2014, Wood struggled to locate his pitches and only threw first pitch strikes to 57.5 percent of the batters he faced, which contributed to a 3.94 walks per nine-inning average and an ugly 1.53 WHIP. Last night, he showed a great ability to get ahead in the count. He started nearly every matchup off with a strike, which, by my account, lasted until facing Zack Cozart with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. The result was not only a low pitch count that allowed him to work seven-plus innings with seven strikeouts to just two walks, it also allowed him to set up his pitches more effectively. He was keeping hitters off balance, throwing his slow curve occasionally with two strikes, and was able to induce a 23 percent swing rate on his sinker, far greater than his career average 5.5 percent whiff rate for that pitch.
Coming Next: The Cubs hitters will have their work cut out for them with the Padres headed to Wrigley this weekend. Chicago will see the front end of their newly tooled rotation, starting with James Shields on Friday, Tyson Ross on Saturday, and former Cub Andrew Cashner on Sunday to close it out. The Cubs will counter with Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks, and Jon Lester, respectively. I’m expecting all eyes to be on Lester Sunday, as he’s struggled through two starts and has been ineffective in getting batters to chase pitches outside the zone (21 percent O-Swing).
2 comments on “Game Eight Recap: Cubs 5 Reds 0”
Loved seeing Castro have a solid night both offensively and defensively.
It sure was nice! He’s looking comfortable out there finally