Game Nine Recap: Padres 5 Cubs 4

Top Play (WPA): With the Cubs leading 4-2 in the top of the seventh, Brian Schlitter had Wil Myers in an 0-2 hole with two outs and two men on. Schlitter threw a 96 mph fastball tailing in towards the right-handed batter that, to all watching, appeared to be strike three. The home plate umpire saw it differently, pushing the count to 1-2 and leaving most every observer in a state of disbelief. On the next pitch, Myers blasted a three-run home run to left center to take a 5-4 lead (.518).

Manager Joe Maddon would come out to talk to Schlitter, with the ulterior motive of  giving home plate umpire Sam Holbrook a piece of his mind. Maddon could be seen mouthing, “All five, all five!” with some colorful language thrown in between. He was referring to both the three runs the Padres had scored as well as the previous two, which had come on a Will Middlebrooks two-run shot, which also followed a close two-strike pitch. After the game, Maddon said he definitely went out there with a purpose, pointing out that he allowed one poor call to slide, but he just couldn’t allow another.

Bottom Play (WPA): Several strong candidates here, but the bottom play by WPA was Jorge Soler’s at-bat in the bottom of the ninth (-.132). Trailing by one, with Dexter Fowler in scoring position, Soler grounded out on a 3-1 pitch to end the game. The play with the second largest impact to WPA was Kris Bryant, with a chance to be the hero in the bottom of the seventh, trailing by one with two on and two out. He bounced to third to end the inning (-.092).

One more addition, one that didn’t have as much impact according to WPA, but still stood out to me. Wellington Castillo attempted to stretch an overthrow at first base into an extra base  and was thrown out at second by a mile to make the second out in the sixth. I appreciate the aggressiveness, but Castillo is not fast, to say the least, and his over-aggressiveness was like giving back a gift that had been presented to the Cubs offense. The team was leading by two at the time, but clearly, every run—and every baserunner—is important. The Cubs would lose the lead in the next half inning, but who knows how things would have fallen had Castillo taken the gift the Padres defense attempted to deliver.

Key Moment: No question, the key moment in this game was the Myers home run. With Kimbrel looming for the ninth, the Cubs had only a couple of chances to pull even, and they weren’t able to cash them in. It’s valid to wonder whether the actual key moment was the third strike to Myers that wasn’t called on the 0-2 pitch. Had that pitch been called a strike, the inning would have been over with the Cubs still owning a two-run lead and Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon ready to work the final two innings.

And yes, it was the second close call of the day that may have burned the Cubs. In the fourth inning, Jason Hammel had Middlebrooks in an 0-2 hole with a man on first and threw what appeared to be strike three on the outside corner. Again, it was called a ball, and again, Middlebrooks took advantage and hit a two-run home run. This pitch may have missed the corner by the smallest of margins, but until that point, both pitchers had been consistently getting that call.

Trend to watch: Bryant’s solid defense and lack of offense. One game does not a trend make, but lets be honest, this is the most-watched issue surrounding the Cubs right now. Bryant surprised some by displaying some impressive defensive ability. He started a double play in the first inning (his first major-league chance), dove and speared a sharp liner over third base, and made an excellent bare-handed play on a near-perfect bunt that didn’t net an out, but raised some eyebrows as to his perhaps underestimated defensive ability.

Something else to keep an eye on is the Cubs tendency to bunt. The Cubs have been utilizing the bunt quite a bit thus far in the season, both bunting for hits or to beat the shift (Anthony Rizzo), and the more traditional sacrifice bunts. Although they have experienced some success via the bunt, today is the second straight game where the Cubs were unable to get down a sacrifice bunt. Travis Wood failed against the Reds and Jonathan Herrera failed in the third inning after a Hammel leadoff double. Herrera bailed himself out with a 3-2 bunt attempt for a hit that he was able to beat out and force an overthrow, but bunting on 3-2 is typically ill-advised for a position player.

One final trend that is difficult to quantify, but certainly noticeable, is the aggressiveness the Cubs have been showing on the basepaths. Taking an extra base on overthrows has been a positive as well as a negative recently (Castillo caught today, Fowler caught trying to stretch in the Reds series), but the overall hustle to first is a core tenet of Maddon baseball and has likely forced an error or two thus far. This type of aggressive baserunning can also help make the need for putting down a bunt, something Maddon isn’t afraid to do, less of a necessity.

The purest example of aggressiveness on the basepaths was shown today, when Herrera, on third base, noticed the defense had shifted aggressively to defend Rizzo once he had two strikes and wasn’t likely to bunt. Herrera went halfway down the third baseline since no one was close to hold him on. This bothered James Shields so much that he actually stepped off the rubber and ran directly at Herrera. Herrera scampered back to the bag and Shields re-set on the mound. Then he did it again.

When Shields finally delivered to the plate, he threw in the dirt and the ball got past Derek Norris. Herrera, who was only about 50 feet away, scored easily.

Coming next: Kyle Hendricks versus Tyson Ross as the Cubs battle the Padres at 1:20 p.m.


Related Articles

Leave a comment

Use your Baseball Prospectus username