Photo courtesy of Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Top Play (WPA): With one out in the top of the first, Jake Arrieta fired a 95 mph thigh-high and right-down-the-middle fastball to Ryan Braun. Braun did what Braun does to thigh-high fastballs, launching a two-run home run into the berm in center field (.187). The pitch was an atypical mistake for Arrieta, and that mistake was all Brewers starter Mike Fiers and their bullpen needed. The blast was Braun’s fifth of the year, and fourth in the last four games. The Brewers desperately need Braun to return to MVP form if they are to stand a chance of becoming competitive in the NL Central.
Bottom Play (WPA): The offensive tone was set in the first inning for the Cubs. The Cubs first three batters (Jorge Soler, Dexter Fowler, and Anthony Rizzo) forced Fiers to throw 19 pitches, drawing two walks in the process. Kris Bryant then came up with two on, but struck out on three pitches (-.047). Miguel Montero followed, also striking out (-.043), ending the Cubs threat. The strikeout by Bryant was his first of four on the day.
Key Moment: There were 18 of them for the Brewers pitching staff, racking up enough strikeouts to account for 2/3 of the Cubs outs recorded. Every single Cub that came to the plate today struck out at least once. Fiers recorded 12 on his own, continuing to baffle Cubs hitters despite rarely topping 90 mph on the radar gun. Fiers became just the second opposing pitcher to total 26 strikeouts in back-to-back starts against the Cubs. The other pitcher to accomplish the feat? Some lefty named Sandy Koufax.
Trend to Watch: Unfortunately the trends for the Cubs are turning negative, as they have scored just three runs combined in their last three games. The Cubs have struck out an unfathomable 41 times in that span. Thankfully, Jon Lester mixed in a dominant start on Friday, allowing the Cubs to escape with a victory during the brutal offensive drought.
Arrieta’s four runs allowed today marked the first time in his Cubs career that he allowed more than three runs in a start at Wrigley.
You thought Kris Bryant’s first “home run” was ugly? I have no words to describe what happened today.
Even in the midst of a dreadful game, Rizzo continued to produce, reaching base two more times and hitting yet another pitch out of the strike zone for a home run.
Edwin Jackson is up to nine innings pitched without allowing an earned run. Jackson has struck out nine while walking just one. The innings have mostly been of the low-leverage variety, but even those innings are significant to the club because of their innings-eating nature.
Coming Next: Jason Hammel (2-1, 3.13 FIP, 23.00 K/BB) takes on Jimmy Nelson (1-2, 3.62 FIP, 2.00 K/BB) in the rubber game of the series. Hammel looks to build on his dominant eight-inning performance last Tuesday against the Pirates, a game in which he allowed just four baserunners. In contrast to Hammel, Nelson brings negative momentum, having recorded just seven outs last Tuesday against the Reds. Nelson walked five batters in the game while recording only one strikeout. A Cubs win would prevent the Brewers from their first winning series of the season.