Photo courtesy Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Top Play (WPA): Starlin Castro ripped a double down the left field line in the sixth inning which scored Jorge Soler and gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead against Noah Syndergaard in his MLB debut (.190). The Cubs had been threatening from time to time all night, but up until this hit they had not managed to break through. It was a big hit for Castro as well, who has been struggling at the plate this month. Castro seems to be pulling off pitches early, and pitchers have adjusted by throwing Castro off-speed pitches away off the plate. Through his first two at-bats tonight, Syndergaard followed this pattern, striking out Castro on a down-and-away slider, and then getting him to weakly fly out to left field:
Syndergaard attempted the same out pitch in the sixth inning, but badly missed his location and left the slider over the middle of the plate, resulting in Castro’s double.
Castro also doubled to left-center in the seventh, and hopefully this game will get him going a little bit. It would still be great if he can learn to lay off those sliders off the plate or at least start poking them the other way.
Syndergaard was unable to get out of the sixth inning after Castro’s double and Chris Coghlan’s subsequent home run, but he did look sharp through the first five innings and clearly has great stuff. He relied heavily on his fastball tonight, and sat at 97-98 mph (pretty easily, it looked like) for much of the night. If he stays healthy and avoids location mistakes like the one we see above, he’s going to be very, very good.
Noah Syndergaard’s MLB Debut (5 1/3 IP, 103 Pitches, 6K, 4BB, 3R):
|Pitch Type||Velo (Max)||H-Break||V-Break||Count||Strikes / %||Swings / %||Whiffs / %||BIP (No Out)||SNIPs / %||LWTS|
|FT (Two-seam Fastball)||88.5 (89.1)||-9.44||7.09||3||0 / 0.0%||0 / 0.0%||0 / 0.0%||0 (0)||0 / 0.0%||0.25|
|FF (Four-seam Fastball)||98.2 (100.2)||-3.23||8.52||65||39 / 60.0%||30 / 46.2%||3 / 4.6%||12 (5)||27 / 50.9%||1.44|
|CH (Changeup)||87.5 (88.8)||-8.44||5.25||7||2 / 28.6%||2 / 28.6%||1 / 14.3%||1 (0)||1 / 16.7%||0.07|
|SL (Slider)||81.7 (83.8)||8.03||-0.78||17||11 / 64.7%||7 / 41.2%||2 / 11.8%||3 (1)||8 / 57.1%||-0.04|
|CU (Curveball)||82.5 (83.7)||7.08||-2.75||7||4 / 57.1%||3 / 42.9%||2 / 28.6%||0 (0)||4 / 57.1%||-0.39|
Bottom Play (WPA): Jorge Soler flew out to right field with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning (-.081). He worked a deep count and got some good looking pitches to hit, but was unable to square any of them up.
He made up for this at-bat when he led off the sixth inning with a ringing single into center and then scored on Castro’s double. When he does hit the ball, he continues to do so very hard, coming in seventh in the league in average batted-ball exit velocity: 95.11 MPH.
Key Moment: Curtis Granderson’s TOOTBLAN in the top of the fourth inning. Daniel Murphy singled through the shift into left field with nobody out and Granderson, who had been on first base, attempted to make it to third. Even with the play developing in front of Granderson, Coghlan was able to throw him out at third base and stifle the Mets’ chance at a big inning. Jake Arrieta went on to get out of the inning easily, which was very important in a 0-0 game.
It’s amazing that I made it this far without mentioning Arrieta, who was fantastic Monday night. Murphy’s single was the first of the night for the Mets and the only hit he’d allow until the eighth inning. He went as deep into this game (eight innings) as we’ve seen any Cubs starter go this year, allowing only one run, striking out 10, and procuring a healthy 14 whiffs on the night. Arrieta threw 116 pitches total in total, which is a deviation from the recently perceived trend of Joe Maddon pulling his starters early. It was great to see this kind of performance out of Arrieta, especially because his past few starts—although pretty good—have been a bit less dominant than we’ve come to expect out of him. With Lester seemingly rounding into shape, this rotation is still looking pretty darn good overall.
Trend to Watch: We knew that Kris Bryant’s power would come sooner rather than later, and now it has. Bryant hit a majestic shot into the newly reopened left-field bleachers to lead off the eighth—his second homer in as many nights.
Bryant had a great all-around night as well, going 3-for-4 with a triple, a line-out, a walk, a hustle infield single, along with the aforementioned long ball. Bryant has now stolen several hits with his hustle already this year, and he continues to make Maddon’s Respect 90 campaign look good—whether it actually has anything to do with it or not. Bryant has now raised his TAv to an impressive .340 through 24 big league games, and his ISO is suddenly up to .184—just a few days after hitting his first home run. His awesome 18.5 percent walk rate has offset his 31.5 percent strike-out rate to this point, and though his .440 BABIP is unsustainable, his power numbers and value will likely be boosted as the summer winds start blowing out at Wrigley. With Bryant, it would seem, the best is yet to come.
Coghlan homered in the sixth inning to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead and, seemingly, to avoid the BABIP gods, who continue to spurn him in the early going. A hard liner off of Coghlan’s bat was caught by a diving Michael Cuddyer in the fourth inning, lowering his BABIP to .229 in the early going this year. This is especially frustrating because Coghlan has had a career-high 32.9 percent hard-hit rate. This suggests Coghlan is hitting a whole lot better than his results are showing, and it should only be a matter of time until he starts making up ground. Let’s hope that process began last night.
Coming Next: After scuffling over the last week, the Cubs have beaten two very tough pitchers over the past two nights, and they will look to secure the series victory tomorrow night against the Mets. The matchup doesn’t get any easier, though, as the Cubs will face pitcher Matt Harvey at Wrigley. Harvey has had excellent results so far, and sports a 2.72/3.05 ERA/FIP to go along with an excellent 7.60 K/BB ratio in the early going. Although still pretty good, his 3.79 DRA is a bit higher and suggests that these results have been a little bit lucky to this point in the year. Either way, Harvey appears to be on pace to make the NL All-Star team, and this will be the first time the Cubs face him since 2013 and his subsequent Tommy John surgery. I expect to see lots of strikeouts, and I hope to see the Cubs working deep counts and tapping into some more of their power. Hopefully, the Cubs can prevent Harvey from getting too deep into the game and force the Mets to burn through a bit more of their bullpen.
Facing Harvey will be Jason Hammel, who has been very solid early on. Hammel has a 3.52/3.47/4.10 ERA/FIP/DRA in six starts so far this year, with a very good 7.00 K/BB rate. Temperatures are supposed to stay chilly in the Windy City, so it will be important for Hammel to limit baserunners in what will likely be a low-scoring affair.