Top Play (WPA): It’s the top of the third with runners at the corners—yet another scoring opportunity for the Cubs. And while they’ve already gotten a run in the second inning, that pit in our stomachs is already acting up. From starting the game with a leadoff triple and not getting anything out of it to only getting one run in the second—these missed opportunities do not bode well. The Tigers will eventually make us pay, won’t they? But then Chris Coghlan comes in and changes that with a long homerun to right (.172). Honestly? I didn’t think it was going out because I was watching Coghlan’s reaction. The way he put his head down seemed to say, “Oh man, I just missed that.” Turns out that’s how Coghlan says, “Oh man, I really smashed that one.”
See what I mean?
Bottom Play (WPA): The Tigers lead the league in grounding into double plays, which tends to give opponents a chance to squash a rally or get out of an inning at a moment’s notice. And that’s just what happened in this game: the Tigers grounded into three double plays, and now stand at 64 for the year. The Cubs, meanwhile, lead the league in fewest double plays with just 31 (!). In the second inning, with Yoenis Cespedes on first after a leadoff walk, J.D. Martinez grounded into a Starlin Castro-Addison Russell-Anthony Rizzo double play (-.084) to not only kill the chance of a rally, but to also kill any momentum the Tigers may have gained when they prevented Fowler from scoring after the leadoff triple in the first. While Cespedes’ home run later in the game would give them some measure of hope, this play helped set the tone for the rest of the game.
Key Moment: Obviously, Coghlan’s home run was big. The offense was in full force scoring a season-high 12 runs and everything except that first inning seemed to go the Cubs way. But throughout the whole game I got this really peaceful feeling that our guys were being VERY judicious with their swings. As in, they were seeing a lot of pitches and generally swinging at good ones. Turns out they saw 186 pitches last night to the Tigers 137. Granted, when you score 12 runs it means you’re going to get more ABs and see more pitches. But the Cubs lead the league in pitches per plate appearance (3.99), which is a great sign for a young team like this. In case you’re curious, Kris Bryant (4.17), Jorge Soler (4.10), and Dexter Fowler (4.02) lead the way.
This wears opposing pitchers down and forces the manager to go to their bullpen earlier and more often than they’d like.
So I’d like to highlight a player who came into this game much maligned for the simple fact that his name was not Kyle Schwarber: Mike Baxter. The 30-year-old veteran went 2-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored while seeing 21 pitches over the course of the game. He had himself some really good at-bats, laid off some close pitches, and likely earned himself a shot the next time the DH rolls around. Until then, perhaps he can prove to be a nice left-handed bat to have off the bench with some pop that will put together a nice at-bat or two. I salute you, he-who-is-not Schwarber.
Trends to Watch: Coghlan had himself a big game, going 2-for-5 with two runs and three RBIs, including the big home run. Not only that, two of his outs were solidly hit balls to the opposite field—all the way to the warning track. Coghlan’s surface-level stats have looked pretty bad this season and lots of fans have been clamoring for a change in left field. But Coghlan has been hitting the ball well and simply had some bad BABIP luck. That bad luck is starting to let up: since May 17 when his batting average sat at a measly .192, Coghlan has hit .306/.368/.548. Not only that, he’s already got eight home runs—one shy of his career high. His overall numbers still don’t look fantastic, but Coghlan’s been a crucial contributor and figures to be even more so with Soler on the DL.
We’ve become so used to Jake Arrieta dominating opposing lineups that I almost went the entire recap without mentioning his name even once. He’s been incredible and today was no exception. Sure, he gave up the three-run homer that made the game close for a few innings, but he was again nasty as ever striking out eight in six innings of work. His stat line doesn’t show how dominating he was for those first five innings.
The Cubs welcome the streaking Reds to Wrigley Field, who have won their last four games. Those four games were all at home, where the Reds have a pretty good 17-13 record. They’re not very good on the road, however (10-18), and the Cubs are hoping to capitalize on that. This is a team with pretty good starting pitching, a phenomenal closer in Aroldis Chapman, but very little options on offense. It’s basically the Joey Votto and Todd Frazier show. But man, it should be fun to see Rizzo face off against Chapman with the game in the balance. So far in his career against Chapman, Rizzo is 2-for-11 with four strikeouts and no home runs.
Lead photo courtesy of Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports