Top Play (WPA): I guess I should start by saying that I was at this miserable excuse for a game tonight—there, right there, at Wrigley Field, where the Cardinals fans, already bold to begin with grew bolder as the game wore on—and so if you feel this recap is tinged with sadness, gloom, or desolation, that might be why. The top play of the whole horrible experience, appropriately, came on a play where it looked like, for a brief moment, things might go the Cubs’ way. I’ll skip ahead, in case you’ve really missed the memo about how tonight’s game went: things didn’t go the Cubs’ way.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, things were tense but positive for Cubs fans at Wrigley. Jon Lester was throwing an excellent game (he had allowed no hits, to that point) and although rain was falling it looked like the Cubs would have the chance to scrape across a run before the inevitable delay. Anthony Rizzo stood at first base, courtesy of a leadoff single, and Kris Bryant stood at the plate. Like I said, tense but positive. And, sure enough, Bryant lined a single to left field, advancing Rizzo to third and improving the Cubs’ chances by a full 14.1 percent. What happened next? In case you like pain: Miguel Montero struck out, and Starlin Castro grounded into a double play started by a sensational snag by Kolten Wong. From first and third, nobody out, to inning over and no runs in the blink of an eye. Sigh.
Bottom Play (WPA): The bottom play of tonight’s game was that Castro grounder to Wong, which decreased the Cubs’ chances of winning by 18.0 percent. I don’t have a lot more to say about it. It sucked, and what made it worse is that a whole bunch of Cardinals fans were sitting right behind me and were really, really, very excited about that play. As they should be. It was a nice play. But boy, did it suck for the Cubs.
Key Moment: One of the perks of having a young team is that you get to watch the future on the field every day. Today, for example, Bryant was selected to his first National League All-Star team. One of the downsides of having a young team is that sometimes they make silly choices. Today, for example, Bryant chose to throw to second base—on a ground ball off the bat of Jason Heyward, with Jhonny Peralta on first—and that same throw trickled into center field, setting up the play on which the Cardinals scored what turned out to be the decisive run. It was an error on Bryant, but more than the physical mistake it was the mental mistake that cost the Cubs. One play earlier, Lester had allowed his first hit of the game on a hard hit liner off Bryant’s glove at third. He was visibly a bit rattled, but settled down to the point that he produced the grounder he needed from Heyward. Bryant did his thing—poorly, today—and Lester ended up giving up a run on a Yadier Molina sacrifice fly to right and another on a Wong single. At that point, I wasn’t sure the Cubs would lose, but I wrote a note on my phone that this was the moment to write about for tonight. It was.
Trends to Watch: I could sit here and tell you that the Cubs’ offense is really struggling right now, and I’d be right. But I’ve been telling you that for weeks now, and so have all the other writers who provide recaps in this space. It’s not news anymore, and it’s hardly even analysis. What I will tell you, though, is that Addison Russell is looking positively bad at the plate. He’s not just looking uncertain, he’s making poor choices about swinging and taking, and has no control over the strike zone at the moment. This is another occasion where the appropriate response is that he’s young, and that he’ll grow out of it, but for now it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. There’s also, incidentally, Lester’s career-high one game hitting streak, which he’ll look to extend in his next start.
Coming Next: I have things to do tomorrow, and have had my heart broken enough for one 24 hour period. If the Cubs were playing any other team, though, I would make sure I was glued to the couch all day to watch not one but two Cubs baseball games. The first of these, featuring Jake Arrieta for the Cubs, will be taking place at 12:20 pm, while the second game, taking place at 7:05 pm, will feature Dallas Beeler on the mound in an emergency start for the North Siders. Both games, I am sure, will feature frustrating moments like this one did, and plenty of Voodoo Magic. Watch, if you dare. I’m not sure I have the stomach for it at the moment.
Lead photo courtesy of Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports