Top Play (WPA): Imagine my relief in not having to write about the top play being a Hector Rondon wild pitch. In the top-half of the ninth inning, Rondon was one pitch from getting out of yet another late-game jam, but promptly bounced a slider in the dirt that Miguel Montero could not block, allowing Ryan Braun to trot home as the tying run:
Montero stated in a post-game interview that he should have blocked the pitch, but it’s an immaterial question considering what happened one inning later:
Montero drove Michael Blazek’s 0-1 pitch to the opposite-field for a no doubt, game-winning home run (.377).
Did you sense the same thing I did? Was the crowd reaction to Montero’s home run strongly muted because this team is now expected to win on a nightly basis? It simply wasn’t the raucous, visceral reaction I expected. On the other hand, it seemed that no one wanted to leave Wrigley upon the game’s end, just soaking in something not felt in seven years.
Bottom Play (WPA): One batter before Rondon’s wild pitch and immediately following a strikeout of Khris Davis, Rondon struck out Scooter Gennett for the second out in the inning, despite only throwing one pitch close to the strike zone (-.246):
Key Moment: Oftentimes in life we are given second chances because of someone else’s failure. Baseball is no exception to this paradigm, as the game is rife with it considering it is comprised of isolated events occurring in succession. Tonight’s game was partly defined by this reality, as Addison Russell should have fouled out before securing the game’s biggest knock. On an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the fifth inning, Russell floated a popup into foul ground down the first base line. Milwaukee second baseman Gennett gave chase, as did first-baseman Adam Lind. Gennett appeared to have a bead on the ball, but at the last moment Lind waved at it unsuccessfully, blocking Gennett’s vision and in turn causing him to drop the ball. In a game that featured several excellent plays by the Cubs defense, Russell wasted no time capitalizing on the Brew Crew miscue, smacking the next pitch up-the-middle to score Montero on a go-ahead single (.154).
Braun got the scoring going in the first, driving a first-pitch slider from Jason Hammel into the stands. Not to be outdone, one inning later Kris Bryant tied the game with a moonshot into the basket in right field.
Trends to Watch: The Cubs have now won 12 of 13 games, an achievement not matched since the 2001 season. Tonight’s win carries them to 16 games over .500, a new high-water mark for 2015.
Kyle Schwarber’s eight-game run-scoring streak came to an end tonight. The next best streak by a Cubs player this year? Just five games by both Anthony Rizzo and Dexter Fowler.
Flashy defense has become a calling-card for this Cubs team, and tonight was no exception. Tonight’s feature is Anthony Rizzo. This play was merely the appetizer, as what came next will be replayed all over Sportscenter:
For the second consecutive start, Jason Hammel was sent walking off mumbling after a perceived early hook, getting pulled with two outs in the sixth after delivering just 65 pitches. Joe Maddon continues to manage every game like a playoff game, fearing not of the second-guessing of his decisions by players. Clayton Richard rewarded Maddon immediately for his unpopular decision, forcing Lind to fly out to end the inning.
Coming Next: The Cubs look for their second-consecutive series sweep, and their 13th win in 14 games. Jon Lester (2.95 FIP, 4.09 K/BB) gets the ball searching for his fifth-consecutive quality start. The Brewers trot Tyler Cravy (4.00, 2.17) out in an attempt to salvage one game in the series from the red-hot Cubs. With the Cardinals win over the Pirates this evening, the Cubs find themselves just 1.5 games behind the Pirates for first wild card spot.
Lead photo courtesy of Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports