Well, it wasn’t Thursday night, but it wasn’t too shabby either.
Top Play (WPA): Leading off the fourth with the Cubs already up 1-0, Anthony Rizzo hammered his third home run in as many days (+0.108). Rizzo summarily dismissed Jon Moscot’s first pitch slider to the right field seats to bump the score up to 2-0 and kick off what would turn into a 3-run inning for the Cubs.
Somebody ate his RizzOs this morning.https://t.co/zPEyc3MYW7
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 23, 2016
Bottom Play (WPA): Reds shortstop Zack Cozart finally put his team on the board with a solo home run off Lester when he left a pitch up in the sixth inning (-0.063). (Previously, the only pressure Lester had seen this game came from back-to-back no-out singles in the fifth, but those were quickly neutralized when the Cubs then nearly turned a 5-4-3 triple play, initiated by a quick tag and turnaround by Javy Baez at third.) Cozart, incidentally, has returned to play this season after undergoing surgery last June to repair his ACL and LCL in addition to a torn hamstring; with that experience under his belt, he has high hopes for Kyle Schwarber’s recovery from the same procedure.
Key Moment: Sometimes it’s the little things that count, and the Cubs’ fruitful fourth inning featured some delightful small ball in the form of back-to-back run-scoring sacrifice bunts by David Ross and Lester. Baez (who also hit his first home run of the season tonight) scored on the first bunt, a suicide squeeze aided by Moscot’s error; Addison Russell came home on Lester’s effort. Not as splashy as a no-hitter or a grand slam or even Rizzo’s solo homer from earlier that same inning, sure, but the Cubs’ demonstrated here that they can get the job done in a number of ways, even at the bottom of their order.
Trend to Watch: With Lester’s seven-inning, one-run performance tonight, Cubs starters have now turned in 15 quality starts, their most through 17 games in franchise history. This rotation is showing no signs of slowing down, and consequently, the Cubs have also improved to 12-0 this season when scoring at least four runs.
What’s Next: John Lackey (3.66 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 10.1 K/9) will take the mound Saturday in Cincinnati, hoping to build upon a sparkling last outing, in which he struck out 11 Cardinals across seven scoreless frames. Starting for the Reds in Game 3 will be right-hander Dan Straily (2.70, 4.15, 8.1), making his fifth appearance of the season but just his second start. Those of you with sharp memories may recall that Straily once spent some time in the Cubs organization, appearing Forrest Gump-like in the background of a couple of high-profile transactions. He was acquired from the Oakland A’s as part of the same package that brought Addison Russell to the Cubs, and he departed for Houston with Luis Valbuena in the trade for Dexter Fowler. First pitch will be at 6:10pm CST, viewable on CSN.
Lead photo courtesy David Kohl—USA Today Sports