The Cubs pulled off a mini-sweep of the Brewers this afternoon at a chilly and blustery Wrigley Field. Jake Arrieta didn’t quite have his best stuff, but he fought through it for five innings of one-run ball, and the Cubs ended up coasting to a relatively easy victory. Kris Bryant left the game with a rolled ankle, and Arrieta’s home scoreless streak ended at 52 and 2/3 innings, but these are the only bits of bad news of which to speak, as the Cubs moved their record up to 16-5 on the season.
Top Play (WPA): It was a tough day for Brewers starter Taylor Jungmann from the very beginning. Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo reached to load the bases for Ben Zobrist with one out in the bottom of the first. Zobrist lofted a pop up to the third base side that Aaron Hill couldn’t quite haul in up against the Cubs dugout. This was a big moment because Zobrist singled into right the very next pitch, knocking in two and giving the Cubs what felt like a very secure lead right from the start (+.143). Jungmann labored through 3 and 2/3 innings against the Cubs’ lineup today; he threw 95 pitches and allowed five earned runs.
Bottom Play (WPA): Jake Arrieta was solid again today, but his command wasn’t there in the first inning. He gave up a leadoff bloop single to Jonathan Villar and then walked Ryan Braun with one out. With Jonathan Lucroy at the dish, Villar and Braun executed a double-steal against the Arrieta/David Ross battery (-.049). Arrieta would then walk Lucroy to load the bases with one out…
Key Moment: …But Arrieta’s home scoreless streak wouldn’t end quite yet. He was able to start locating, and he rallied to strike out Chris Carter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis back-to-back to end the inning. This was the Brewers best chance to get ahead all day; the next time they came up, they were already down two runs and Arrieta had found the strike zone.
Arrieta walked four batters for the second consecutive start, a trend that would be more troubling if he wasn’t otherwise so untouchable. Joe Maddon pulled him early today, smartly saving some bullets after five innings and 92 pitches in a 5-1 cold weather ballgame. Arrieta was allowed to throw a lot of pitches during his no-hitter, but don’t expect this to become a trend—the Cubs are devoted to saving his arm as much as they can over the course of a long season.
Put this down as a cool, if not particularly key, moment: David Ross puts a Jungmann fastball onto Waveland in the second inning.
Trend to Watch: Tommy La Stella just continues to produce whenever he is on the field. He got the start at third base today, and made the best of it, going 1-for-2 with an opposite field double, two walks, and a run. His line is up to .375/.464/.667 on the year (in what is still a very small sample), his consistent contact and solid defense are quickly endearing him to Cubs fans, and his PECOTA projection of a .269 TAv is looking more and more realistic. If he keeps performing like this, Maddon will keep finding ways to get him into the lineup—hopefully Bryant’s rolled ankle isn’t the mechanism for this, though.
The Cubs also walked eleven more times today, bringing their total up to an MLB-leading 114 walks in 21 games (a ridiculous 5.4 walks per game). Pitchers that don’t work in the strike zone against this meatgrinder of a lineup have games like Jungmann and the Milwaukee bullpen did today, and there is no reason not to expect this trend to continue.
Coming Next: The Cubs will have a good chance to continue their winning ways this weekend, when they will host the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley. Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jason Hammel will start three consecutive day games against the very (very) bad Braves offense. Atlanta comes into Wrigley without a series win and a record that will be 5-17 in the unlikely scenario in which they win tonight in Boston. They have only four homers as a team at the time of this writing (half as many as Anthony Rizzo and only twice as many as David Ross), and they are on an eight-game losing streak. As Matthew Trueblood wrote Monday, this Braves team is on a very different trajectory than the Cubs, and it should be a fun weekend at the friendly confines. Lester (1.98 ERA/3.60 FIP/88 cFIP) matches up with Aaron Blair (5.06/4.06/116) tomorrow at 1:20 on CSN.
Lead photo courtesy Patrick Gorski—USA Today Sports