The Cubs are back in town again, after a long, trying road trip, and they came away with a soggy victory on Friday.
The skies opened up in the first inning of this one, pouring down rain on the Cubs, Phillies, and fans indiscriminately, and a delay looked probable. The wind shifted several times, alternately blowin’ in from right, across from right to left, and not at all. By the end of the inning, the rain halted. It came back with a vengeance in the seventh, however, the wind howling straight out to center, and the game went into delay for nearly an hour. Less than two innings passed before it came down again, for a second delay: May in Chicago.
Top Play (WPA): The Cubs put on an impressive display of power this afternoon, in between showers, but the most jubilant homer of the day came off the bat of the Cubs’ oldest player. With Addison Russell and Javier Baez on base, David Ross tattooed an Adam Morgan changeup, launching it into the advertisement over the left-field bleachers (+.189).
It was Ross’s 100th career home run, and the wizened catcher achieved a milestone that he set as an explicit goal coming into his final season. The Cubs celebrated in the dugout, Ross giving each teammate his unique knee-touch celebration, and the Wrigley faithful roared as Ross came out for a curtain call.
Bottom Play (WPA): Before the Cubs’ bats came alive in the fourth, it looked like the day might boast a rain- and wind-induced pitchers’ duel. Jon Lester pitched well, working efficiently even as the rain poured in the first inning, and Adam Morgan looked as if he might keep the Cubs’ hitters off the board long enough for the Phillies to escape.
And so, in the third, it looked as though a pair of misplays could be pivotal. With one out and Peter Bourjos on first, Freddy Galvis hit a sinking flyball into the left-center field gap. Dexter Fowler glided over, perhaps a longer run than most center fielders would have to make due to his penchant for playing deep, and closed on the ball. Fowler angled his glove sideways, as he is also wont to do, and this time it backfired: the ball kicked off of Fowler’s glove, and Galvis found his way on base (-.102). Fowler tossed the ball to third base to prevent Bourjos from further advancing, but the ball scooted in between Baez’s legs and skipped off of the bag and into the air. Bourjos bolted for the base. Ross’s Hail Mary underhand found itself in Baez’s glove too late, and the Phillies had runners on second and third.
A sacrifice fly plated Bourjos, and tied the game at one.
Key Moment: But the game was not destined to be that pitchers’ duel. Morgan failed to locate his pitches against the Cubs from the fourth inning on, and Jorge Soler took advantage. Down 1-2, Soler was looking for a breaking ball, and he found one. The left fielder slugged a hanging slider deep into left, sauntered a few steps with his arms holding his bat outright, and gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead that they would not relinquish.
Trend to Watch: Rian Watt wrote about Soler on Tuesday, but he deserves a few more words after that massive home run. In his last eight games, Soler is hitting .318/.444/.682, and he looks to be making some approach adjustments against opposing pitchers. Whereas Soler has clubbed lefties’ four-seamers for a .410 batting average and a .744 slugging percentage, he’s hit an poor .171/.286, .154/.346, and .188/.188 against their changeups, sliders, and curves, respectively. Those three offerings make up 50 percent of the pitches Soler has seen against southpaws in his career; it’s imperative that he do something with those that end up in the zone.
Well, he did some damage against Morgan’s slider today. The 461-foot home run, off the bottom of the video board in left-center, was the longest of the Cubs’ season so far, besting Jake Arrieta’s Arizona moonshot in the second series of the season by 20 feet. Likewise, in the first, Soler pounced on a 2-2 changeup that caught too much of the plate, sending it into left for an RBI single. He might not do the same against higher quality slide lefties—Morgan is a young fringe starter—but it’s quite the encouraging sign for a player whose role on this team has been in flux.
Coming Next: After a difficult road trip to Milwaukee, San Francisco, and St. Louis, the Cubs are poised to continue their four-game winning streak on Saturday afternoon. Kyle Hendricks (4.21 DRA, 98 cFIP, 3.30 ERA) takes the mound for the Cubs, with the team’s streaking bats behind him. Jerad Eickhoff (4.59, 103, 3.86, two misplaced vowels) assumes the difficult burden of keeping those bats at bay. The game is on ABC7 locally, and starts at 1:20.
Lead photo courtesy David Banks—USA Today Sports.