Top Play (WPA): Mike Bolsinger held the Cubs hitless the first time through the order, though in very Bolsinger-ian fashion, he did so in a less-than-threatening manner, hitting both Dexter Fowler and Javier Baez with pitches and allowing another walk to Jason Heyward. The Cubs were determined to improve the second time around, and following a Dexter Fowler walk to lead off the third, Kris Bryant skied a 1-0 curveball deep past the center field wall (+0.224). Bryant had struck out swinging on an apparently-mystifying Bolsinger curve his first time up; not to be fooled twice, he took this one for a 423-foot ride and gave his team a 2-1 lead.
Bottom Play (WPA): It didn’t take long. It took all of two pitches, in fact, before this game hit a low point for the Cubs, undoubtedly inspiring the sort of hot takes we’d never inflict on you here at BP Wrigleyville. With the count 1-0 to the night’s leadoff batter Kiké Hernandez, Jon Lester left a fastball up over the plate, and Hernandez accepted the offering gladly, sending the ball into the left field bleachers (-0.102). It was the most trouble he’d see all night, however, and I do mean all night—Lester pitched his 13th career complete game, striking out 10 and walking none. His ERA now sits at a cool 2.24, bumping him into the top 10 in the league along with teammate Jake Arrieta.
Key Moment: WPA may not agree, but Lester fanning Howie Kendrick to close out the game was momentous, a complete inverse of how the game began. Lester never faltered beyond the first-inning hiccup, and he retired his last 12 batters on his way to the win.
I’d like to give a couple of honorable mentions here, too: one for each of the runners Lester threw out at first base tonight. Kendrick and Hernandez grounded out toward the mound in the first and third respectively, and each time, Lester fielded the ball and threw to first, about as casually as one could expect from the often-yips-afflicted southpaw. It definitely portended the solid performance to come.
Trend to Watch: It’s a very minor trend, but when Ben Zobrist struck out swinging in the first, following yesterday’s three-strikeout game, it certainly raised some eyebrows. Zobrist is coming off a mammoth month of May in which he drove in 25, scored 25 himself, and got on base nearly half the time (.483 OBP). This isn’t to say that he’s definitely slowing down, but it’s a reminder that the Cubs’ success has been bolstered by some notable overachieving that certainly won’t last the whole year. Zobrist will get a day off to recharge tomorrow with Baez taking over second base duties.
It’s also worth mentioning that Hector Rondon spent the whole game in the dugout, and was apparently unavailable because of a back issue that popped right before the game. His status for tomorrow is unclear; any extended absence would obviously be a troubling occurrence for the Cubs bullpen.
Coming Next: It’s the fourth and final game of the series tomorrow, and for the fourth day in a row, the Cubs will not be facing Clayton Kershaw. Taking the mound for the Dodgers will be someone with the unique capacity to make this Cubs roster look ancient: 19-year-old phenom Julio Urias, making his second ever big league start. Urias was knocked around in his debut against the Mets last Friday, giving up three runs and four walks across 2 2/3 innings. Following that, the Dodgers quickly sent him down to the minors again, but he’s been called back once again to take the place of Alex Wood, who pitched decently in Game 1 of this series, but who had an elbow issue arise immediately after the start. Urias will have quite the challenge ahead of him as he tries for a better second showing, and he’ll do so against the unheralded professor Kyle Hendricks, who very nearly shut out the Phillies in his last outing. Tune in to CSN tomorrow at 1:20 pm for the action or listen on 670 The Score.
Lead photo courtesy David Ban