Game 53 Recap: Cubs 6 Diamondbacks 0

The Cubs played well enough to win. The Diamondbacks played badly enough to let the Cubs win big.

Top Play (WPA): Archie Bradley shut down the Cubs through five innings, holding them scoreless on just two hits and two walks. Bradley always has good stuff, and early in Friday’s game, he had good command of it. He slipped a little in the sixth, though, and the Cubs made him pay. Jason Heyward had hit the ball hard when he saw Bradley in the bottom of the third, lining out to left field, and while he didn’t square Bradley up as well in the sixth, he did loft a clean line-drive single into center field. After a Kris Bryant strikeout, Anthony Rizzo stepped to the plate, and on a 1-2 pitch, he hit a hard, knuckling line drive to center field. It came off the bat at 103 miles per hour, but was hit a bit too low to carry terribly far. A more experienced center fielder might have caught it to end the inning, but Chris Owings—the converted middle infielder still trying to patch the hole left in Arizona’s outfield by the elbow injury that sidelined A.J. Pollock on the eve of the season—started in, then hesitated, then tripped as he tried to race back on the ball. It landed some 15 feet beyond Owings, scoring Heyward and breaking a scoreless tie (+0.201 WPA). An intentional walk to Ben Zobrist and a Tommy La Stella strikeout stalled the rally there, but the Cubs never looked back.

Bottom Play (WPA): The early innings didn’t even feature much in the way of missed opportunities for the Cubs. They did put runners on first and second with one out in the second, but that was in front of Javier Baez and John Lackey, at the bottom of the order. Each struck out.

In the fourth, a slightly more promising rally was there to be had, as Rizzo led off the inning with a walk. Bradley got ahead of Zobrist 1-2, though, and then induced a sharp ground ball to second base, a tailor-made double play (-0.088 WPA) that all but ended what Rizzo had begun.

Key Moment: Jake Lamb led off the top of the second inning for the Diamondbacks. Lamb is no household name, not yet, but he can really hit, especially against right-handed pitching. On a 2-2 count, Lackey left a pitch over the inside corner and down to the Arizona third baseman, and Lamb connected soundly. That was a key moment, that moment when Lamb’s bat flashed through the hitting zone and the ball leapt off it, headed for the gap in right-center field. StatCast tells the story: Lamb hit the ball 107 miles per hour, at a launch angle of 16 degrees. It was in the air for 3.7 seconds. According to Baseball Savant’s StatCast breakdown page, such batted balls turn into hits right around 70 percent of the time. This one looked like it could short-hop the wall for a leadoff double.

It didn’t, though. Jason Heyward had gotten a good jump and read the tough liner nearly perfectly. He covered 51 feet in the short time the ball was in the air, leaped on the run, and snagged the ball just about at the warning track, in front of the 368′ sign in the right-field alley. It was sparkling defensive work from the Cubs’ Gold Glove right fielder, and (especially given the rough path Lackey hewed through the rest of the inning, though it’s impossible to know whether things would have unfolded in a world where the ball falls in) likely saved a run.

Trend to Watch: Despite flashes of brilliance over the last week or so, the Cubs’ offense still seems stuck in the mud. Through their first 35 games, they took a walk and turned it into runs more often than I did when I lived just up Broadway from a taqueria. Over those 35 games, they drew 5.2 walks and scored 6.1 runs per contest. In their last 18 games, though, that’s down to 3.8 walks and 4.3 runs. They did walk six times and were hit by two pitches Friday, and they did push across six runs, but there wasn’t a lot of roughage to that feast. The Diamondbacks played poorly in the field, and issued three of those six walks intentionally. The Cubs won easily, but that doesn’t mean they played a blowout-caliber game.

On the other hand, they did play marvelous defense, and John Lackey pitched brilliantly. Despite getting a fair but tight strike zone from home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, Lackey threw 6 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just five hits and two walks, and fanning nine. He continues to pace toward a career high in strikeout rate, even as he pushes deeper into his late 30s. If Lackey can be this reliable and miss this many bats all season, the offense’s struggles will continue to be a small enough problem to shrug off as acceptable performance fluctuation for a while.

What’s Next: For a few minutes in early 2014, Edwin Escobar was a pretty hot prospect in the Giants’ system. The lefty signed with the Rangers as a 16-year-old in 2008, then got flipped to San Francisco less than two years later. After being traded to Boston in the Jake Peavy deal in July 2014, though, he battled both injuries and ineffectiveness, even after a move to the bullpen in Triple A. The Diamondbacks grabbed him on waivers in April, and promoted him late in May to start against the Astros. He gave up eight runs and only got 10 outs, but the state of Arizona’s pitching staff is such that the Cubs will get a crack at Escobar, too. Jason Hammel will start the 1:20 tilt for the Cubs. You can watch on WGN, and in the meantime, read up on the series in our series preview.

Lead photo couresty Kamil Krzaczynski—USA Today Sports

Related Articles

1 comment on “Game 53 Recap: Cubs 6 Diamondbacks 0”


Great writeup. And taquerias will never be the same to me.

Leave a reply Cancel reply

Use your Baseball Prospectus username