Top Play (WPA): It was all Hammel, all afternoon in this one. Not only did the pitcher stifle the D-Backs’ offense, but Hammel added to his already-impressive list of RBI singles this season in the fourth.
With one out in the inning, Anthony Rizzo hit a high pop fly toward left field. It was one of many popups hit by the Cubs on the afternoon, knuckling and swirling in the wind, and this one made Arizona’s fielders look silly. It fell in for a hit, and Rizzo found himself on first. Ben Zobrist walked, and Jorge Soler looked for vengeance against Diamondbacks starter Edwin Escobar, against whom he had grounded out on a 3-2 count in the second.
Soler hit a laser line drive to left-center, the ball one-hopping the wall with the ivy in full summer bloom, nestling itself in the greenery for a ground-rule double, scoring Rizzo (+.195). After an Addison Russell strikeout and an intentional walk of David Ross, Hammel swatted a 1-0 fastball at the knees right back up the middle through Escobar. It caromed off second base, and Zobrist and Soler scored to put the Cubs ahead 4-2 (+.210).
It was Hammel’s seventh RBI on the season, and it was a vital jolt to a quietly scuffling offense.
Bottom Play (WPA): The Cubs’ righty pitched well the whole game, save a hiccup in the first inning. Two hard-fought outs to begin the game preceded a foolhardy walk to Paul Goldschmidt with breakout third baseman Jake Lamb following. Hammel grooved a 92-mile-per-hour fastball to Lamb, who deposited the pitch squarely in the right-field bleachers, through the rain that threatened to delay the game (-.193). Jason Heyward barely moved from his spot in right, and the Diamondbacks took a quick 2-0 lead.
Key Moment: Hammel exited after seven superb innings, and Joe Maddon tapped Pedro Strop to quiet the top of the Diamondbacks’ order. His second pitch, however, found its way into the bleachers, a solo home run by Yasmany Tomás, bringing the game to within one run. Neither Strop nor Trevor Cahill could escape the inning: the Cubs’ win expectancy yo-yo’d from 87.3 percent at the end of the seventh to a low of 69.8 percent after Cahill walked Goldschmidt to load the bases with two outs in the eighth.
Luckily, Travis Wood proved a capable escape artist yet again. Wood quickly pitched himself ahead of Rickie Weeks, Jr., but failed to put the former Brewer away, running the count 3-2 with repeated breaking balls out of the zone. With the game on the line, Wood zipped a fastball on the outer half of the plate, and Weeks hit a firm line drive ticketed for center field. However, Ben Zobrist leaped to his right, arm outstretched, and caught the liner to end the inning.
Trend to Watch: A much-needed insurance run came in the bottom of that tense eighth inning, a 415-foot dinger off the bat of Anthony Rizzo. The home run came on a 2-2 changeup, a continuation of Rizzo’s slow climb out of a long-ish slump. He has nine hits in his last 26 plate appearances, with two home runs, two doubles, and an on-base percentage well over .500. Rizzo coming to life again will, of course, be a boon to this offense, which has performed just well enough to win ten of its last 11.
Coming Next: The Cubs go for the sweep on Sunday with their ace on the mound. Jake Arrieta (1.56 ERA, 85 cFIP, 3.22 ERA) received a no-decision last time out against the Dodgers, but the Cubs dropped the game, and the club’s streak of consecutive wins in Arrieta starts came to an end. Lefty Patrick Corbin (4.96, 108, 4.91), who has performed poorly this season relative to his past two seasons (3.32 and 3.80 DRAs, respectively), will take on the Cubs’ Sunday lineup. Expect a few Cubs regulars to get some necessary rest at the end of a long home stand and with a southpaw on the mound. Comcast SportsNet has the TV broadcast, and 670 The Score has the radio call, a 1:20 Central matinee.
Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports