An age-old sports question is what is the most preferable way to lose. Is it more damaging to be blown out or to suffer a nail-biting defeat? Cubs fans have gotten a side-by-side comparison throughout the four-game rematch of the 2015 NLCS. The answer is that they both suck, especially when they happen four straight times.
Top Play (WPA): The game started off so promisingly. The top play for the Cubs was a first inning single by Anthony Rizzo (+0.99). Jason Heyward hit a one out double, and was in danger of being another runner in scoring position stranded after Kris Bryant’s one out fly out. But Rizzo drove in the run to give the Cubs the shortest of lived leads. The Cubs would not have much to cheer about the rest of the afternoon.
Bottom Play (WPA): The third of the Mets five home runs on the afternoon was the biggest blow the Cubs chances according to WPA, but the fact that Cubs pitchers gave up five home runs in a single game for the second time in the series is probably more telling. This home run was a two run shot by Rene Rivera that made the game 4-1 (-.143). It was only the third run of a seven run outburst in the second inning that ended any hope of salvaging something on the final day of the road trip.
Key Moment: The key swing of the game was Curtis Granderson’s solo shot in the first inning. The Cubs have been struggling for weeks. The team picks up a key two-out hit to take an early lead. The Cubs have their co-ace on the mound, and it takes just two batters before the good feelings were erased. The whole thing unraveled an inning later, but the pummeling started with that blast.
Trend to Watch: The starting staff has carried the Cubs this season while performing at historically great levels. It should not be surprising that the Cubs struggles have been matched by their starting staff faltering. Jason Hammel’s ERA grew by nearly a run on Friday, and today it was Jon Lester’s turn to see his run prevention numbers bulge. Lester entered the afternoon with a sparkling 2.03 ERA and ended it with a still very good 2.67. The Cubs need a lot of things to start happening, but a return to early season form of the entire staff consistently might be the biggest need.
Adam Warren will get a turn in the rotation in the next series as the Cubs look to give more rest to the starters. Unfortunately, the amount of rest for Jake Arrieta and Lester will be limited by their likely All-Star appearances, but the rest of the bunch will get some much needed time off shortly. The Cubs as a whole need a chance to reset, but the load the starting staff has carried due to the bullpen struggles is heavy.
Coming Next: Thankfully, the Cubs return home to face the Reds for three games and then a makeup game against the Braves. The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks to face left hander Cody Reed in game one. The next matchup will feature Brandon Finnegan versus John Lackey and the finale will have Adam Warren face a yet-to-be-named starter. Jason Hammel will be the starter in the one game series against the Braves.
Lead photo courtesy Andy Marlin—USA Today Sports