It’s easy to get lost in the hyperbole of a rough stretch of games, especially ones against so-called “playoff preview” opponents, so the recent four-game sweep at the hands of the Mets during said stretch has left a stinger in the palm of many Cubs fans, though maybe not the players themselves. All of this to say that what would otherwise be an ordinary, even somewhat mundane, win in the middle of July feels steeped with significance. It’s really not, but it still feels good to close the books on game 92 with a win.
Top Play (WPA): Anthony Rizzo fought for ten tough pitches against Steven Matz before taking him deep for a three-run homer (+.243) in the third inning. Rizzo has been a catalyst for the offense even during the dry spell that preceded the All-Star break, and it appears as though there’s no slowing this down.
The Cubs would tally two more on a David Ross sacrifice and an RBI single from Albert Almora, Jr., but they had what they needed on Rizzo’s shot.
Bottom Play (WPA): Though the Mets would never truly threaten tonight, Wilmer Flores was not to accept a shutout. He hit a solo home run in the seventh inning to give New York a run to try and build on, though ultimately it was to no avail (-.044). Jon Lester effectively kept this potent offense at bay well into the eighth inning, and the work of Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards, Jr., and Hector Rondon closed the book on this one.
Key Moment: Somewhat obvious, but this was Anthony Rizzo’s at-bat that turned into a three-run homer in the third inning. Not just for the fact that it opened up the Cubs scoring and ended the 0-0 tie, but also because of the way the at-bat transpired. Rizzo saw ten pitches, six of which he fouled off. It’s the kind of trip to the plate that exhausts a pitcher and gives his teammates ample opportunity to get a good look at what they’re facing.
It’s also the kind of at-bat that’s reminiscent of the early weeks of the season, and one that has been sorely missing (not from Rizzo particularly, per se) during the weeks of struggle. The extra two insurance runs that came later in the evening provided a fine cushion, but the damage had already been done at the hands of Anthony Rizzo.
Trend to Watch: There’s a reason not to wring one’s hands when Jon Lester has a bad outing or two, and tonight exemplifies that. He was sharp well into the eighth inning and scarcely gave the Mets any sort of opportunity to produce anything with their offense outside of the Wilmer Flores solo home run in the seventh inning.
The pitcher who carries a touch more concern is the one pitching tomorrow. The trend in Jake Arrieta’s case is whether he is able to reverse recent course and avoid running up his pitch count by staying in the zone and making his “slutter” work for him the way that it did in the latter half of 2015. Even at what has become his average, he is a very good pitcher, but he has shown with regularity that he can be frighteningly dominant, too.
They likely won’t return in time for the Mets series, but both Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler will be in Iowa rehabbing tomorrow, so a return for the weekend’s series in Milwaukee looks promising.
Coming Next: Tomorrow it’s Jake Arrieta versus Noah Syndergaard, so cancel other plans, hire a sitter, unplug the landline if there’s still one in the house, and settle in for the show. It’s another 6:05 pm CT start time, and tomorrow night the action is on CSN locally, and 670 AM on the radio.
Lead photo courtesty Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports