That was cleansing, wasn’t it? About 18 hours after the Cubs suffered one of the season’s most frustrating defeats, stranding 12 base runners and wasting a solid effort from Jake Arrieta, the offense stormed back with some muscle and timely hits, and the pitching and defense were outstanding. Anthony Rizzo slugged a pair of mammoth home runs off Bartolo Colon, Kyle Hendricks went 6 and 1/3 scoreless innings, and the Cubs beat the New York Mets 6-2 to take the series. Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Addison Russell each added a multi-hit game, and the bullpen allowed just one baserunner over 2 and 2/3 innings.
Despite steady traffic on the base paths, Hendricks escaped trouble, and lowered his ERA to 2.27 in the process. The Mets actually had more base runners than the Cubs, but a pair of double plays and an all-time throw from Jason Heyward (see Key Moment) prevented their offense from breaking through. On a day when both teams wore their 1980’s throwback jerseys (if you squinted, it looked like the baseball scenes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), the Cubs threw it back to their early season M.O. of power and stellar starting pitching. Let’s see review the highlights.
Top Play (WPA): A night after loading the bases and coming away with nothing in the ninth inning, the Cubs offense loaded the bases in the first on a single from Bryant, and walks from Wilson Contreras and Heyward. With two outs, Addison Russell ripped a double to left field, scoring Bryant and Contreras, and getting the bases loaded monkey off the offenses’s back. (+.177)
Bottom Play (WPA): Staked to this early 2-0 lead, Hendricks retired James Loney to open the second inning, but the surrendered a double to Travis d’Arnaud. Kelly Johnson would then reach on an infield single to put runners on the corner (-.051). But Hendricks proceeded to induce a 5-4 double play to end the the inning and neutralize the threat.
Key Moment: That throw, man. Goddamn, that throw. With the Cubs leading 3-0 in the fourth, Hendricks picked up two quick outs before surrendering singles to Loney and d’Arnaud. He then left a 1-1 pitch up and over the plate, and Johnson lined a shot into center field. Loney rounded third and appeared headed safely towards home, blissfully unaware Jason Heyward was about to do this:
YOU SHALL NOT PASS.https://t.co/eYPVxzwKIB
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 20, 2016
The throw, by one account, was clocked at 98.9 MPH. It one-hopped into the waiting glove of Miguel Montero, who applied the tag. Heyward’s rocket kept the Mets off the board. That throw. Wow.
Trend to Watch: Rizzo’s two home runs, including his 451-foot bomb in the third inning, should bring some attention to the two-month tear he is on. In 45 games since May 28, Rizzo has 30 extra base hits and an OPS better than 1.100. During this stretch, he has a .610 slugging percentage or higher against four different pitches (fourseam, sinker, change, slider) from right-handed pitchers. There hasn’t been much righties can get by him since Memorial Day weekend.
Coming Next: The team wll enjoy a rare off-day (their first since June 16, excluding the All-Star break, of course) before traveling to Milwaukee to open a three-game series with the Brewers. Jason Hammel and Jimmy Nelson will get the ball for their respective teams to start the weekend. Nelson, in two starts against the Cubs this season, has allowed just two earned runs in 12 and 2/3 innings, and has gone to his go-to pitches (fourseam and sinker) a combined 69 percent, just below his season average of 72 percent. Hammel struggled slightly in his one start against the Brewers in 2016, allowing four earned runs over six innings, including two home runs (both off sliders). Hammel went heavy with his slider and four-seamer that day, just one of five starts this season in which he’s thrown at least 30 four-seam fastballs. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM CST.
Lead photo courtesy David Banks—USA Today Sports