Let’s talk about Dex, baby.
Top play (WPA): Dexter Fowler stepped in for his second at-bat of the game with the bases loaded and nobody out. He took four consecutive pitches, three of them for balls, before striking on pitch number five—lining a double the opposite way into the left-field corner (+0.110). The Cubs would score two runs on the play, taking a 3-0 lead. Fowler would come around and score on a sac fly by Anthony Rizzo, giving the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
Overall, Fowler displayed his trademarked patience at the plate, working three-ball counts in each of his first four trips to the plate. He finished 3-for-4 with a walk, a single, a double, and a home run in his return to the lineup.
Bottom play (WPA): Addison Russell led off the top of the sixth inning with a triple to center field, setting up a great chance for the Cubs to get their fifth run of the ballgame. However, that was not meant to be. Miguel Montero popped out to left field, leaving Russell standing on third base with one out. That brought up pitcher Jason Hammel—who pitched a fine game, allowing two earned runs on four hits and two walks in five innings—and an opportunity to try to squeeze Russell home.
Hammel laid down the bunt, which hit into the ground and rolled right out to the pitcher, Carlos Torres. Torres scooped it up and ran toward the plate, deciding to dive into the sliding Russell and tag him out instead of flipping to catcher Jonathan Lucroy (-0.060). The Cubs would finally scratch out their fifth run in the bottom of the eighth, and they’d finish off their 58th win of the year by a score of 5-2.
Key moment: Fowler returned to the Cubs lineup for the first time since he strained his hamstring on June 18 in a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. That injury cost him a month of time on the field, not to mention playing in his first All-Star game.
Returning to the field with his teammates had to feel fantastic for Fowler, who is well-liked in the clubhouse. The best feeling, however, had to be on his first swing since returning from the disabled list—a leadoff home run that he hit to center field off Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson.
Haaaaaave you met Dex?https://t.co/ZwSCQW6wVL
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 23, 2016
Trend to Watch: It’s not like this is groundbreaking news, but Jason Heyward is struggling. After a short spurt where he looked like he was coming out of his season-long funk, he came into tonight’s game 1-for-his-last-21 at the plate. Although he hit the ball hard in the top of the fifth and was robbed on a nice play by first baseman Chris Carter, he ended up with a 0-for-4 on the evening. Heyward has always been a better hitter in the second half of the season, but he’s never struggled to this extent this late into the schedule.
Coming next: The Cubs (58-37) will continue their three-game set with the Brewers (40-54) on Saturday evening with a 6:10pm CST start. The game will feature John Lackey (3.75 ERA/3.76 FIP/3.61 DRA) taking on Brewers starter Zach Davies (3.79/4.12/3.60). The game will be broadcast on WGN on the television and 670 The Score on the radio.
Lead photo courtesy Jeff Hanisch—USA Today Sports