In the course of a 162-game season, there are nights remembered for dynamic individual performance (three home runs, a no-hitter, etc.) and remarkable team efforts (a miraculous a late-inning comeback). These are the nights that we reflect upon for years, reminiscing about the feats that played out before us, and hanging to these brilliant moments that produce goosebumps at their mere mention.
Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular field was not one of those nights for the Chicago Cubs, who fell to the Chicago White Sox, 3-0.
Kyle Hendricks was charged with three earned runs on eight baserunners in 5 and 2/3 innings. A 30 pitch first inning would prove to be enough to bury the Cubs for good (see Bottom Play). Travis Wood tried to clean up the mess in the sixth inning, but would walk three batters and force in a run. The offense could get very little going, with just three base runners reaching second base. The team had four hits, with none of them going for extra bases.
Cubs batters were stymied by James Shields, who went 7 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing eight base runners and striking out five. Shields did enter on a roll, posting a 2.52 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in his previous six starts, but he had been the beneficiary of some luck (.223 BABIP) and was still susceptible to the long ball (six home runs allowed). On Tuesday night, however, the Cubs offense could find neither some luck or the long ball.
Adam Eaton had two hits, including a solo home run off of Hendricks. Dave Robertson recorded a perfect ninth inning to pick up his 24 save. It was an uneventful end to immediately forgetful night on the South Side. Review the highlights below.
Top Play (WPA): When catcher’s interference is your top play, it is likely slim pickings. In the second inning, the Cubs mounted their biggest “threat” of the night, as an Addison Russell single and Miguel Montero walk put runners on first and second base with two outs. Tommy LaStella then came in contact with Dioner Navarro’s glove, reaching first on interference and loading the bases (+.034). However, Shields would then get Dexter Fowler to pop out to the catcher to halt the momentary momentum. After going 3-for-5 in his first game back from the DL, Fowler is 1-for-14.
Bottom Play (WPA): As we referenced above, Hendricks got into trouble early. After walking Adam Eaton to open the game, Tim Anderson singled and Melky Cabrera fouled out. Jose Abreu, who entered the night with some impressive splits this season (.289/.345/.448 against right-handed pitchers), then singled to center, scoring Eaton with what proved to be the game-winning run. (-.119)
Key Moment: Again, slim pickings, so we’ll just go with the Hendricks’s nasty change up to escape further damage in the first inning. With the based loaded, two outs, and a run in, Hendricks’s two-strike change to J.B. Shuck broke to the outside corner, inducing a swinging strike three. It might have been his 30th pitch of the inning, but it’s worth remembering.
Trend to Watch: Joe Nathan’s seventh inning appearance. He retired the side on 16 pitches (11 for strikes), including a strikeout of Anderson. Nathan looked sharp, and on a night devoid of Cubs highlights, his comeback remains a positive development.
Coming Next: The Cubs look to avoid the sweep in the series finale in a nationally televised, primetime finale on ESPN. Jason Hammel and Anthony Ranaudo will get the ball for their respective teams. Hammel has not gone longer than six innings in a start since June 15, but he is coming off wins in consecutive outings. Ranaudo, a big right-hander, makes his first start of 2016. In 16 starts at Triple-A, Ranaudo has a 1.00 WHIP and a six-to-one strikeout to walk ratio, In his brief MLB career, Ranaudo has relied primarily on a four-seam (64 percent) and curve (21 percent), with the curve usage rate jumping to 30 percent with two strikes. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:00 PM.
Lead photo courtesy Mike Dinovo—USA Today Sports