Game 125 Recap: Cubs 5 Padres 3

Jake Arrieta pitched eight scoreless innings Tuesday night, as the Cubs defeated the Padres 5-3. I lead with this because it’s impressive, of course, but also as a simple reminder that it happened, because for much of this second game in San Diego, Arrieta’s gem was overshadowed by his teammates’ other feats on the diamond.

There were offensive fireworks, with both Kris Bryant and Addison Russell going deep against Padres starter Christian Friedrich. For Bryant, it was number 33, bringing him even with Nolan Arenado for the National League lead. Russell’s 19th home run of the season saw his RBI total rise to a staggering 82 while giving the Cubs their seventh straight game with multiple home runs. Even Arrieta joined in with his bat, tripling and later scoring his team’s fifth run.

There were plenty of flashy defensive plays too, courtesy of Javier Báez and Willson Contreras especially. As solid as Arrieta was, the defenders behind (and in front) of him were a major reason he was able to record his 24 outs while facing only 25 batters, despite allowing two hits and walking three.

And then there was the ninth inning, where a couple of wheels fell off. With Arrieta’s night finished after 99 pitches, recent call-up Félix Peña opened the final frame, allowing one run on a walk and two singles before getting pulled. Aroldis Chapman took over with runners on the corners and one out but looked extremely shaky, failing to find the strike zone. One sacrifice fly, two walks, and a wild pitch later, the Padres had the winning run at the plate, but with the three fastballs following that, Chapman secured the save. The Chicago Cubs have 80 wins, and there are still 37 games left to play.

Top Play (WPA): It wasn’t either of the Cubs’ home runs, but it’s no surprise that Bryant was still involved, walking to lead off the fifth inning. 1-0 turned into 2-0 when Ben Zobrist doubled to center (+0.133) and Bryant flew home. Russell’s homer immediately followed.

Bottom Play (WPA): Despite the ninth inning theatrics, the biggest threat to the Cubs’ victory was by their own hand. Back in the third with just one run on the board, Zobrist took first base on an error by Yangervis Solarte, bringing Russell to the plate. Russell knocked a ball into the outfield, deep enough that Zobrist would have scored easily if not for an unlucky bounce into the stands. With Zobrist halted at third after the ground rule double, it was up to Jason Heyward, who flied out to end the inning (-0.055).

For all his struggles this year, Heyward nearly found some redemption in the seventh inning with a well-hit ball that so nearly cleared the fence, skating off the wall instead for a double. Paired with his home run Monday night, there’s still not enough here to call this solid contact a trend, but it’s worth a little bit of hope, or some curiosity at least.

Key Play(s): As mentioned, the Cubs defense continued to be a feast for the eyes and a big asset to the starting pitcher, so I’ll spotlight a play each by Contreras and Báez. Awarded his second start with Arrieta, Contreras looked heroic in the first inning, which began uncertainly with a walk to Travis Jankowski, who advanced to second on a ground out and then stole third. What followed was not actually a double play, but it happened in just as quick succession. Contreras set up on the outer edge of the plate, got his strike three call, and used his cannon to pick off Jankowski. Who needs pitchouts?

Báez was instrumental in turning a couple of double plays on the night, including one in the third inning with a one-run lead to protect. The Padres’ starter Friedrich laid down what could have been a really terrific bunt were it not for the speed of Báez, who burst forward from second on the play, fielded the ball in front of the mound, and then fired to Russell to get the process moving. Though he was one of only two Cubs starters who never reached base (Anthony Rizzo was the other), Báez continued to contribute with sensational defensive verve.

Trend to Watch: There’s no ignoring the powerful tear Russell has been on lately. BP Wrigleyville’s Ryan Davis wrote just yesterday about the shortstop’s batting, including his unusual reverse split. Russell’s fifth inning home run marked his fifth homer in the five games of this road trip thus far, plus it came off a lefty. Currently leading the Cubs with 23 multi-RBI games, Russell is on pace to cross the 100-RBI threshold this season, but it’s the power so many predicted would eventually emerge that is especially exciting, enough to get you dreaming of MVP contention in years to come.

Coming Next: The Cubs will be looking for a sweep in Game 3, and the odds of that happening are pretty good, considering it will be Kyle Hendricks on the mound. The Padres will give Paul Clemens the start, and his success against this stacked Cubs lineup will hinge on the effectiveness of his curveball, which has been carrying the right-hander in recent outings. First pitch is at 2:40pm CST, which will allow the Cubs a quick getaway to LA for a day off and a series against the Dodgers. Wednesday’s game will be broadcast on CSN and 670 The Score.

Lead photo courtesy Jake Roth—USA Today Sports

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