Game 133 Recap: Cubs 5 Giants 4

If it was an action movie, I can’t tell you it was a very good one. Some face-off and car chase in the first 15 minutes, but settled for the following 85 minutes. Then, in the final 10 minutes, after you consumed several bags of popcorn  and all of your fingers got sticky, there’s finally some more action.

But it was a baseball game, and I can tell you it was a good one, especially from the Cubs’ perspective. The Baby Bears beat the Giants, and gave erstwhile Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija a bit harsh welcome back, as they put three runs on the board in the top of the first inning.

Though starter Mike Montgomery coughed up the lead, three relievers kept the game tight. Young shortstop showed clutch performance for what seems to be the umpteenth time. They deserve the top spots on the end credit.

Top Play (WPA): In the seventh, the Giants sent four relievers to the mound to get three outs, but not before they gave up a pair of runs and, ultimately, the lead. After Hunter Strickland, the first of the four, allowed a single and a walk to put two runners on base without and out, the Giants brought in effective lefty Will Smith, who loaded the bases with another walk but was able to get the two outs the Giants desperately needed. But, in a very puzzling move, they replaced Smith with Cory Gearrin, a much less effective right-hander with a pedestrian 18.5 K% and 4.75 ERA entering the game. In some ways, it made sense as right-handed Addison Russell was coming up. But they should have had a better righty arm than Gearrin, whose  87 ERA+ ranked 20th-worst among 149 relievers with at least 40 innings pitched in 2016, for the game’s highest-leverage situation (6.25). As a somewhat foreseeable result, Russell blooped a soft line drive to shallow left field for a two-run single (+.393), and the Cubs came back on top and never surrendered the lead again.

Bottom Play (WPA): Right before the game-flipping Russell single, Jason Heyward weakly popped out to second base, failed to score the tying run at third (-.156). It ended up being less-crucial thanks to Russell’s heroism. J-Hey, you owe Russell steak dinner.

Key Moment: Carl Edwards tossed a perfect ninth inning in order to notch the first save of his career. The lanky flamethrower averaged 1.64 leverage index in August, as opposed to 0.60 beforehand. Edwards has been dominant outside the five-run disaster against the Cardinals on August 13th. One can hope him proving to be a high-leverage reliever leads to less usage of Aroldis Chapman, who has appeared in 11 of the club’s last 18 games. If so, Chapman can head into the postseason with a more freshly rested arm.

Trend to Watch: Edwards wasn’t the only Cubs reliever to throw a perfect frame tonight. Rob Zastryzny maintained not only one, but two 1-2-3 innings after taking over the mound from Montgomery in the fifth. (Additionally, Joe Smith, who appeared in the game for the first time since returning for his trip to the DL, threw a pair of perfect innings.) The more Rob Z pitches, the more he looks like a key piece of the bullpen. The rookie southpaw has held opposing batters to a .184 average and struck out 29.3% of them. Barring a September downfall (which seems unlikely to happen), it seems safe to say Rob Z has earned a spot on the playoff roster.

Coming Next: On Friday afternoon, the Cubs will  face the Giants again, look for their fifth straight and ninth win in their last 11 games. Jon Lester goes for the North Siders to match the Giants’ rookie lefty Albert Suarez. The game will be on WGN on the TV side and 670 The Score on the radio side, starting at 1:20 local time.

 Lead photo courtesy Kamil Krzacynski—USA Today Sports

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