You don’t usually expect a game started by Jake Arrieta and Madison Bumgarner to end with you staring slack jawed into the abyss like Krusty the Clown witnessing the antics of Eastern Europe’s favorite cat and mouse team Worker & Parasite for the first time. Generally, if one of those pitchers beats you, you can find a pretty good reason for it.
Nonetheless, today was a game that can only be summed up by the phrase “What the hell was that?!”
The two starters gave pretty much what everyone expected. The only thing filthier than Arrieta’s stuff was any close-up of Bumgarner, who goes to his nose so often on the mound that every shot of him looks like he’s trying to cure the Farrelly Brothers’ writers block.
Arrieta’s stuff was great but Bumgarner’s command was even better. And the Cubs did not help themselves at all with odd baserunning, wild pitches, passed balls, and defensive miscues.
And they still only lost by one to a Cy Young frontrunner. Even in defeat, they’re still amazing.
Top Play (WPA): Entering the bottom of the ninth trailing 3-2, Anthony Rizzo began the inning by drawing his patented “walk on a pitch that’s actually a strike” on a 3-1 offering from Will Smith that hit the low inside corner of CSN’s strike zone (+.133).
As Len Kasper pointed out when a similar play led to a walk-off win over the Cardinals a couple weeks ago, Rizzo’s ability to set up so close to home plate plays a major role in getting calls like this. Since the pitch comes so close to hitting him, it looks for all the world like it’s inside to the man making the call.
The tying run was on base with nobody out. Buster Posey leaped in the air and Smith bellowed his protestations to Dan Bellino to no avail. Sometimes parents just don’t understand.
Bottom Play (WPA): Let’s start this section with a theorem that has been repeatedly proven by science…
Sweet Jesus, bunts are the worst*.
*Theorem does not apply to Jon Lester.
But you know what’s worse than bunting? Bunting with your lead-off hitter who’s currently slashing .279/.391/.445.
And you know what’s worse than bunting with your lead-off hitter who’s currently slashing .279/.391/.445? When the tying run mentioned in the previous section is too aggressive rounding second base and gets thrown out scrambling back.
And you know what’s worse than when the tying run mentioned in the previous section is too aggressive rounding second base and gets thrown out scrambling back? When the on-deck hitter is the reigning NL Player of the Month and likely MVP.
This was the Batman v. Superman of bunts. Only one thing could have stopped it. And unfortunately, Dexter Fowler’s mother is not named Martha (-.280).
Key Moment: With the Cubs cutting the early deficit to 2-1 thanks to Javy Baez’s BizarRizzo baserunning, Arrieta looked like he had a decent shot to get through the sixth and give the offense another chance at Bumgarner. With Brandon Crawford on first and one out, Arrieta struck out Joe Panik. Crawford had taken off for second and Willson Contreras threw a bullet to complete the double play.
Unfortunately, in order to do so, the Cubs would need someone to catch the ball. And they had decided that this part was optional.
Addison Russell stopped it from going into center field. This was a useful play but it was, unfortunately, negated when Arrieta mentally began hulking up to strike out Brandon Belt and Crawford took third uncontested. (There being no moment in the history of Marvel comics centered around the phrase “HULK STEP OFF AND CHECK BASERUNNER.”)
On the very next pitch, Arrieta bounced a curveball that sailed past Contreras and Crawford scored what proved to be the deciding run.
Trend to Watch: Here’s something very positive that will not get mentioned in the wake of all this weird baseball. The Cubs put together some outstanding at-bats against Bumgarner today. And while they only scored two runs to show for it, they sent his pitch count over 100 by the sixth inning.
Contreras’s first AB lasted 10 pitches before his double. Matt Szczur didn’t produce when it counted, striking out with the bases loaded in the sixth. But even that sequence lasted 10 pitches, forcing Bumgarner from the game and giving the Cubs three shots at a vulnerable Giants bullpen.
It almost worked today. And that’s what they’re going to need to do against the aces they face in October.
Up Next: Even though these are extremely low leverage games, the Cubs are probably still a bit angry and upset at the mistakes they made today.
So hey, it’s time for John Lackey to come back!
The Cubs’ most vigorous haircut denier (3.41 ERA/3.75 FIP/95 cFIP) goes up against modern day Tiante Johnny Cueto (2.98/3.13/91). The Cubs look to take three of four to finish what is already a great homestand.
The Magic Number currently stands at Neifi Perez. And as you know, more than one day of Neifi is unacceptable.
Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports