While it’s easy for myself and other and other BP Wrigleyville writers to fault Jason Hammel for his lack of recent success, the reality is that Hammel for the vast majority of the season was one of the top fifth starters in baseball. While this sounds like a back handed compliment it’s not; over time a strong fifth starter can have a large impact on a team’s season. For example you could make an argument that the Dodgers have seized the NL West from the Giants because despite San Francisco having Bumgarner and Cueto at the top of their rotation, having Matt Cain and Co. anchor the back half of their rotation has weighed the team/bullpen down and has set the Giants up for a possible historical collapse. The opposite could be said about Jason Hammel and the Cubs; Hammel’s performance in 2016 and his ability to delay his usual second half struggles until the end of August enabled the Cubs to maintain the momentum from the other four starters and avoid bullpen overuse. This in turn led to the continuation of long winning streaks that helped the Cubs clinch the 2016 NL Central title before the Bears played their second game of the season. Really this is a long way of saying that I’m glad the Cubs have already banked enough wins to clinch their division and largely put NL home field advantage out reach (Magic number for home field is currently at eight with fourteen games left to play) because today’s game against the Brewers was pretty frustrating.
The Cubs left eleven runners on base and were zero for ten with runners in scoring position, most of which came against what looked to be a very hittable Wily Peralta (he of the 5.21 ERA coming in). Peralta’s final line looks pretty astounding: six innings pitched, five strikeouts, nine hits, one walk, and only one run (earned) allowed. The Cubs had multiple runners on base in the second through fourth innings (including loading the bases in the bottom of the third with one out), but came away empty in each of these innings. The Cubs only run today came on a two out Tommy La Stella double in the bottom of the sixth that plated Javier Baez.
If you want to stay positive since the above paragraph might make you want to do this to the Cubs hitters (and potentially to the author of this recap), the Cubs remain thirty nine games over five hundred are currently the only team in major league baseball to reach the ninety win mark. Here are three positives jumped out at me today:
- When Tommy La Stella left
for his mid-summer run in a Frankie Valli productionto clear his head in late July he sported a very healthy .295/.388/.457 slash line. Prior to Friday’s walk off win against the Brewers La Stella’s slash line had fallen to .270/.364/.418 leading to questions over whether or not he would able to make the Cub’s playoff roster. But in the past three games La Stella is four for his last eight (with a walk), and looks to be getting his timing back. La Stella’s potential resurgence will only give Joe Maddon more postseason options now that his off the bench 2016 Statcast darling has returned to his normal self.
- Though he ran into trouble today in the top of the second, Kyle Hendricks was solid once again. Hendricks final line: six innings pitched, six hits, two runs (earned), nine strikeouts(!), and no walks.
- Trevor Cahill, Travis Wood, and Joe Smith are all in competition to be in postseason bullpen and they all made appearances in today’s game. Combined line for these three relievers: two and two thirds innings pitched, no hits, no runs, three strikeouts, and one walk. At minimum if these three remain hot they can provide additional bullpen depth in case Pedro Strop has a setback.
Top Play (WPA): Tommy La Stella’s aforementioned two-out double in the bottom of the sixth plated the Cubs’ only run of the day.
Bottom Play (WPA): After Travis Wood struck out Scooter Gennett on three pitches to record the second out of the top of the eighth inning, Joe Maddon heeded the advice of the BP Wrigleyville staff and removed Wood in favor of Felix Pena with right-hander Chris Carter coming up. It did not go as planned. Although it didn’t hit the scoreboard like his grand slam yesterday, Carter’s home run on a 3-2 pitch from Pena was nonetheless a punch to the gut.
Coming Next: The Cincinnati Reds come to town for a three-game set with Jason Hammel taking the mound tomorrow night as this recap officially comes full circle. Jon Lester and John Lackey (not Mike Montgomery) are also scheduled to pitch against the Reds in this series. All games start at 7:05 CT, make sure to check back for the BP Wrigleyville series preview.
Lead photo courtesy Matt Marton—USA Today Sports