Game 2 Recap: Cubs 2 Cardinals 1

What you need to know: The elite Cubs defense from 2016 has not gone anywhere. Kris Bryant made a couple of really nice plays at third. Javy Baez did his thing at second base (including making a very nice game-ending play), and Jason Heyward was his usual self back in right field. But the play of the day (so far the play of the young major league season) belonged to Albert Almora.

Next Level: Jake Arrieta is a free agent after this season, and as such whether or not he can pitch more like the 2015 Jake Arrieta than the 2016 Jake Arrieta will determine to what extent teams want to open the checkbook for him. Luckily for Arrieta, no matter how his season turns out the proceeds of his next contract will assuredly be enough to fund a future venture in tattoo removal.

On this night we saw neither the 2015 Jake Arrieta nor the 2016 Jake Arrieta—instead we got the hybrid Arrieta performance. Arrieta’s finished with a line of six innings pitched, allowing one run, six strikeouts, and two walks on ninety pitches. At the onset of the game Arrieta came out firing by striking out four of the first six batters he faced; Arrieta’s sinker was on tonight, especially in the early going. The Cardinals really didn’t manage any solid contact off of Arrieta, but in the middle innings a combination of faltering command and a couple of flukey plays (poor Stephen Piscotty) allowed the Cardinals to scratch across a run.

After getting the first two outs in the sixth inning, the Cardinals loaded the bases on Arrieta and brought newly minted Cubs killer Randal Grichuk to the plate. Fortunately for the Cubs, Arrieta was able to get Grichuk to pop out to end the threat. They mentioned this on the CSN broadcast, and I’d have to confirm to with Pitch f/x (which was down tonight), but it seems like Arrieta was throwing a lot of curveballs, particularly on consecutive pitches, towards the end of his start. I’m not sure if this was in the game plan or just Willson Contreras and Arrieta adjusting on the fly. It bears watching in the future to see if this is how Arrieta adjusts when he has his momentary lapses with his fastball command.

The bullpen (Koji Uehara, Pedro Strop, Wade Davis) pitched the final three innings, and overall they looked more settled tonight than Sunday. That said, there was a little bit of shakiness at times, and they needed every bit of the Cubs elite defense to pull out this win. Ironically, given his history at Busch Stadium, Pedro Strop was the only member to retire the side in order.

Top WPA Play: Since there were only three total runs scored, the top play of the game naturally is one of these instances. Jason Heyward was able to drive in the first of the Cubs runs in the fourth inning on a bloop single into left field. Heyward’s single came after an Addison Russell double (the Cubs only extra base hit on the night), and a Willson Contreras walk. This was Heyward’s only hit of the game and it wasn’t barreled up, so I would advise against drawing conclusions one way or the other, but hey, you have to start somewhere (+.150).

Bottom WPA Play: The Cardinals scored their only run of the game in the fifth inning as a runner on second scored on a ball that never left the infield. Javy Baez, who is very familiar with such plays, was unable to barehand a slow roller off the bat of Kolten Wong, and didn’t react quick enough to prevent Stephen Piscotty from scoring—and was subsequently charged with two errors on the play. To make matters worse, Baez’s errant throw home missed Willson Contreras’ mitt and instead nailed Piscotty directly on his helmet ear flap, leaving him motionless on the ground for some time. Piscotty would later have to leave the game with a head contusion. Obviously, it’s no one’s fault, but it’s more fun to beat rival teams when they are at full strength, so here’s hoping Piscotty makes a speedy and safe (important to mention given professional teams past shenanigans when dealing with head injuries) recovery (-.129).

Alas, the Cubs are back at .500, and our long national nightmare is over. The Cubs will send John Lackey to mound looking for a series win, and they will look to tee off against Lance Lynn, who will be making his first major league appearance since October 2015. First pitch is at 12:45 CT, be sure to check back at BP Wrigleyville for the recap!

Lead photo courtesy Jeff Curry—USA Today Sports

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2 comments on “Game 2 Recap: Cubs 2 Cardinals 1”

Forgot how much I missed these every morning.

BTW – Your Pythag/Ranking graphic still reads “2016” instead of 2017.

Jared Wyllys

Thanks! We’re going to get that fixed.

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