What you need to know: For much of the day it looked like the Cardinals were in control of this game and going to take the opening series of 2017 from the Cubs. Fortunately for Chicago, Kyle Schwarber saved the day by hitting a three run home run off of new Cardinal Brent Cecil in the top of the seventh to give the Cubs their first lead of the day, and they never looked back as the Cubs rallied to win the series after dropping the season opener on Sunday.
Next Level: This game had a very lazy feel to it from the start for the Cubs. After going down in order in the top of the first inning off of Lance Lynn (a starter who missed the entire 2016 season), the Cardinals had runners on the corners with one out against John Lackey with Yadier Molina at the plate. Lackey coaxed Molina into hitting into a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play ball, unfortunately Ben Zobrist dropped the ball and his error led to the first Cardinal run.
Matt Adams and Randal Grichuck followed up Zobrist’s error with consecutive singles, and by the end of the inning, the Cardinals had batted around and plated three runs. That looked like it might be the difference as the Cubs offense once again looked out of sorts in the early innings. Lance Lynn went five innings, surrendering only two runs on five hits (two coming from the opposing starting pitcher Lackey), and got Kris Bryant to fly out with the bases loaded to end the top of the fifth inning. The Cardinals added another run in the bottom of the fifth on a Yadier Molina sacrifice fly (in part due to a wild pitch by John Lackey that allowed Alemdys Diaz to advance to third with one out). As Matt Szczur led off the seventh inning, the vaunted Cubs lineup had scored only seven runs in twenty four innings in 2017, far off of the 2016 pace when they plated twenty nine runs in their first three games. Just as the dream of another historic early season run differential campaign was looking like it might not be a reality, fate smiled down on the Cubs.
Szczur swung and missed at strike three on a breaking ball from Cecil, but Molina was unable to locate the ball as it stuck to his chest, and Szczur was able to make it to first safely to lead off the inning. Jon Jay (who had a nice debut for the Cubs reaching base three times) worked a walk off Cecil to put runners at first and second for Schwarber. Schwarber jumped on the first pitch from Cecil, deposited way back into the right field bleachers, and the Cubs didn’t look back. While I was skeptical at first, the idea of Schwarber leading off looks like a no-brainer to me after just three games. He looks like he’s the best hitter on the team, and you could argue that has been the case since he re-entered the lineup in Game One of the 2016 World Series.
Top WPA Play: Schwarber’s home run in the top of the seventh-see above (+.368). Honorable mention goes to Jon Jay’s run scoring single in the top of the fifth, if only because it includes John Lackey going from first to third (+.106).
Bottom WPA Play: Either Kolten Wong’s leadoff double off of Wade Davis to lead of the ninth (-.105) or Matt Adams run scoring single to plate the Cardinals final run in the first inning (-.104).
The Cubs will send Brett Anderson to mound (in his regular season Cubs debut) against Milwaukee tomorrow night, and they will look to tee off against Jimmy Nelson and the Brewers. First pitch is at 7:10 CT, be sure to check back at BP Wrigleyville for the recap!
Lead photo courtesy Scott Kane—USA Today Sports