What You Need to Know: David Freese recommenced his career-long effort to irritate Cub fans, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI. This included the game-tying single in the Pirates’ sixth after the Cubs had just taken a 2-1 lead in the previous inning. Francisco Cervelli followed with a two run double and the Pirates survived two harrowing rallies in the late innings for a 4-2 win.
Freese’s career since the day he resolved to quit baseball continues to be the most feel good story since Manchester By the Sea.
Next Level: The Cubs put themselves in position to steal this game several times with the kind of lengthy, patient at bats we’ve grown accustomed to over the past two years. It was their best weapon against Gerrit Cole, who entered the game allowing a career slashline of .238/.281/.269 with 11.0 K/9 at Wrigley Field.
Between the Pirates’ ace and Mr. Hamels of Texas, it’s clear the Cubs don’t do that well against guys named Cole. I’d make a joke about Cole Porter here but it’s kind of depressing to realize the Cub who has performed best against anyone named Cole is Gary Pressy.
So the Cubs approached Cole the best way they know how—by making him work with innings of 20 and 25 pitches to the point where his count soared well into the 110s by the end of the sixth. That gave them three shots against a Pirates bullpen who have vomited forth a 5.67 ERA to this point in the season. And while they couldn’t push across a run today, that formula will serve them quite well throughout the course of the year.
Incidentally, you might remember Cole pitching well against the Cubs in May of last year and then informing the media that “I don’t really think they’re the best team in baseball.” So it’s a good thing he’ll be in the ballpark tomorrow for Replica World Series Trophy Day. Sponsored by the Great Taste of Crow.
Top Play (WPA): With the score tied at 1-1 in the fifth, Javy Baez scorched a line drive double just off a diving Freese’s glove down the third base line. It’s always nice when the only player on the field who can catch such a ball is the guy who hit it. The line-up rolled over to Kyle Schwarber, who pulled a sharply hit single to right field to score Baez and give the Cubs a brief 2-1 lead (+.120). John Jaso barely had time to react to it before it was by him, presumably because he was busy singing the chorus to “Mr. Jones.”
Bottom Play (WPA): Here’s where the Cubs lineup can be fun. Tony Watson got two quick outs in the ninth with the bases empty and a two run lead. That’s such an easy save opportunity, Mel Rojas only blows it 70 percent of the time.
Except the next three batters were Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo. Since he wasn’t the tying run, Schwarber was going to take a strike–a strategy foiled by Watson’s refusal to give him one, as the resulting four pitch walk to brought up the tying run. Bryant hit a slow chopper to third that required a good play by Freese. He gave it the opposite, bobbling the ball for an E-5. Suddenly Anthony Rizzo found himself the winning run at the plate. Watson knew of only one way to deal with this threat: hit him on the knee.
Suddenly, the Cubs had the bases loaded without the benefit of anything close to a hit. Unfortunately, Ben Zobrist hit a soft liner to short to end the game (-.174). But even in what appears to be the safest of save situations, the top three spaces in Joe Maddon’s line-up card qualify as an installment in the Saw franchise to pitchers. It didn’t work out today but this will again play well down the road.
Up Next: The Cubs and Pirates will go to it again tomorrow afternoon at 1:20. Jake Arrieta faces Tyler Glasnow.
Lead photo courtesy Caylor Arnold—USA Today Sports