What You Need To Know: Bullpens gonna bullpen.
Next Level: Before delving into yet another late-inning full-body dry heave, it should be mentioned just how impressive Jameson Taillon was today. I’m bullish on the Pirates this year, and it mostly has to do with the three pitchers we’ve seen this series. Glasnow still needs a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but once he does they’re going to have about as good of a top three anywhere in the NL.
Taillon was utterly dominant, giving up just an unearned run as he worked deeper into a game than he ever has (at least pitch-count wise) with only Baez and La Stella able to manage anything other than a single. There really is nothing in baseball quite as pleasing as a drop-you-dead curveball, and Taillon has one to go with his plus-heat. He made Rizzo look completely helpless in one AB. So while the bullpen is going to get most of the attention, and rightly so, the blow up might not have mattered as much if Taillon hadn’t held the Cubs head in the toilet most of the game.
So right. The pen. Maddon is still obviously figuring out what goes where, and we know Uehara will be a part of it. He just had a bad day, and Frazier is the type of lefty he might have problems with because he’s more than happy to serve that change out into left field whereas others will hack over it. With no outs, I didn’t like the surrender to Josh Bell, who is struggling and a double-play would have tied the game anyway. Luck wasn’t in either, as Mercer’s hit was basically an apology that landed in front of Almora.
At least Rondon looked good in inducing four weakly-hit balls, which still resulted in two runs when Willson Contreras could quite control all of his limbs. Not that any are his fault. Rizzo’s throw to the plate was in an awkward spot, and it’s hard to keep your foot on the plate, as there’s nothing to anchor your foot to. Heyward also would have been polite to have his throw in the same zip code as the plate, and Rondon probably needs to read the throw better so he can actually back up (though the ricochet off Contreras would have left him superfluous anyway). So the numbers won’t look good on Rondon but we know better for today.
It sucks when most of your pen is having a bad week all at the same time, but I’ll still take my chances with Rondon, Strop, Edwards, and Uehara. Also, it doesn’t help that Edwards is on leave.
After a very Joe West-y start, Jon Lester was able to match Taillon and even better him, giving up nothing through seven innings. He has an ERA of 1.00 on the year, and the Cubs have lost two of his three starts and needed a walk-off in the other. Baseball, man.
Top WPA Play: This was Tommy La Stella’s eighth inning pinch hit double, which put the Cubs briefly ahead 1-0. (+.175)
Bottom WPA Play: It was Frazier’s double in the eighth (and man does this kid look like he’s going to be annoying for a while), which put runners on second and third with nobody out. (-.252)
Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports