What You Need to Know
Jon Lester was imperfect tonight and the Reds tagged him for five runs in 5 2/3 innings, but the Cubs’ offense refused to die yet again as Anthony Rizzo tied the game with a three-run homer in the ninth. The Cubs finally caught up to the formerly first-place Reds. April is weird.
In the first inning, Heyward came up to the plate with two men on and two men out after Addison Russell drew a walk on five pitches. The Reds’ starter, Tim Adleman, was looking vulnerable and was having trouble hitting his spots. Heyward came up and took a big swing on a first-pitch changeup, but whiffed on it. He eventually struck out despite only seeing one pitch in the strike zone. The pitch he struck out on was another changeup but it wasn’t a particularly well-thrown changeup. Heyward looked overly anxious, as if he were looking for Adleman’s subpar fastball the entire at-bat. Adleman didn’t seem to notice that as the next time Heyward came up, he opened the at-bat with a fastball down the middle. It was a bad pitch, and even the bad Heyward should have been able to punish it. But this is the old new and improved Heyward and he didn’t just crush it, he murdered it dead.
The way Jon Lester was pitching at that point, it seemed like Heyward’s dinger would be all the Cubs would need. That was, uh, not the case.
Lester came into the game having only given up two runs in his first three starts. In the first two innings, Lester looked like he was going to dismantle the Reds lineup. He was hitting his spots and mixing his cutter and fastball well enough to induce weak contact. In the third inning, though, the Reds started squaring up the ball and hitting it hard, though they struggled to hit the ball in the air. Lester was fortunate that perhaps the most well-hit ball of the inning, a line drive off the bat of Scott Schebler, found Jason Heyward’s glove.
In the fourth, the Reds continued to rake off of Lester, tallying three doubles and three runs against him in the inning. This time, Lester had some bad luck as Cozart knocked in the first run with a broken bat double that fell in just fair down the left field line. Barnhart was intentionally walked to get to Adleman. It was a good decision. It just didn’t work out as Adleman roped a two-run double.
Lester pitched into sixth inning but could only get two outs before surrendering a single and his first walk of the night. Jason Grimm came into the game and the Reds came close to blowing the game open after Grimm got squeezed on a 3-2 pitch that should have ended the inning. Lester ended the night with five earned runs. The last time Lester gave up five earned runs in a start? October 1, 2016 in Cincinnati. If one team is going to have Lester’s number, at least it would just be the Reds.
Lester wasn’t at the top of his game, but it’s not like he was hanging belt-high fastballs out over the plate all game. The Reds were able to beat some good pitches and they punished some imperfect ones. The Reds were fortunate that they bunched all of their hits and baserunners together. The Cubs did not have that same luck.
The Cubs had opportunities throughout the game but they couldn’t capitalize. In the first inning, the Cubs failed to plate either of the two baserunners they had. In the second, Baez laced a double off the left field wall but got thrown out trying to take third on a ball in the dirt that didn’t go anywhere. In the sixth, the Cubs got runners on second and third, but Eugenio Suarez prevented Willson Contreras hard hit grounder from tying the game. The next inning, Baez was hit by a pitch and Jon Jay singled. Baez rather adventurously took third allowing Jay to move to second on the throw. But neither Schwarber or Bryant could bring them home. In the eighth, the Cubs got their first two batters on but also failed to score after a fielder’s choice, a pop-up, and a ground out.
Finally, in the ninth, Montero got on to lead off the inning and Schwarber doubled, but Kris Bryant lined out softly leaving it up to Anthony Rizzo. Once again, a Reds pitcher made a mistake with a fastball over the plate and Rizzo demolished it and most of the recap I had already written.
The Cubs took the lead again on Bryant’s sacrifice fly in the eleventh inning and never gave it back up.
Top WPA Play
For the second game in a row, the Cubs have come from behind in the ninth inning with a three-run homer this time off the bat of Anthony Rizzo. This probably won’t continue just like Jon Lester getting out pitched by Tim Adleman probably won’t, but it sure is fun. (The Dingers, not the Lester getting lit up) Rizzo flew out on a similarly located pitch in the first. Whereas Heyward stuck to his game plan, Rizzo made a slight adjustment. Statcast had the exit velocity at 108 MPH. The only question was whether it would stay high enough to clear the wall. (+.352)
Bottom WPA Play
All Lester had to do to escape the fourth inning with just one run scored was get the pitcher out, but Lester, either through overconfidence or an honest goof, threw Adleman two fastballs down the heart of the plate. Two runs scored and Lester should probably consider himself lucky the ball didn’t go out. To that point, Lester had done well to make his pitch; the Reds were just beating the location. Even the home run to Duvall in the fifth wasn’t in a terrible spot. Contreras set the target down and away. The pitched leaked toward the center of the plate, but Duvall still had to go down to get it. The second pitch to Adleman, though, was his worst of the night and he paid for it. (-.215)
Lead photo courtesy David Kohl—USA Today Sports