Game 17 Recap: Cubs 12, Reds 8

What you need to know:

With seven runs in the first two innings and 12 runs overall, the Cubs continued to beat the Reds pitching staff like a rented donkey.

Jake Arrieta had a rough start but not in the way you would expect: he did not walk a single batter for the first time in a long time, and instead got hit hard early on. Arrieta settled down after the second inning and didn’t allow a baserunner past first base thereafter, striking out eight batters overall.

Arrieta also quieted some of the talk about his fastball being, well, slow, by touching 94.8 mph in the fourth inning and being consistently in the 92-93 mph range throughout the day.

And Bryant ended the game on a slipping, tripping dribbler that looked a lot like the World Series clinching play. Good times.

Next Level:

The list of bespeckled hurlers who found MLB success contains luminaries like Fernando Valenzuela, Eric Gagne, Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, and Cubs “standout” Kevin Gregg, but also includes Aron Finklestein, who is only known in Wikipedia as a guy who “once threw a fastball over the backstop.”

I’m afraid Reds SP Cody Reed inspired a lot more melancholia than Fernandomania in Reds fans today. Reed ostensibly focused on avoiding the strike zone until the Cubs had two or three base runners, which is when he shifted his focus to throwing pitches the Cubs could hit over the fence. Perhaps he grabbed the wrong rec specs on the way to the ballpark.

Reed’s day went like this: In the first, he walked Kyle Schwarber and Bryant in front of last night’s hero Anthony Rizzo, who deposited one of Reed’s rare strikes over the right field fence. Reed’s second inning started better with two quick outs. After a Bryant double and walks to Rizzo and Addison Russell, however, Willson Contreras provided Reed’s merciful coup de grâce with a grand salami to end his start after 69 pitches “scattered” over two innings. All four baserunners Reed allowed via unintentional free passes scored on subsequent home runs.

I mentioned the Cubs defense earlier this week because it seems a bit sloppy right now, and the first two innings of today’s game provided two examples that led to four of the Reds’ five runs off Arrieta:  

  • 1st Inning: On a ground ball toward second base, Baez was presented with the decision to tag the runner running from first or throwing the ball to Russell standing on second base. Baez took the road less traveled, an unexpected third option: flipping the ball into left field, recording no outs and may god have mercy on his soul. In the following at-bat, Joey Votto had no such mercy, however, as he smoked a hanging Arrieta slider over the right field wall. What should have been a double play turned a relatively benign solo homer into a three-run, game-tying shot. Aggregate sloppy run count: two.
  • 2nd Inning: One-hop comebacker to Arrieta, who leisurely threw to second base and pulled Baez away from first base, preventing a relay throw. Failing to get that double play allowed Votto to come to the plate later that inning with the bases loaded, where he promptly blooped a two-run single into left field. Aggregate sloppy run count: four.

In an interesting twist, Heyward decided he’d seen enough of the infield bungling double play opportunities and submitted this eleventeen-star play in the bottom of the third.

Later, Heyward made his mark with the lumber, hitting his second home run of the season. The jury is still out on Heyward’s offense this season, as his batting average (.295) looks good, but that’s supported by a high BABIP of .326. Until recently, he was mostly hitting singles and generating an ISO of .089. But with his first two home runs of the season, both 395+ foot bombs, that may be changing. At the very least, Heyward is hitting the ball harder this year: through Saturday’s game, Heyward has hit 14 balls with an exit velocity at or above 98 mph, which puts him on pace to hit about 133 such balls this season. Last season, he hit a mere 96 balls that hard. His launch angle on these hard hit balls, though, leaves a little to be desired: 5.4° this season as compared to 4° last season. Kris Bryant, by comparison, had an average launch angle of 21.5° on balls he hits at or above 98 mph last season, and is at 27° this season.

Top WPA play:

Willson Contreras’ 400-foot grand slam in the 2nd inning (+.330). 

Bottom WPA play:

Joey Votto’s three-run home run in the 1st inning after a botched double-play ball (-.146)

Lead photo courtesy David Kohl—USA Today Sports

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