What you need to know:
After an 80-minute rainout, the Cubs opted to start the game in the midst of a 15-minute torrential downpour. The first pitch couldn’t wait another 15 minutes, I guess. Perhaps the team wanted to ensure that their starters continue giving up first inning runs. And Brett Anderson played along, if damply and begrudgingly, giving up four runs in the first before failing to escape the second inning with the Cubs down 7-0.
An unusual combination of 40-degree temperatures and the wind howling out to dead center at a clip of 16+mph provided the opportunity for a dramatic comeback. So you’re saying there’s a chance? Yes, but alas it was not to be. The offense couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain, generating just two runs, including a Javy Baez oppo-bomb.
Coming into the game, Cubs’ starters had surrendered an MLB-”leading” 28 runs in the first inning, an average of 1.17 R/Inn., with a FIP of 7.19, due in no small part to giving up a ton of hard contact. Tonight’s starter, Brett Anderson, sadly started the game as one of a barbershop quartet of Cubs starters getting killed to start games. Cubs’ starters average exit velocity in first innings this year is much higher than their overall exit velocity:
Over an admittedly small sample of just 21 batters faced, the first inning has sapped Anderson of his ground ball super-power: Anderson has induced ground balls on 58 percent of balls in play in his career, but in first innings this year he has generated just 35.7 percent, while giving up line drives on 50 percent of balls in play. He’s also walking 20 percent of batters faced in the dreaded opening frame. Combine all that with the exit velocity numbers above, that’s, well . . . not good.
Anderson’s first inning tonight was a perfect storm of those problems. Cesar Hernandez started the game with a bloop single, followed by a 108.5 mph rocket double by Aaron Altherr, and after a groundout, strikeout, and a walk, Tommy Joseph crushed a 107.4 mph bomb to left center. The Phillies continued the hit parade in the second inning, and Anderson was removed to watch the rest of the game while his ginger whiskers dried out on the bench.
The most positive sign for Cub fans? Javy Baez’s solo home run to right-center. Baez has been very #bad at the plate this season, swinging at a career-high 54.6 percent of pitches, making contact on just 55 percent of those swings—or about 20 percent below his contact rate in 2016. All that whiffing has his strikeout rate sailing to a 2014-ish 31.4 percent. So Baez’s opposite field home run may foreshadow a turnaround, though he still looked somewhat lost and frustrated at the dish the much of the night.
Joe Maddon did his best to entertain the fans remaining at the park post-11 pm local time by playing three catchers at the same time: Miguel Montero (1B), Willson Contreras (3B), and Kyle Schwarber (C) all took the field in the eighth inning, with Contreras and Montero combining to retire the first batter on a 5-3 grounder. Weeeeeeee! Sadly, Joe did not get a position player on the mound for the ninth inning.
Top WPA Play:
Baez’s homer (+.018), narrowly edging a Heyward walk (.012) and a Rizzo HBP (.012) for top “honors.”
Bottom WPA Play:
Joseph’s 3-run dinger off Anderson in the first inning (-.222), which put the Phillies ahead once and for all.
Lead photo courtesy Caylor Arnold—USA Today Sports