What You Need To Know: Once again, a Cubs starter decided to pull the “Hey Rocky, watch my offense pull a rabbit out of my hat!” routine and give up some first inning runs. It was Jake Arrieta again, though this time it was only two runs, and the offense was able to eradicate that deficit eventually. After last night’s heroics from Javy and The War Bear, tonight it was Heyward and Slick Willy C (I’m working on it) who came up with the big hits in the four-run sixth that put the Cubs ahead. It was a fine sight for Cubs fans, as Contreras has had a rough start this season.
From there it was another cast of darkness from the bullpen, as Uehara, Rondon, and Weigh Davis took the baton from Arrieta to the finish line, with only a small hiccup from Rondon in the eighth when he hung a slider to Maikel Franco.
Next Level: Arrieta definitely had his best stuff of the season tonight. The cutter/slider/whathaveya has some real bite to it, and he featured a tight slide-piece a few times tonight. A ratio of striking out seven and walking one is always going to do everyone a favor. Still, because I’m the paranoid sort, it looked a little like last year where Arrieta was reaching back just a bit more than usual. Jake has never been an “easy-cheese” kind of guy where it looks like he’s not putting any effort into it. But last year we definitely saw him put a little more oomph into things on some nights, which led to him not having his best control. He didn’t really tonight, missing some spots, but not nearly as badly as he did in Boston. Most everything stayed in the zone, but with the movement he was getting that still made it awfully hard to contact. Maybe I’m just being nitpicky. We’ll take it, is what I’m saying.
– Contreras has had his issues this year with swinging over some breaking pitches. So it was very encouraging tonight to see him take a slider at the knees or just below and not go hack-happy with it, but merely guide it into left field for a two-run double. The way he’s been going, you wouldn’t have been shocked with him swinging for a homer to make it all ok, but he’s always had a more mature approach than that. Hopefully a harbinger.
– I had a small fit when Heyward swung at a 3-0 pitch high and outside the zone, even though he lined it out to left, because the Cubs had been hitting liners right at Phillies all night, and I figured this was another one. Shows what I know, and everyone by now knows how I feel about solid contact to the opposite field.
– Arrieta’s outing might have looked a little better if Zobrist wasn’t playing right field like it was Strawberry Field. Herrera’s double was a tracer and would have been a tough play for everyone, but you feel like Heyward would have read it better. On Stassi’s double that led to their run in the fourth, Zobrist got back to the wall in plenty of time, he just jumped about two feet to the left of where the ball was. I’m not complaining too much. We can’t have everything. Baez at second means Zobrist in right or on the bench. There are just going to be nights like this. Arrieta was able to pitch over it.
Top WPA Play: Contreras’s double, duh, that put the Cubs ahead 4-3 in the sixth (+.319).
Bottom WPA Play: Maikel Franco’s single in the first that gave the Phils the lead, while he moved to second on Zobrist’s throw where he would later score. (-.100)
Lead photo courtesy Matt Marton—USA Today Sports