Game 33 Recap: Cubs 8, Rockies 1

What You Need To Know: My baseball playing days ended many years ago. But when I was a kid, I loved doubleheaders. I’m sure if I were a professional athlete playing a double header on the road—which, for the Cubs, followed an eighteen inning marathon against the Yankees—my opinion would be different. The Cubs dropped the first game of the day 10-4 because Coors Field. Tonight, the Rockies sent rookie Kyle Freeland against veteran John Lackey. It was a surprisingly effective start from the 38-year-old. So far this season, Lackey’s pitching has earned him an unimpressive 5.67 DRA and 103 cFIP. In tonight’s matchup, though, Lackey hurled seven strong innings, keeping the Rockies scoreless over pitches. He struck out 10 and walked just two batters while giving up only four hits. His ERA has dropped to 4.29.

Next Level: Lackey was dealing tonight. First, he averaged 15 pitches per inning, with his highest tally being 19 pitches thrown in the bottom of the sixth. In his final frame in the bottom of the seventh, Lackey threw 12 pitches. According to BrooksBaseball, Lackey threw a cutter for the first time this season. In his previous starts, Lackey relied on a fastball, sinker, changeup, slider, and curveball. Tonight, the right-hander dropped the sinker and slider from his repertoire and relied on a cut-fastball instead.

Lackey peppered the lower part of the zone with the cutter.

John Lackey's strikezone plot from May 9, 2017

John Lackey strikezone plot 5.9.17

How effective was the pitch? Lackey generated a 23.8 percent whiff rate and 40.0 percent whiffs-per-swing. I’m not yet convinced that Lackey has “turned the page,” as cliches go. But it is an offering that showed promise tonight.

Top WPA Play: The wheels fell off for Colorado in the top of the second. 26th man and top prospect Jeimer Candelario drew a walk to start the inning. Addison Russell reached first on a fielder’s choice, but an error allowed Candelario to advance to third and Russell to advance to second. Willson Contreras then drew a walk to load the bases. Lackey (!) singled to center, bringing in Candelario to score and moving the runners. And then, with the bases loaded, Albert Almora Jr. singled on a grounder to DJ LeMaheiu. Another Rockies error, this time by LeMaheiu, brought two more runs across as Russell and Contreras scored (+.097).

Bottom WPA Play: Also in the top of the second, in between Russell reaching on a fielder’s choice and Contreras’ base-on-balls, Javier Baez hit a grounder back to the pitcher (-.049).

That’s it.

Lead photo courtesy Isaiah J. Downing—USA Today Sports

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