What You Need To Know:
Another frustrating offensive performance, another poor Jake Arrieta start. The Cubs threatened by putting two men on in the first, and Arrieta cruised through the bottom half, but that was as good as it got. A pair of two-run home runs put the Cardinals up 4-0 through three, and that was the way it stayed until Yadier Molina added his second of the game in the eighth. Chicago got a man on base in every inning of Wainwright’s start except the fifth, but rarely threatened to score, notching just one extra-base hit.
Arrieta’s historical dominance against the Cardinals did not continue, as both Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter took him deep, making it eight home runs already this year. Carpenter was 0-for-27 coming into the game against Arrieta. The command simply wasn’t there for the 31-year-old, who was missing his spots regularly and St Louis took advantage. Arrieta even hit Kolten Wong with a pitch after getting ahead 0-2 in the third, Wong scoring on Carpenter’s home run. The peripherals still look fine—a 5:1 K/BB ratio closely matched his season line—but the fastball velocity remains down at 91-92 and hitters are having no trouble making hard contact. There were five extra-base hits in total in this game, a number that is going to get a pitcher in trouble no matter how good their peripherals are.
The offense hadn’t scored 3 or fewer runs in four consecutive games since early July last year, in a series against the Mets. August 2015 was the last time the Cubs went five games without scoring more than three runs. Ian Happ has impressed in his first two games, adding a double today to go with his first home run in his debut yesterday, but with Bryant out sick the rest of the lineup offered little. As noted on the broadcast, the entire team is barely hitting above the Mendoza Line in May. Adam Wainwright has been thoroughly hittable in 2017, yet the Cubs could only record four hits over his seven innings, making it Wainwright’s longest start of the year despite his four walks.
It’s tempting to panic after stretches like this, when the Cubs can’t even seem to hit pitchers who have performed as poorly as Wainwright has, and yet this is entirely within the bounds of normal variance for a 95-win team. In fact, the Cubs have been playing a lot of teams that have been very good so far this year, as Joe Sheehan pointed out:
— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) May 14, 2017
To only face one opponent in the bottom half of the league through almost 40 games is quite incredible. With the likes of the Giants and Padres coming up in the next couple of weeks, that strength of schedule is going to change. There’s still plenty this team is doing right, but there are also adjustments that need to be made, as Randy Holt noted yesterday.
Top WPA Play:
Depressingly, it was a Kyle Schwarber walk to lead off the top of the third (+.041). This was certainly not Chicago’s best offensive game of the year.
Bottom WPA Play:
Both of the two-run homers were close, but it was Molina’s shot that initially gave the Cardinals the lead in the second (-.165), just edging out Carpenter’s hitless streak-ending bomb an inning later.
Lead photo courtesy Scott Kane—USA Today Sports