What You Need to Know: Ben Zobrist led off the ballgame with a homer, and the Cubs never looked back. Jake Arrieta returned to form with a fine performance. Kris Bryant added two home runs—one pulled, one opposite field—and Anthony Rizzo iced the cake with one of his own on the way to a comfortable victory over the first-place Brewers.
Next Level: Despite a tight bottom of the strike zone, Arrieta turned in six innings of one-run, five-hit ball. He floated through the first four innings relatively unscathed, allowing him to keep his pitch count down. Versus righties, his curveball looked very sharp—he used the rotation of his crossfire motion to spin the ball more effectively than usual, it seemed. Versus lefties, his changeup helped him escape a few tight situations. With that nasty change, he struck out Travis Shaw to end the fifth. It was one of six on the afternoon for the righty, who might be righting the ship after an uneasy year of drifting mechanics.
The only thing that kept Arrieta from continuing into the seventh and beyond was a high pitch count, inflated in the fifth and sixth innings. The Brewers only tallied one hit in the fifth, but Arrieta botched a Chase Anderson bunt with a runner on first, allowing both runners to be safe.
One other bright spot: Ben Zobrist. He led off the ballgame with a no-doubt homer, and he made hard contact throughout the game. In the second, he smoked a line drive directly to the right fielder, and in the sixth, he flew out deep to center. The former Olivet Nazarene attendee is still a lynchpin in the Cubs’ offense—especially with Kyle Schwarber scuffling—and so his success should help impel the Cubs beyond the .500 mark.
The outfield configuration of Kyle Schwarber-Ian Happ-Jason Heyward, left-to-right, is the best possible offensive alignment for the Cubs at this point in the year. But, as I wrote recently, the Cubs have room to grow in the green expanse of Wrigley’s outfield. Happ is a fringe-average defender, and Schwarber’s defense is [redacted]. Heyward is the definition of “elite,” but he can only patrol a portion of the outfield if he stays in right. Joe Maddon would be wise to slide Heyward to center when these three play to optimize outfield defense.
Top Play (WPA): The Zobrist dinger, naturally, snags the top spot by win probability added (+.100). Ian Happ’s first-inning near homer of the right-field wall, resulting in an RBI double, was the game’s second-most impactful play (+.091).
Bottom Play (WPA): Jonathan Villar doubled in the first to lead off the game (-.059), but was halted at third at inning’s end. The Brewers threatened only once thereafter, an indication of Arrieta’s strong performance and the Cubs’ throttle on the game.
Lead photo courtesy David Banks—USA Today Sports