What You Need to Know:
John Lackey was bad; Joe Panik was great. The defense was spectacular, and the Cubs made it interesting, but in the end it wasn’t enough.
Including the postseason, the Cubs have been 9-1 against the Giants at Wrigley Field in the last two years. As a Giants fan living in Chicago, that was not something I had to look up. I remember that one win fondly, and I will also remember this win fondly. You will not remember this game. The Cubs ran into outs on the bases, and the pitching got clobbered hard enough to make you switch off the game before the Giants pitching staff imploded in the eighth inning forcing you to come back, just so you could watch Willson Contreras ground into a double play.
The Giants took the lead before the first out was recorded, and they never gave it back up. Lackey mostly hit his spots, but he wasn’t fooling the top of the order. The damage in the first would have been more substantial if not for two of the best defensive plays you’ll see all month, if not all year, from Addison Russell and Albert Almora. The Cubs couldn’t capitalize on a gift triple from Gorkys Hernandez, inexplicable major leaguer. Nor could they break through against Ty Blach, who is starting baseball games because Madison Bumgarner sprained his shoulder crashing his dirt bike and who, coming into the game, held a K/9 of 2.86.
I’ve watched almost all of Ty Blach’s starts, and I’m not really sure why he’s successful either. If you throw out his disastrous start against Cincinnati, his ERA drops to 2.56. He doesn’t strike guys out or limit walks at an exceptional rate. He doesn’t have an overpowering (or normal powering) fastball. He’s never been considered to be anything more than a fifth starter, and the pitch-to-contact formula probably won’t elevate him above that. But the Cubs can take solace in the fact that they’re not the only ones to be stymied by Ty Blach.
Top WPA Play:
After Jason Heyward led off the eighth with a grounder through the right side, Javier Baez took Blach deep. The pitch was a fastball down and away, so it wasn’t a terrible pitch by any means. Baez deserves some credit for taking it the other way and over the wall. It was a great at-bat, and if the game had turned out differently, I’d have more interesting things to say about it. But this was the top WPA play in my heart:
Bottom WPA Play:
The Commentator’s Curse is just superstition, but at the start of the game, Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies were talking about the Giants’ solo home run streak of fifteen. Naturally, John Lackey leaked a belt-high fastball over the plate, and Joe Panik knocked it over the wall for a solo home run which gave the Giants a lead they wouldn’t grow up. The Giants now have eighteen straight solo homers, and they’ll try not to break the major league record of 21, held by the 2011 Giants, which is the most Giantsy thing I’ve ever heard. (-.100)
Jon Lester goes against Johnny Cueto tomorrow night for a rematch of NLDS Game 1, which was a pitcher’s duel for the ages. So get ready for a slugfest wherein both pitchers are knocked out in the third.
Lead photo courtesy Caylor Arnold—USA Today Sports