What you need to know: The Cubs, having taken three of four from the visiting San Francisco Giants to conclude an impressive and encouraging 7-2 homestand, were no match for Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Alex Wood, who threw five dominant shutout innings to extend his scoreless streak to 25 1/3 innings. The Cubs would open their west coast swing with a 4-0 shutout at the hands of their 2016 NLCS counterpart.
Next level: The Cubs have played some of their best baseball of late, but there are a couple things to remember: they won’t win every game, and the Dodgers are a far better team than the Giants, Reds and Brewers, all three of whom the Cubs dispatched effectively on their most recent homestand.
The difference-maker is multi-faceted, and it starts with the game’s biggest factor: Alex Wood. He entered Friday night’s contest at Dodger Stadium on a surprising run of scoreless innings against opponents, hoping to extend that against a Cubs lineup that has recently appeared to be finding its stroke.
Wood stopped them dead in their tracks Friday night, pitching five scoreless innings. The Cubs could only muster two hits against Wood, who also walked two and struck out eight, lowering his ERA on the season to a nice 1.69 across 48 innings (eight starts) this season.
Sometimes, you face a buzzsaw when he’s at his best, which is what the Cubs got with Alex Wood. The Cubs were efficient against him; hits and runs were hard to come by, but they worked counts, forcing him up to 91 pitches after five and as a result, chasing him out of the game relatively early. While the Cubs will always have a two-hit shutout to their credit for Friday, May 26, 2017 in the history books, they did put up a fight against a good pitcher in an impressive rhythm.
In most cases, chasing the dominant starter is the key, but the Dodgers entered Friday boasting a National League-best 2.94 bullpen ERA, and their efficiency this season came out in full form. Pedro Baez and Chris Hatcher combined for four hitless shutout innings, allowing just one walk between the two of them.
On the other side of the coin, Jake Arrieta didn’t pitch his best game; sure, his stuff looked great at times, but he surrendered four earned runs on five hits in six innings, bringing his ERA on the season to a very uncharacteristic 4.92. All told, the Cubs fell to the Dodgers 4-0. Indeed, you can’t win ‘em all.
Top WPA Play: In a game that could be deemed rather uneventful on both sides of the scoreboard, Chase Utley’s third inning leadoff homer against Arrieta (.125) serves as the biggest difference-maker of the evening. It opened the scoring for the Dodgers, and they never looked back.
Bottom WPA Play: Legitimate scoring chances were few and far between for the Cubs Friday night, but in the fourth inning, Anthony Rizzo led off the inning with a walk. A promising sign, despite the Ian Happ strikeout that followed. Willson Contreras killed any hope of scoring by grounding into a double play (-.064), giving Wood another scoreless inning.
The Cubs will look to redeem Friday night’s performance and tie the three-game weekend set by sending John Lackey to face Brandon McCarthy. It’s an early first pitch, scheduled for 6:15 CT.
Lead photo courtesy Richard Maxson—USA Today Sports