What You Need To Know: After a first inning where Jake Arrieta’s handle on the strike zone was a nod to Doc Ellis on the anniversary of the greatest sporting accomplishment in history, he settled in for the next five, allowing the Marlins only one more hit and one more walk. That gave the Cubs bats just enough time to figure out that yes, indeed, it was Jeff Locke on the mound and yes, indeed, they had feasted on his innards for most of his career. An Anthony Rizzo three-run homer in the 5th decided this one for good.
Next Level: The zone plot only kind of shows it, so maybe this is in my own mind. But it at least felt like Arrieta, especially after the first, was keeping his fastball at the top of the zone and above. And I wonder if this might not be the plan going forward if his curve-heavy approach continues. That way both of the pitches he uses most would be coming from the same plane, and would disguise each other better. As you can see from the plot, there were definitely more pitches up in the zone and above, just not exceedingly so. But again, if this were restricted to fastballs, it felt like it would lean heavily to the top of the zone.
Whatever for Vaughn (Major League reference), it was certainly effective enough and that’s two straight outings for Arrieta that at least put up the kind of numbers we dream about. Also three of his last four starts would fit that, and the one that doesn’t and the one before it were those ones that were really only two mistakes from being excellent. I feel like I’m Mr. White yelling, “YOU’RE GONNA BE O-KAY-EE!” to Mr. Orange in the back of the car, if I can make yet another reference that will officially categorize me as a dinosaur.
-It had been a while since the Cubs tore into a bullpen and made it elementary in the late innings, but Brian Ellington was the one offered up to the gods tonight as the Cubs simply shredded him. Felt like everyone got in on the act, and we got so used to the Cubs tacking on runs in the late innings last year that we’ve come to expect it. More of this, please.
-Though everyone had Ellington clocked, the fact that Jason Heyward notched his second double of the evening off a 97 MPH fastball tickles me in places I wouldn’t be comfortable discussing in public. He had another two hits and is quickly becoming one of the more fun Cubs to watch right now.
Top WPA Play: Rizzo’s three-run shot that left a vapor trail in the bottom of the 5th and put the Cubs up 3-1 after being a bit handcuffed by Locke. (+.379)
Bottom WPA Play: J.T. Realmuto’s (no fake Mutos here) double to lead off the 7th with the score still tied 4-1 and knocked Arrieta out of the game. (-.078)
Lead photo courtesy Patrick Gorski—USA Today Sports