What You Need to Know: Jon Lester labored through five innings, giving up some weak contact before a big home run off the bat of former Cub DJ LeMahieu. A solo homer from Kris Bryant in the first and some minor scoring threats in the middle innings couldn’t overcome Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood’s solid performance. The Rockies are pretty good!
Next Level: [racks brain for interesting story]
This game was… boring. Not a lot of weirdness, not a lot of goodness, not a lot of badness. It just kind of exists in that string of 162, one of the many interstitial games that get us to the meat of the season. Lester was fine, the offense sputtered, Bryant hit the dong. Ho hum.
We can always praise the bullpen, though! Hector Rondon worked a 1-2-3 sixth and walked only one batter in the seventh on the way to a pair of quality innings. Pedro Strop sat down the Rockies in order in the eighth. Justin Grimm worked a clean ninth with a pair of Ks.
The bullpen’s ERA is 3.06, fourth-best in the majors; their 47 percent groundball rate is good for seventh. They’re striking out hitters at a 27 percent rate, sixth in the league. Walks are an issue, but their severity is softened by the strikeouts and grounders. That has resulted in a great 78.6 left-on-base rate, placing them third in that category. The relievers are even allowing the second-most soft contact.
It all adds up to a Win Probability Added of 3.20, behind only the Rockies (!), Cleveland, and the Dodgers. As we’ve seen, the ‘pen is deep and flexible. Mike Montgomery is getting a start with Kyle Hendricks hitting the DL with tendinitis, but Davis-Edwards-Rondon-Strop-Uehara has been nails. It’s the best Cubs bullpen in years, I think.
Top Play (WPA): Bryant’s first inning dinger to left-center was the Cubs’ only impactful at-bat of the evening (+.103).
Bottom Play (WPA): The maddening top of the second was all the Rockies needed to surmount the Cubs. After two quick strikeouts looking, Tony Wolters reached on an infield single. The pitcher, Chatwood, also singled. Charlie Blackmon then deposited a soft popup into short left, just out of the reach of Javier Baez, scoring Wolters and moving Chatwood to third (-.123). LeMahieu made quick work of a 2-1 offering from Lester, parking it in the right-field bleachers for a three-run homer, the difference in a fairly pedestrian game (-.249).
Lead photo courtesy David Banks—USA Today Sports