What You Need to Know:
Eddie Butler pitched well, but the Cubs lost their fourth in a row, dropping them below .500. The Rockies’ starter, Jeff Hoffman, was excellent, striking out eight in 6 1/3 innings.
In Jeff Hoffman’s first three starts this year, he struck out 24 and walked one in 19 1/3 innings. In the first inning, it looked as if the absurd strikeout-to-walk ratio might normalize, as he had trouble hitting his spots. Kris Bryant was able draw a walk before Anthony Rizzo plunked one in front of Ian Desmond, setting up runners at second and third with one out. Ben Zobrist nearly tied the game with a double down the line, but it hooked just foul. Zobrist wound up striking out and Heyward grounded out to end the only scoring opportunity the Cubs would have until the seventh inning.
Until then, Hoffman was masterful, throwing 96 mph on the edge of the zone, in on the hands, and above the letters. Out of the 39 Hoffman fastballs the Cubs swung at, they whiffed on 10 of them. The Cubs weren’t able to pull the trigger on his curve either, swinging at three of them though Hoffman threw 9 of 16 curves for strikes. Between the first and seventh innings, Hoffman only surrendered one baserunner by hitting Bryant.
In the seventh, though, Hoffman looked mortal, surrendering three straight one-out singles, which ultimately knocked him out of the game. The Cubs would only get the one run, though, as pinch hitters Ian Happ and Jon Jay, hit into a fielder’s choice and lined out respectively.
In his first game against his old team, Butler pitched well, ending his day with a line of five IP, three ER, one BB, and three Ks. He looked shaky in the first inning, though. After Blackmon spoiled a good pitch for a lead-off single, Butler fell behind 3-1 to DJ LeMahieu and threw a get-it-in fastball belt-high. LeMahieu didn’t miss it, drilling it off the bullpen doors in right. Mark Reynolds jumped on a first-pitch fastball and sent it to the opposite gap. After that, Butler settled down. His only other mistake coming on a hanging curve to Reynolds who maliciously murdered that ball dead.
The only encouraging thing about this game was that Butler only issued one walk. Walks have always been a problem for him; he owns a career 4.12 BB/9, and this year has been no different. Coming into today’s game, Butler had walked 14 in 24 IP. His last two starts, though, he’s issued two BB in 10 2/3 IP. It’s far too early to suggest he’s solved his walk problem, but it’s enough to hope on.
Top WPA Play:
Surprisingly, this was not Willson Contreras’ RBI single in the seventh that chased Hoffman from the game. Rizzo’s single in first inning which resulted in no runs being scored accumulated the most WPA. The most remarkable thing about the play was Bryant’s ability to take third on the play. The ball landed perhaps five feet from left fielder Ian Desmond, but Bryant saw it all the way. Desmond’s throw into third was off-line but it wouldn’t have mattered anyways as Bryant was in easily. (+.087)
Bottom WPA Play:
It didn’t take long for the Rockies to jump out in front. After Blackmon lined a good pitch from Butler into right field, DJ LeMahieu lined a bad pitch off the right field wall. Blackmon scored from first easily since the ball shot past Heyward on the carom. (-.117)
Jake Arrieta (6-4, 3.79 DRA) and the Cubs try to avoid the sweep tomorrow against the Antonio Senzatela (8-2, 5.79 DRA) and the Rockies who are apparently unstoppable killing machines now.
Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports