The day we’d been eagerly anticipating for years finally arrived Thursday night in Miami: Mark Zagunis Day! Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement – but the consensus Cubs top-10 prospect made his major league debut in right field in the Cubs 11-1 victory over the Marlins tonight. Mark Zag, heralded for hion-basese skills throughout his minor league career, went 0-for-5 but still contributed with an RBI and a stolen base.
Of course, the bigger story of the day was the demotion of Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber, who was sent down to AAA to reset his confidence and approach. Additionally today, outfielder Jason Heyward was placed on the DL with a hand abrasion. Yet without two of the most notable players on the team, the Cubs’ offense looked quite good in the victory, tagging 16 hits.
What you need to know:
The Cubs blew out the Marlins on the heels of three home runs: a three-run shot from Kris Bryant in the fourth, a solo shot from Addison Russell in the fifth, and a two-run homer from Willson Contreras in the sixth. Batting fourth and fifth, respectively, Russell and Ian Happ combined for eight hits, four runs and four RBI’s. Jake Arrieta even got in on the fun, going 2-for-4 with an RBI, as well.
Speaking of The Snake, on top of the excellent output from the offense, the other story of the night was the very good performance from Jake Arrieta, who went seven innings, allowing only one run on six hits and walking none before turning the game over to Brian Duensing and Felix Pena.
For Jake Arrieta, this performance was precisely the type of outing he needed. Having not gotten out of the fifth inning in his past two starts and battling issues gripping the baseball due to a thumb cut and an extensive sweat problem, Arrieta looked cool and in command throughout this game.
It was only his second game this season in which he didn’t walk any opposing hitters, with the first being his six-inning performance against the Reds in April. Even more shocking is that it’s only Arrieta’s third such game since the start of the 2016 season. In 2015, alone, Arrieta had nine starts in which he didn’t allow a walk. While you can’t read too much into one start, a controlled performance from Arrieta is an incredibly clear sign of when his pitching is at its best. Perhaps this indicates that his thumb or sweat concerns are dissipating, or perhaps it means nothing at all. But if you’re looking for an indicator that Jake Arrieta is going strong, look in the walk column. It was an egg tonight and, though the offense handled the rest, Arrieta never allowed the Marlins into the ballgame.
Top WPA play: Kris Bryant’s three-run home run in the fourth inning, giving the Cubs some breathing room as he expanded the lead from 2-1 to 5-1 with one swing of the bat. It was the first homer for the struggling Bryant since June 13 against the Mets. (+.248)
Bottom WPA play: Marcell Ozuna’s solo shot in the second. The Ozuna home run briefly narrowed the Cubs’ lead to one run, but would prove to be nowhere near enough. Don’t sleep on Ozuna, though, as he’s hitting .326/.392/.585 with 20 homers. He’s one very fun ballplayer to watch. (-.105)
So, did Miguel Montero speak too soon when he tweeted yesterday that “#WeAreBack”? Only time will tell. But maybe he was on to something, as both the offense and pitching clicked excellently tonight in Miami.
With that, I wish a happy Mark Zagunis Day to all and to all, a good night.
Lead photo courtesy Scott Mitchell—USA Today Sports