What You Need to Know: Several times, the Cubs threatened to hang a crooked number on Edinson Volquez and the Marlins, but each time they came up short. The Fish jumped on Mike Montgomery for three runs in the first, hammering line drives all over the field, before Montgomery settled in and delivered five more solid innings. It was enough for the Marlins to keep the Cubs at bay and to split the series in front of a surprisingly loud home crowd.
Next Level: The Cubs didn’t collect the timely hits they needed today, despite putting on loads of baserunners. They loaded the bases for Anthony Rizzo twice and only plated one run, they swatted eight hits (many of them solid line drives and hits to the opposite field), and they put together good at-bats all afternoon. The hitters down in the order—Montero, La Stella, Baez, and Jay—had five of those hits, and they were the ones who put Volquez on the ropes. The Cubs couldn’t deal the finishing blow, however. Anthony Rizzo left quite a few runners on base, Kris Bryant continued to foul off hittable pitches, and the Cubs totaled 11 runners stranded.
Today was a day in which the Cubs felt the absence of Ben Zobrist. His contact abilities in the middle of the order are imperative to the Cubs’ offensive success, and, while he might not have made an actual difference in this game, his bat is unique in the Cubs’ lineup. With Zobrist and Heyward both out, the Cubs are missing two of their best contact hitters. La Stella makes up that difference a bit, but he has little power.
Addison Russell’s early exit in the fourth due to a sore shoulder resulted in a nearly wholesale shuffling of defense for the Cubs, and Joe Maddon made some creative, defensive-minded changes. Kris Bryant started the game in right, rounding out a fairly average Jon Jay-Ian Happ-Bryant outfield, but moved to center when Happ came in to play second. La Stella made a few too-soft throws from third base, but his glove there remains adequate. Willson Contreras played most of the game in right, replacing Bryant, adding to the ten previous innings he had received in the outfield. With personnel on the move to the minors and the DL, Maddon will have to put his players in the best positions to succeed, and his players will have to adapt.
Top Play (WPA): Ian Happ’s rather innocuous single to lead off the seventh was the Cubs’ top play (+.071).
Bottom Play (WPA): That Cubs’ seventh was the most disappointing inning in an afternoon of disappointing innings. The aforementioned single by Happ set the table against reliever David Phelps, but Happ was caught stealing at second when Willson Contreras failed to execute a hit and run (-.114). Whether Contreras missed the sign or decided not to swing at a low pitch that looked hittable is up for debate, but it was a failure that proved costly. Contreras walked and Miguel Montero yanked a base hit, but La Stella grounded into a tailor-made double play on an 0-1 pitch to seal the Cubs’ fate that inning (-.170). The coincidental nature of this sequence isn’t lost on this viewer: Maddon called for the hit and run to avoid the double play, and the broken hit and run led right into a rally-killing double play.
Lead photo courtesy Jasen Vinlove—USA Today Sports