What you need to know:
The season is halfway over. I do not know whether to be excited by that or humbled at the results. At 40-41 heading into the game, the Cubs have underwhelmed the masses with poor starting pitching, shoddy defense, and a lack of offense with runners in scoring position. Can it get any worse? Why, yes. Yes it could. Could their play improve? It most definitely can.
Losing the first two games of the series to the lowly Reds did not inspire confidence. Having Jake Arrieta on the mound used to, but not this season. The Forrest Gump of the Cubs (you never know what you’re going to get) had a 4.67 ERA heading into the game. He’s predominantly been a fastball pitcher this year (61.4%) but at a much lower average velocity than the past two years as he has gone from 94.6 in 2015 to 92.1 this year. In his dominating 2015 season, he only relied on his fastball 50.7% of the time. Those are distinct changes in his approach and attack from the mound. Three of his five starts in June didn’t see him make the fifth inning as he only pitched 26 innings in the month.
Thankfully, Good Jake showed up today. Using exactly 100 pitches, he gave up one hit, walked only two, and struck out six. He went deep into the game as he pitched through the seventh. It was just the third time he experienced the seventh this year. He wasn’t overpowering, but he was in control. It was a very good start.
But he was only half the story.
This guy was the other half.
.@ihapp_1 got that home run stroke down.
— MLB (@MLB) July 2, 2017
What I have always like about Ian Happ are his hands. When you slow down his swing, his hands going through the zone are a thing of beauty, whether from the right or the left. He also later added a single that drove in a run for his fourth RBI.
Anthony Rizzo cranked a dinger in the seventh inning that appeared to be headed to Covington, Kentucky, but the ballpark got in the way. It was the highest hit HR in MLB this year at 164 feet.
After Justin Grimm and Koji Uehara gave up two runs in the eighth, Carl Edwards, Jr. ended the Reds’ rally. Pedro Strop finished them off in the ninth.
The Cubs get a much needed day off tomorrow before opening a 6 game homestand against the Rays, Brewers, and the Pirates. And then the much-needed All-Star Break begins a week from today.
Lead photo courtesy Ken Blaze—USA Today Sports