What You Need to Know
John Lackey wasn’t terrible, giving up three runs in six innings. Meanwhile, the Cubs couldn’t catch a break with every line drive finding a glove and every deep fly coming just short of the wall. After six innings of BABIP-related frustration, Jon Jay tied the game with a three-run dinger, paving the way for a come-from-behind win.
It’s a good thing the Cubs won. It never feels fair to get swept in a two-game series; a split is much easier to swallow. Plus, the Cubs are back up to .500 again.
Lackey probably deserves more credit than I gave him earlier. He wasn’t just not terrible. He was downright satisfactory. After a rocky first inning in which the Rays were not at all fooled by his offspeed stuff and were slapping his pitches all over the field, Lackey settled down a bit and was perhaps a little unlucky in how he gave up the last two runs.
In the third inning, with Mallex Smith on first, Corey Dickerson lifted a ball to deep left field that squibbed off the bottom of the wall past Ian Happ, giving time for Smith to score from first on the play. In the sixth, Smith opened up the inning with a hustle double that nearly wasn’t. It looked as if Baez got a glove on him before his foot was on the bag, but it wasn’t clear enough to overturn. Smith would later score on a sacrifice fly.
When Hendricks comes back from the DL (or the Cubs trade for another starter), Lackey should be the odd man out of the rotation. The Cubs could certainly opt to go with the (literally) crusty veteran over Eddie Butler, the unproven youngling. As long as Lackey is still in the rotation, though, it would be nice if he could have more starts like this. Today was probably as good as he gets.
Lackey certainly wasn’t the only one to get unlucky. Zobrist lined into a double play, Kris Bryant barreled a ball to deep center that Mallex Smith tracked down, and Russell hit a ball about as hard as he could but it found a glove.
Of course, the game-winning hit was Ian Happ’s slow-roller that found its way past a drawn-in infield.
Top WPA Play
If this game proved anything, it’s that line drives are stupid and home runs are great. Each time the Cubs got any semblance of a rally going, a line drive would either threaten to kill it or kill it outright (see below). Immediately before Jon Jay pinch-hit for Lackey in the bottom of the sixth, Addison Russell drilled a line drive with an exit velocity of 107 MPH. Unfortunately, it was hit right at Evan Longoria at third base. Jon Jay then tied the game with a three-run blast that was hit eight feet shorter than Bryant’s drive to center. Baseball! (+0.366)
Bottom WPA Play
It feels unfair to have Zobrist here. He was one of many Cubs to have a good at bat in the first half of the game who was left with nothing. He didn’t exactly scorch his liner in the third, but it was hit just far enough off the line that in a normal defensive set-up, it would have found its way into right field. Instead, it found a glove and Rizzo was doubled off easily. (-0.104)
Lead photo courtesy Caylor Arnold—USA Today Sports