The Cubs have only pulled off a win streak of four or more games three times this season: a four game streak in mid-April, a five game streak at the beginning of June, and now a new four gamer coming out of the All-Star Break. In their first game in the Atlanta Braves’ new SunTrust Park, the Cubs took down the Braves 4-3. But it wasn’t for lack of trying on the Braves’ part, as a ninth inning rally against Cubs closer Wade Davis saw them load the bases before Davis elicited a flyout from Johan Camargo to end the game. With tonight’s Brewers loss, the Cubs drew within 3.5 games of first place in the NL Central.
The pure fact the Braves remained within shouting distance was thanks to some solid defense, most notably from Freddie Freeman. But try as the Atlanta defense did, the Cubs offense remained hot, scorching the ball all over the field as they collected their nine hits. Meanwhile, Jon Lester notched the third straight solid outing from a Cubs starter as the defending world champs’ start to the second half is off with a bang.
What you need to know:
The Braves took an early lead in the third thanks to an RBI single from Brandon Phillips, scoring Ender Inciarte, who had reached on a Javier Baez error. But the Cubs continued to put pressure on Braves starter Julio Teheran and rallied back in the fifth on a two-run single from Ben Zobrist. The Cubs extended their lead in the seventh on an Anthony Rizzo line drive home run and, again, in the eighth on a pinch-hit RBI double from Addison Russell, scoring Baez, who had stretched a single into a double with aggressive baserunning.
Simultaneously, Lester threw one of his best outings of the year, going seven strong innings, striking out six, limiting hard contact and only allowing three hits (none after the third inning). After his disastrous final start to the first half, tonight’s outing was precisely what Lester and the Cubs had in mind.
The Braves made things interesting in the ninth, netting two runs off of Wade Davis, but with the bases loaded, the Cubs’ All-Star slammed the door and handed the Cubs their fourth straight W.
Anthony Rizzo’s home run in the seventh inning came off of Atlanta lefty Ian Krol and got out of the park with an exit velocity of 108 mph. Rizzo’s good output against left-handers is nothing particularly new, but taking a look at how Rizzo has done in 2017 against lefties shows that he is hitting them at one of the best rates of his career.
|Anthony Rizzo vs. Lefties|
|2017 (entering tonight)||87||.276||.402||.586||152||8||13.1%||8.4%|
Just take a look at Rizzo’s numbers against lefties this year. His .276/.402/.586 slashline with a 152 WRC+ is only marginally bested by his offensive breakout year of 2014.
Simply put, against lefties, 2017 Rizzo is doing it all. He’s hitting for average, getting on base, slugging, and maintaining terrific plate discipline. Having cut his strikeout rate nearly in half compared to his career rate, Rizzo, with his ninth home run coming tonight, is already slugging 144 points higher than his career average against lefties. Pretty impressive.
And, of course, he’s no slouch against right-handed pitching, hitting to a .250/.372/.488 line with a 123 WRC+ and 14 home runs in 2017. What’s this mean? If you’re an opposing manager, think carefully before bringing in your lefty specialist against Riz. And think carefully before bringing in your righty against Riz. In fact, maybe just don’t pitch to the guy. Because nobody beats the Riz.
Top WPA play: Ben Zobrist’s two-run single in the fifth inning off of Julio Teheran to give the Cubs their first lead of the ballgame and make the score 2-1. (.159)
Bottom WPA play: Brandon Phillips’ RBI single in the third inning, scoring Inciarte and giving the Braves the early 1-0 lead. (-.105)
Lead photo courtesy Brett Davis—USA Today Sports