It seems like every year, at least every year the Cubs are good, and certainly every year that they’ve been better than the Cardinals (sadly not nearly enough), the Cards come to Wrigley and win a series in the middle of the summer that unnecessarily gets the meatball air-raid sirens going. You’ll recall last year them getting a split on a Stephen Piscotty homer in August that was particularly grating. It’s just their way.
It started to feel like that again when for the second consecutive eighth inning, things went pear-shaped. But with a new found bounce in their stride, if the Cubs are in touch they have a chance. Lester made his one mistake to Paul DeJong, hanging a curve with two strikes. His only other one was perhaps not being totally locked in to Randal Grichuk out of frustration, though the fastball Grichuk labeled to center really wasn’t all that far off from being a good pitch. Sometimes games are decided on those margins.
And sometimes they’re decided on margins on whether or not a couple bleeders have just the right angle to get over the infield or in front of the outfielders and in what sequence they do. None of Jon Jay’s, Kris Bryant’s, or Anthony Rizzo’s hits were hard at all, but they were where they needed to be. Only Ben Zobrist really got into his, which brought Jay home from first. You could see where Adam Wainwright was fading a bit even in the 7th, as his curve lost a bit of bite, his pitches stayed up. As it was the longest outing of his season, you could see how that would happen.
And then this is where it gets pretty fascinating to me, especially when I get a chance to make fun of the Cardinals.
There would be an urge to air out Mike Matheny for bringing in Brett Cecil to face Rizzo, because usually it’s a lot of fun to air out Matheny and usually it’s correct. While Cecil has struggled against lefties this year, over his career he’s been very good against them. And the other three lefties the Cardinals carry in the pen, Duke, Lyons, and Siegrist, aren’t good against lefties or just having a terrible year overall.
However, what might get Matheny axed in the winter is that the Cardinals just aren’t as locked in as they usually are. St. Louis used to get a lot of wins simply because they were paying more attention and didn’t miss a detail. I know Fowler has been hurt, I know he was playing deep, I know Bryant was running with the pitch, but Fowler didn’t exactly jump out of the blocks to get to that ball. And of anyone, he should know that Bryant is actually really fast. This kind of thing has been happening to them all season. They lost a game last week because Trevor Rosenthal didn’t cover first base. That kind of focus has been lacking, and it’s been their hallmark. And they certainly aren’t talented enough to overcome that.
Which is fine with me, dude.
You probably won’t get a better matchup than Lester and Wainwright put up today. When Lester locks in on that outside corner at the knees the other team can pretty much forget it. Wainwright was able to vary his curve just enough, sometimes throwing it below 70MPH, to get hitters off-balance and then be able to get his fastball or slider by them. It didn’t make for the most galvanizing TV, but it was effective.
Every time I get just about ready to put a clock on Zobrist, he comes up with some big hit. He’s been basically terrible all season, and if his wrist doesn’t allow him to switch hit then he loses a portion of his value. But his potential to take a really good AB when you have to have one is almost certainly going to keep him in the lineup the rest of the season.
Top WPA Play: Rizzo’s “double” to center in the 8th that brought in Bryant from first. What else could it be? (+.311)
Bottom WPA Play: DeJong’s homer in the 8th, which in past years would have been deflating for like a month. I’m glad those days have been banished to the land of wind and ghosts. (-.291)
Lead photo courtesy Patrick Gorski—USA Today Sports