What You Need to Know
While you were watching Game of Thrones, the Cubs reclaimed theirs, tying the Brewers at the top of the NL Central for the first time since May 26th. A pair of home runs bit José Quintana, but Willson Contreras and the offense picked him up.
They had to get here eventually, right? After months of winning one and losing one, the Cubs finally put together enough of a run to catch the Brewers who were just always out of reach. With a win tomorrow, the Cubs can take sole possession of first place. It’s oddly satisfying considering they should have had it the whole time.
In his first home start for the Cubs, Quintana was mostly excellent. He had pinpoint control with his fastball and was consistently hitting it at 92-93. Out of his seven strikeouts, four of them were looking on fastballs on the black. When he missed, he missed out of the zone where it couldn’t be punished. He never had great control over his curveball, however, which made it difficult to put hitters away, and it caused him some problems in the second when Randall Grichuk hammered a hanger for a two-run homer. It was the worst pitch he threw all night. Later in the fourth, Quintana couldn’t quite get Paul DeJong after getting him 1-2. At this point, he didn’t appear to have the confidence in his curve and he stuck with the fastball. Somehow, DeJong managed to homer on a fastball on the outer edge of the plate. Despite those two blemishes, Quintana was the pitcher the Cubs were hoping to get when they gave up Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease.
On the other side, Michael Wacha showed flashes of brilliance. For much of the game, the Cubs struggled to get the ball out of the infield against him, let alone put it in play, except for Kyle Schwarber who vaporized a cutter that was thrown on his hands. MLB hasn’t posted a video of it yet, presumably because what Schwarber did to that ball violated the Geneva Convention.
Wacha, though, wasn’t perfect. Unlike Quintana, when he missed, he missed out over the plate. Russell, Heyward, and Bryant all doubled on fastballs that were more or less grooved, and Contreras’ go-ahead homer came off another fastball down the middle. Give the offense some credit, though. They weren’t given many opportunities, but they took advantage of every chance they got.
Hector Rondon, Carl Edwards Jr., and Wade Davis combined for three scoreless innings, though they weren’t without drama. Rondon gave up two baserunners despite pitching well, Jedd Gyorko nearly tied the game, and Yadier Molina fouled off forty-seven pitches before popping out. Ultimately, the bullpen was able to hang on, putting the Cubs at the top of the division, which feels good even if they’re still sharing first place.
Top WPA Play
Contreras had a huge game behind the plate. In the second, he made a nice, aggressive play to start a double play on a bunt attempt. In the fourth, he made a perfect throw to get Yadier Molina stealing, which came right before the DeJong homer. In the seventh, he was able to navigate around Kolten Wong to catch a pop-up. Finally, in the eighth, he somehow managed to block an absolute scud from Edwards. Of course, the home run was fun, too. (+0.231)
Bottom WPA Play
As mentioned, Quintana hung a curve to Randall Grichuk who did horrible, unspeakable things to it. Quintana should throw better curves next time out. (-0.182)
Lead photo courtesy David Banks—USA Today Sports