What you need to know:
The Cubs jumped on James Shields for five runs relatively early in the game. Anthony Rizzo’s double in the 5th inning was the source of most of those runs, making the White Sox and manager Rick Renteria pay for allowing Shields to face just one more batter with the bags packed. Those were the deciding runs of the game.
The middle of the order was outstanding. Perhaps this opinion is skewed ever so slightly by one swing of Rizzo’s bat, but it was evident that the team’s best players had the greatest impact. Kris Bryant, Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, and Kyle Schwarber combined for six hits while driving in six of the eight runs the Cubs scored. Production like that from the middle of the order is how the Cubs excelled a year ago, and it could be what drives them into the postseason.
I suppose it’s also worth noting that Jake Arrieta carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He wasn’t overly dominant, recording just five strikeouts in nearly seven innings pitched, but he was effective enough to limit a feeble White Sox offense. It wasn’t purely luck, though, as the bite on his stuff was evident in both the cutter/slider (Editor’s Note: “slutter”) and changeup. If for no other reason, it was fun to remember when every time Arrieta stepped on the mound it seemed like a no-hitter was a strong possibility. The no-no ended on a double from a hitter that almost never hits extra base hits, because baseball is cruel.
Good Arrieta is probably even better news for the Cubs than the middle of the order heating up. After all, the young Cubs’ hitters ability to produce was never really in question. Arrieta, on the other hand, has provided great uncertainty. Each and every good start he provides instills more confidence in the north siders as they hunt for the postseason and beyond.
Jon Jay isn’t exactly well-known for his amazing defense, but he took over in left field in an easy decision to stick Schwarber at DH. It quickly paid off for the Cubs when he robbed an extra base hit from Melky Cabrera in the first inning. Sometimes defense very subtly makes a difference. Without that play, Arrieta’s outing may not have gone as tremendously as it did.
Top WPA play:
Rizzo’s double (+.120) that embedded itself in the wall and drove in three runs. Those three runs proved to be crucial, and game-winning, ones.
Bottom WPA play:
Ben Zobrist was thrown out at the plate (-.075) in what appeared to be a contact play with one out and runners on the corners. These things happen. But it was early in the game and eliminated a Cubs scoring chance.
Lead photo courtesy Mike Dinovo—USA Today Sports