It’s trite to say that cliches exist for a reason, but the Cubs being shut out the night after they scored 16 runs justifies the “save some for tomorrow” adage that runs through our heads as we celebrate the torrential scoring.
Tonight, Jake Arrieta pitched a fine game, probably his best in a long time. The newcomer to the bullpen, Justin Wilson, let one run slip through in his Cubs debut, but three runs should not be insurmountable for a team that put up a football score twenty-four hours ago.
But even the mightiest offenses are easily humbled, and Zack Godley spun six innings of shutout baseball. He allowed only five men to reach base and left them to strand, incidentally, three runners in scoring position. Given the track record the Cubs lineup has of being quieted by effective curveball pitchers, perhaps tonight’s result should not be entirely surprising. Of the pitches that Godley most commonly throws—sinker, curve, cutter—he gets the highest swing-and-miss on the curveball, and he effectively flummoxed the Chicago offense tonight.
Until the sixth inning, his counterpart, Arrieta, had pitched just as well. Through five frames he was essentially untouched, and only thanks to an errant throw from the usually steady Addison Russell did that change. David Peralta’s one-out single would have been harmless if not for the error that allowed A.J. Pollock to reach first and Peralta to scamper all the way to third. On another night, the offense might paper over that mistake so that we hardly notice it, but when they’re miffing it with the bats as well, it’s particularly glaring. And on a night when Arrieta had been pitching so reminiscent of late 2015, it screams at us when the baseball laws of nature dictate that Jake Lamb’s follow-up to all of this is a double. Of course.
Lamb’s other RBI double of the night would have been less significant if it had not been for the fact that it came against the newbie in the bullpen. Wilson came in relief of Arrieta and pitched a bumpy eighth inning, but again, when the offense can’t plate anyone, there is no margin for error for their pitching staff.
It’s a shame, too, because this game should be remembered for how well Arrieta pitched. While his velocity is still not what it was two seasons ago, he located with his fastball and elicited swings and misses with his slider in a way tonight that made Cubs fans both nostalgic and hopeful.
Top WPA play:
Finding the highest point of win probability for the Cubs in a game like this is a dive into the minutiae, and in this case Kyle Schwarber’s bunt single in the second inning gets the award (+.037). He did make it all the way to second base, after all. Alex Avila struck out while Schwarber stood on first, but then Addison Russell singled and it looked like he Cubs would strike first. Instead, Jason Heyward lined out, and Jon Jay struck out.
Bottom WPA play:
The aforementioned Jake Lamb double in the sixth inning (-.169).
The series concludes with a matinee tomorrow, and it’s Jose Quintana vs. Zack Greinke in the rubber match, so no pressure, Cubs. At least the Brewers lost tonight, too.
Lead photo courtesy Jim Young—USA Today Sports