What You Need to Know
The Cubs and Diamondbacks plumbed the depths of insanity in a game which saw four lead changes, three rain delays, three Paul Goldschmidt homers, and thirteen pitchers across seven hours. I think the Diamondbacks won.
For a game that started an hour and a half late, it sure looked like it was going to be over quickly. It was not. Jose Quintana had the worst start of his Cubs career, and one of his worst starts of 2017 at least by game score. The Diamondbacks put up four runs before the Cubs even took an at-bat; Paul Goldschmidt and Brandon Drury both obliterated some hanging curves from Quintana in the first inning.
You, as an analytically minded baseball fan, probably recognize that Paul Goldschmidt is an underrated baseball player. Despite this, you likely still underrate him. In the first, Quintana got him down 0-2, and to Quintana’s credit, he made three quality pitches that would have struck out a lesser batter, but Goldschmidt is basically Joey Votto except that he can steal thirty bases a year. On the eighth pitch of the at bat, Quintana hung a curve and Goldschmidt crushed it.
Quintana deserves some recognition, though. It’s not easy for a starter to sit through two rain delays totaling over two hours and still go five innings. After the first inning, Quintana was much sharper, and it looked like he was going to get through the fifth only allowing a couple baserunners before AJ Pollock beat out a grounder to Javier Baez, bringing up Goldschmidt again, who hit one to Waveland. Really, Quintana had a great outing if you throw out all the at-bats against players named Paul.
Zack Greinke also deserves a tip of the cap. He likewise had to endure two rain delays, and he cruised until the sixth inning when Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo singled ahead of Willson Contreras who hit his second homer of the day. Against all players not named Willson, Grienke had a great outing, especially considering he was left in too long.
Greinke had already given up five runs and an entire Dr. Zhivago had passed since he was originally supposed to make his start, but in the seventh, Diamondbacks manager, Torey Lovullo, left Greinke in to bat for himself. It was a strange decision, and it very nearly paid off. He reached on a swinging bunt against Brian Duensing and advanced to second on a bunt from Gregor Blanco. Then, he caught Pedro Strop napping and would have stolen third if Strop hadn’t balked him over. Greinke looked poised to manufacture an insurance run by himself, but Strop managed to get out of the jam with two consecutive strikeouts. At that point, it looked like the bullpen might be the saviors of the game. This was not the case.
Baez got things started in the bottom of the seventh against Grienke, who was inexplicably still in the game. Baez reached on an infield hit and then took advantage of newly acquired Diamondbacks reliever, David Hernandez’s slow delivery time and stole second. Baez had a nice day offensively. Earlier, he took an outside fastball the other way for a triple. Baez has done a nice job of going the other way this year, and it could be key to his bat improving going forward.
As good as Contreras was, it wouldn’t have been possible without some excellent at bats from Anthony Rizzo. In the fifth, he singled on a pitch down and out of the strike zone to set up Contreras’ three-run homer. In the seventh, he took a similar pitch for ball four to load the bases ahead of Willson’s go-ahead, two-run single.
Carl Edwards Jr. has been excellent this year, but he didn’t have control today. He walked the first (and only) two batters he faced in the eighth, before he was relieved by Justin Wilson who gave up singles to the next two batters, giving the Diamondbacks the lead again. In six and a half hours, the Cubs had the lead for about fifteen minutes, but it felt like it was always in reach.
The Cubs were able to tie it on a fielder’s choice in the eighth right before the third and final rain delay, but they promptly lost the lead on Goldschmidt’s third and final home run.
Then, with a runner on first and nobody out, down by two, Willson Contreras tried to bunt. Twice. I don’t know what he was thinking or if was called from the bench, but even if Contreras had gone 0-4 with four strikeouts prior to this at bat, there’s nothing to be gained from bunting the runner over. If he scores, the Cubs are still down by one. Maybe he was trying to bunt for a base hit. That’s the only thing that makes a modicum of sense because a sacrifice in that situation is a dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb thing.
Top WPA Play
It was Willson Contreras’ two-run single in the seventh. Before trying to bunt, Willson Contreras put the almost-dead Cubs on his back and carried them up the slopes of Mount Doom where they could throw the Diamondbacks into the fire and claim a win. Instead, the Cubs looked down and were like, “Nah,” and lost anyway. (+.380)
Bottom WPA Play
It was one of Paul Goldschmidt’s home runs. Guess which one. Give up? It was the one in the ninth. (-.381)
Lead photo courtesy David Banks—USA Today Sports