What You Need to Know
The Cubs were imperfect, but they hung on against the struggling Giants. Javier Baez hit an inside the park home run, and the Cubs gained a game on the Brewers.
The last time the Cubs faced off against Matt Moore in San Francisco, the left-hander was magnificent, going eight innings and giving up two hits and two runs, only one of them earned. The bullpen, of course, melted down in spectacular fashion, spoiling what should have elevated Moore into the pantheon of Good Giants™. Since then, Moore has been the worst pitcher in the majors with a league worst ERA of 5.80 coming in to tonight’s game, and he found a way to raise it.
After an effective first inning, Moore started to come unraveled, throwing a curveball to the backstop and another into the left-handed batter’s box. Heyward dug out a first-pitch fastball down and in for a single. Moore then grooved one to Javier Baez, who drilled it to the deepest part of the yard or any yard. Ordinarily, that’s where home runs go to die, but this home run said to the God of Death, “Not today.” It doinked off the wall and skipped past recent call-up Carlos Moncrief, who, once he finally retrieved the ball, fired a bullet to home. But Baez managed to beat the throw home for an inside the park homer.
Moore’s troubles continued in the third after Jay singled to lead off then advanced on a wild pitch. Moore hit Kris Bryant with a pitch. Rizzo drove one to the warning track that looked like a home run off the bat. That allowed Jay to advance to third. Moore then threw another wild pitch and didn’t cover the plate. Jay scored easily, making it 3-0.
The Cubs almost surrendered some first inning runs due to some weirdness. A Joe Panik chopper hit off the lip of the grass and bounced off Anthony Rizzo’s glove. Jarrett Parker hit a ground-rule double down the left field line that landed perhaps six inches fair. Jake Arrieta nearly threw a Buster Posey comebacker away.
Arrieta danced out of trouble in the second inning and again in the third. Jarrett Parker got a belt-high fastball and nutted it to where Baez hit his inside the parker, but Almora played the carom well and held Parker to a 415-foot double. Arrieta got Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval on grounders to end the inning and stranded Parker at third.
Arrieta also managed to escape a lead-off double from Brandon Crawford in the fourth inning, and this is a sentence I wrote before the inning was over. I knew I wasn’t going to have to delete it, and I was right! Not because I was confident in Arrieta, but because I knew the Giants couldn’t possibly string enough at-bats together with positive outcomes to score a run. My conviction didn’t waver after Ryder Jones singled through the right side either.
I was convinced Arrieta would throw the most underwhelming shutout of his career, but the Giants somehow made a legitimate threat in the sixth and seventh innings. Ryder Jones hit a two-run homer in the sixth, and Panik knocked in Span who reached on an error by Heyward. Pedro Strop came in to face Parker and Posey, who each represented the tying run. Strop’s first pitch nearly went to the backstop, but he settled in to retire the Giants’ three and four hitters.
The Cubs had their own share of offensive frustrations in the late innings. They had at least two baserunners against Matt Cain in each of the three innings, even though Bryant led off one of those innings with a triple. Miraculously, Cain went three shutout innings.
Brian Duensing had another nice outing, getting through the eighth on eight pitches, and Wade Davis pitched through a walk to secure the win.
There was a scary moment in the sixth inning when Albert Almora Jr. crashed into the wall flagging down a would-be double off the bat of Carlos Moncrief. Almora hit the wall at an awkward angle and came away clutching the small of his back. Fortunately, he managed to finish the game and looked good at the plate, lacing a single in the eighth. The Cubs dodged a lot of bullets in this one, but this was certainly the most important.
Top WPA Play
Javier Baez’s inside the park home run would have been an outside the park home run at twenty-eight other parks in MLB. Statcast had it at 398 feet, but it pretty clearly bounced off the 421’ marker. Inside-the-parkers nearly always involve some kind of defensive goof, and this one came from Carlos Moncrief. It should have been a home run off the bat, but this is a fine consolation prize. (+.213)
Bottom WPA Play
Oddly enough, this was not Ryder Jones’ two-run homer in the sixth. It deserves a shout out, since it was the first of his career. It was actually Jarrett Parker’s double in the first inning. Joe Panik was running on the pitch, and he likely would have scored had the ball not bounced out of play. It was simultaneously lucky and unlucky bounce since the ball landed just fair. (-.086)
Lead photo courtesy John Hefti—USA Today Sports