The Chicago Cubs’ next 12 games come against teams in the bottom of their respective divisions: three more with the Cincinnati Reds, three with the Blue Jays, another set of three with the Reds and three with the Phillies.
If tonight is any indication, this could be a fun couple of weeks.
In the first game of a weeklong homestand, the Cubs put a beat down on the Reds 15-5. Spurred by big games from the top four in the order – Jon Jay (3-for-5, three runs scored), Tommy La Stella (3-for-5, two RBI’s), Kris Bryant (2-for-4, two-run HR) and Anthony Rizzo (3-for-5, HR, five RBI’s) – the Cubs worked around an inefficient outing from Jose Quintana, took a large lead early, and blew the game wide open late.
What you need to know:
The Cubs jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on an Anthony Rizzo opposite-field RBI single, plating Jon Jay and Kris Bryant. But, with the help of some Jose Quintana wildness and an errant throw (or shovel, more precisely) home, the Reds tied the game at two in the second. The ballgame remained tied into the fourth, when the Cubs staged a two-out rally featuring an RBI triple from Jon Jay and back-to-back homers from Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
But the Cubs were not satisfied with their 7-2 lead, as in the bottom of the seventh, the offense exploded for six more runs, including a two-run double by Mike Montgomery and another two-run opposite-field base hit by Anthony Rizzo. For good measure, Javier Baez tacked on a two-run homer in the eighth off Scooter Gennett (yep, that Scooter Gennett. The only one you know).
Would you believe me if I told you that Jon Jay has actually not been all that good so far this August? Anecdotally, that feels wrong, doesn’t it? Jay has been one of the Cubs most consistent hitters in 2017, with an overall slashline coming into tonight of .293/.382/.378 with a 9.2 percent walk rate. But, his August numbers have not been very good yet. Entering tonight, he had a .225/.295/.300 and a 4.5 percent walk rate good for just a 60 wRC+. Potentially, some of that has to do with a lack of comfort leading off, which he has already done eight times this month. When hitting in the leadoff spot, Jay has only hit to a .231/.303/.315 in 2017.
But I articulate that all just to contrast with Jay’s outstanding evening tonight, in which he came up just a home run shy of the cycle. This evening’s Jon Jay felt a lot more like the ballplayer Cub fans have grown acclimated to: a guy who gets on base with tons of consistency. With Jay seeing more and more playing time and seeming to emerge as the everyday leadoff hitter, a return to offensive form would be huge. Perhaps tonight is just the start of that.
Though the offensive pile-on was thrilling, it is worth taking a look at Jose Quintana’s outing, which was a tad shaky. Quintana, reunited with his White Sox battery mate from last season, Alex Avila, walked four and hit two Reds as he threw 105 pitches in only five innings. Since being acquired by the Cubs, Quintana has seen his already small walk rate drop nicely from 9.0 percent with the Sox to 5.8 percent with the Cubs. His main issue on the North Side has been his struggle to keep the ball in the ballpark, though, as his HR/FB rate has jumped from 12.8 percent with the Sox to 20.7 percent with the Cubs. Yet, tonight, the opposite was true. Quintana did not surrender a homer yet demonstrated questionable control. Though the results did not wind up hurting Quintana, this was a risky outing. Of course, tonight may have just been a fluke – it doesn’t feel particularly wise to fret over a pitcher with a 6.5 percent career walk rate – but it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Top WPA play: Jon Jay’s two-out RBI triple in the bottom of the fourth, knocking in Jason Heyward from first and giving the Cubs a 3-2 lead. (.150)
Bottom WPA play: Patrick Kivlehan’s fielder’s choice in the top of the second. With the bases loaded, Kivlehan hit a soft tapper that was fielded by Jose Quintana. Overestimating the baserunner from third, Eugenio Suarez’s speed, Quintana attempted to flip the ball from his glove to Catcher Alex Avila. The flip was errant, Suarez scored, and all the Reds’ runners were safe. (-.098)
Lead photo courtesy Patrick Gorski—USA Today Sports