What You Need To Know: You probably joked while the Cubs were scoring 15 last night that they should save some for the next game. Though you didn’t say it out loud, inside you kind of felt like you weren’t joking, even though you know that’s not how these things work. But what you know and what you feel, in any arena, are not always the same thing. Kyle Hendricks and Luis Castillo played out a pitcher’s duel through six innings, and then it was about which pen would blink first. Pedro Strop was the answer, not that he was all that bad. But walks will get you, even if they’re to Joey Votto and that’s this thing that he does quite often. 8th inning and 9th inning rallies were snuffed out before the Cubs could tie it. Ran out of racetrack. Or they just left a load of runners on again. Pick one.
Next Level: If you like to argue over managing minutiae, boy, is this one for you. Lots of Cubs fans were not enamored with how Joe Maddon handled the last three innings with his lineup, and I won’t blame them at all. The 7th wasn’t really his fault of course, you could pin it on the fact that Albert Almora is really slow. After Caratini got on thanks to an infield “single”, Almora roped one to left. He has the play in front of him and with no outs should clearly know that the throw is still likely to come into second no matter how slow Caratini might be. He didn’t, and he was out by ten feet at least. Heyward was unlucky in that his liner was right at someone, and Baez harmlessly grounded out. This would be a theme.
The 8th is where the fun starts for those who like to drive from the backseat, which is all of us. Zobrist and Jay walk to start the inning, leading Joe to pinch-hit for La Stella with Happ against Wandy Peralta. Joe hasn’t been shy about letting La Stella hit against lefties before. It got even more curious when he wasn’t having Happ bunt, even though Happ might be the biggest strikeout risk on the whole team right now. You can play this out however you want, of course. Happ did strikeout, but Bryant didn’t produce a fly ball that would have scored the advanced Zobrist either. So Rizzo gets hit by a pitch, and Maddon’s decision to have Caratini bat 5th comes back to bite him. With Contreras and Russell out the options aren’t plentiful, but even Almora with the way he’s been swinging the bat would be a better option. Baez?Or maybe pinch-hit Schwarber there? Caratini was dog meat for Raisel Iglesias, which a lot of hitters are, and the blame isn’t really with him.
So we get to the 9th, after Justin Wilson once again can’t locate the plate and for some reason threw Billy Hamilton a breaking ball, even though he’ll flail at high fastballs from here until nuclear war (next week). Schwarber comes up with the AB that would have been really useful in the 8th, and singles. Heyward does the same. And Baez… bunts? Look, either you hate the bunt or you don’t. Happ assuredly is not a better bet to get a hit than Baez these days. Was Baez up against it against Iglesias? Yeah, very well could be. But it’s just not consistent policy from one inning to the next. Anyway, he bunts successfully.
Then the buzzard’s luck hits, because Zobrist comes up with the hit that Maddon was probably dreaming of, except he hit too hard and right at Winker. Only one run is able to score. Jay and Avila couldn’t come up with anything. Ballgame.
– The loss ruins what looked like Hendricks’s best start of the year. He basically eschewed the curve tonight and had an even split between his sinker and his change. His sinker has more cut on it, and he kept the Reds’ hitters off all game. When you can strike out Votto looking, you’re doing something right. Four walks is a tad high, but we’ll give him a pass because there’s a Votto bounce in there. Any starter is going to start with a walk and a half when he’s in the lineup.
– I didn’t really realize it when the Cubs acquired Justin Wilson, but he had been riding the percentages a bit this year. His BABIP is 40 points lower than his career mark. His left-on-base percentage is 81%, five points higher than his career mark. His ground-ball rate has cratered, though you care less about that when his strikeout rate rises. But his walks came with them. I think we’re seeing something of a market correction on some of this right now.
– If Luis Castillo can either hone a third pitch and/or have the same control with his fastball that he did tonight, that’s a thing there.
Top WPA Play: Zobrist’s single to right in the 9th that looked like it could spur the Cubs on to victory. Sadly… (+.171)
Bottom WPA Play: Duvall’s single in the 8th that moved Votto to third, where Gennett would eventually score him (-.142)
Lead photo courtesy David Banks—USA Today Sports