What You Need to Know
John Lackey was sharp until he wasn’t. The offense put three runs on the board before the first out was recorded and none during the final twenty-seven. Rhys Hoskins started a triple play and hit another home run. The Cubs wound up dropping two out of three to the worst team in the majors.
There was a point this season where I wanted John Lackey to get buried on the DL with a phantom injury. When the Cubs traded for Quintana and Hendricks was coming back, I thought the best rotation the Cubs had at their disposal was Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks, Quintana, and either Eddie Butler or Mike Montgomery. I honestly thought Lackey was their seventh best option to start games. Since coming off the DL, however, Lackey has been getting some fairly reliable results. He hasn’t been dominant by any means. He has, for instance, given up eight home runs in his last forty-two innings including the one he gave up to Nick Williams in the fifth. Lackey has given up three runs or fewer in all but two of his last eight starts. Unfortunately, one of those came today. I’m willing to recognize that Lackey is better than the seventh best option for the rotation, but I’m still not convinced he’s the fifth.
Things came unraveled in the fifth inning, but it wasn’t all Lackey’s fault. Lackey got the first out quickly, but then Kris Bryant couldn’t come up with a grounder. Rene Rivera couldn’t keep a pair of bounced curves in front of him. Freddy Galvis’ game-tying single came off a slider down below the knees. Nothing went right in the inning, and Lackey couldn’t pitch out of the defense’s and his own mistakes eventually giving up a two-run homer to Nick Williams, which put the Phillies up for good.
Coming into today, it didn’t seem like a game where Lackey would need to be at his best. The Phillies started Nick Pivetta, who in 95 innings this year was posting a 6.73 ERA, 5.28 FIP, and 5.78 DRA. The offense jumped all over him in the first inning and it seemed as if it was going to be another seventeen-run romp, but after getting three runs across by the time the first out was made, Pivetta got another fourteen without giving up a run.
Pivetta was the beneficiary of one of the more boring triple plays I’ve seen. Saying a triple play is boring is kind of like saying there’s a boring season of The Wire. They’re all incredible, but “runners confused about whether a catch was made” is clearly the worst genre. There’s no mad scramble to get back to the bag, no drama. Nor is there the body language of incredulity which shifts into resignation as the runners realize they’re about to get doubled and tripled off. Just the defense lobbing the ball around the diamond.
Regardless, the triple play erased the Cubs best chance to score after the first inning, and if you think that momentum is a thing, it shifted the momentum in the Phillies dugout.
If you’re looking for silver linings, well, let’s see. Hector Rondon and Justin Wilson both had scoreless outings. Rondon hasn’t gotten into a game since giving up three home runs in a meaningless ninth inning against the Reds last Wednesday, so it was good to see him get into a game and be effective. Justin Wilson is showing signs that he’s worked out whatever weirdness has plagued him since putting on a Cubs uniform.
Also, since coming up on August 10th, Rhys Hoskins has out-homered the San Francisco Giants. There. Those are your silver linings.
Top WPA Play
Anthony Rizzo’s two-run single in the first inning. (+.122)
Bottom WPA Play
Nick Williams’ two-run homer in the fifth. (-.235)
Lead photo courtesy Eric Hartline—USA Today Sports