What You Need to Know
John Lackey won the pitcher’s duel against Mike Foltynewicz with his best start of the year. Javier Baez scored from second on a ball that was hit about thirty feet from home.
John Lackey’s last two starts left me wondering if he was the Cubs fifth-best option to start games even with Jon Lester hurt. His ERA, FIP, and DRA are all at least one run higher than his career averages, and he’s 38. He’s at the end of a great career, and it’s likely that entropy has taken its toll on him, and this is just the pitcher he is now. But starts like this make it hard to believe there isn’t anything left.
Lackey didn’t inspire much confidence with how he started the game. He gave up a lead-off single to Ender Inciarte, and then spiked a fastball a foot in front of the plate, allowing a runner into scoring position with nobody out, but Lackey rebounded and struck out the next three batters to get out of the inning. After that, Lackey kept the Braves in check. He didn’t walk anybody and only gave up three singles. Lackey retired the last sixteen batters he faced, getting mostly pop-ups and weak ground balls.
Lackey pitched so well that it was surprising when he was taken out of the game for a pinch hitter in the seventh. He was only at eighty-three pitches, so I thought he would go out for the eighth, if not finish the game himself. Even if it was cut short, it was his best start of the year by game score. Before this game, I was certain the Cubs would keep Lackey off the postseason roster, but now I’m not so sure.
On the other side, Mike Foltynewicz deserves a tip of the cap. He pitched six and a third strong innings and the Cubs struggled to create many opportunities against him. Foltynewicz was a bit unlucky in giving up more than a run considering one of those runs was poofed into existence by Javier Baez.
With Baez on second, Kyle Schwarber sent a swinging bunt down the third base line. Mike Foltynewicz made a nice play to nearly get Schwarber at first (which he probably did, but it was too close to overturn). Meanwhile, Baez didn’t stop and managed to slide in ahead of the throw from first. Baez has definitely improved on the basepaths. Last year, he posted -0.7 BRR which has increased to 2.2 this year. He’s been more aggressive this year, but he’s also been smarter, and it’s paying off. After Addison Russell reinjured his foot, people were talking about what the Cubs can do to give Baez some rest, but it doesn’t look like he needs it.
In the eighth, Pedro Strop made things interesting, giving up a lead-off double to Rio Ruiz. Had the Braves been able to score or tie the game, the decision to pull Lackey early would have looked all the more dubious, but Strop and Brian Duensing were able to get out of the inning unscathed, preserving the win.
Top WPA Play
Javier Baez scoring from second on a swinging bunt. (+.110)
Bottom WPA Play
Pedro Strop giving up a lead-off double in the eighth inning. (-.090)
Lead photo courtesy Caylor Arnold—USA Today Sports