The thing about being a closer, of course, is that there’s no such thing as a good time for a blown save.
I suppose the only thing worse is blowing your own win the very next inning after blowing said save.
That was incredible ballgame. And it truly sucked.
What You Need To Know: If you believe in karma, I suppose the Cubs were due for one of these after the past two nights. And up until last November 2, I didn’t believe in karma but now I’m at least allowing for the possibility.
This one began pretty much exactly as you’d expect from a noon start after two consecutive 10 inning games. Early on, it was Ivy League Day at the ballpark with Dartmouth’s Kyle Hendricks taking on Harvard’s Brent Suter. It was the first day in MLB history that began with the TVs in both clubhouses being turned to C-SPAN.
Both starters were on their game, baffling and confusing with a wide variety of breaking and offspeed pitches, mixed with well spotted fastballs whose radar gun readings showed that the term was being used with sarcasm. We learned from the Fox crew that Suter majored in Environmental Science which probably means that he is the only pitcher in baseball who refuses to hit 90 MPH to maximize fuel efficiency.
If Suter’s nickname isn’t “Prius,” Milwaukee sportswriters have dropped the ball.
After they departed with the score 1-1, the Cubs scratched out a run in the top of the 8th on a Kris Bryant sac fly to center field. Of course, if Bryant were really clutch, he’d have found a way to hit that in the bottom of the ninth so that the Cubs would have just won right there. Sure, you might argue that such a thing is impossible when the game is being played at Miller Park. But apparently MLB is just letting the Brewers play all their road games there now too.
Next Level: It’s become abundantly clear over the past couple days that Joe Maddon is riding his bullpen hard in order to put the division away as quickly as he can. And up until now, it’s paid off with some amazing performances from Wade Davis and Carl Edwards Jr.
Today might serve as a warning that he might consider easing up a bit.
Davis has been an unholy force of nature for most of this year, cutting a path of destruction through the ninth inning with little regard for anyone in his wake. And for the most part, Maddon had been very judicious with his appearances. But with things coming down to crunch time, the Cubs let Davis know that they were going to start leaning more heavily on him. And today, we saw that decision backfire in a big way.
It was a really weird outing–like a Choose Your Own Adventure book where the only options were “dominant strikeout” or “extra base hit.” With the Cubs leading 2-1, Davis threw Orlando Arcia an 0-1 offering that caught way too much of the center of the plate. Arcia yanked it down the left field line into the first deck barely inside the foul pole to the sound of…mostly silence. For about three or four seconds, the crowd in Milwaukee responded to a game tying ninth inning home run like the audience in The Producers watching “Springtime for Hitler.”
Which sounds far-fetched until you remember the Brewers celebrate homers with a man in lederhosen going down a slide to the sound of cannonfire.
So Davis had blown his first save in 38 consecutive chances. It happens. He then did what top of the line closers do and struck out two of the next three hitters to get the game to the tenth inning–where good things tend to happen.
And they did again today. After a leadoff walk to Ian Happ and a Jason Heyward bunt, John Jay hit a sharp ground ball up the middle that found its way to the outfield for the go-ahead run. The Cubs were leading 3-2 going to the bottom of the inning–a familiar and happy place to be.
Unfortunately, today we learned that asking two innings from Davis only a couple days after he gave 1 2/3 might be too much. He started in fine fashion by dispatching Neil Walker in three pitches. But then Ryan Braun went the other way on an 0-1 fastball for a line drive double to right. Up came Travis Shaw, who crushed one into the Brewers bullpen and it was winter for Poland and France.
When he’s at his best, Wade Davis simply does not give up home runs. He had only allowed four going into today. And now his home run total has increased by 50 percent. The Cubs have several good arms in the bullpen but also a lot of guys who Maddon just doesn’t trust. We know how much Maddon leans on those guys in big moments. And he needs to remember this game if he tries to make Davis pull an Aroldis Chapman.
Top Play (WPA): Jay’s tenth inning RBI single (+.275). As John Smoltz mentioned on the broadcast, he choked up with two strikes and put a solid swing on a 2-2 offering from Jeremy Jeffress.
Bottom Play (WPA): Somehow, the Cubs allowed a WPA of .433 and it wasn’t the bottom play of the game. Davis gave up the Arcia homer just as Matt Vasgersian was going on about his saves streak.
And then he gave up the Shaw homer (-.711) when Matt Vasgersian was babbling about how rarely he gives up multiple runs.
Maybe from here on out the top play should be anytime an engineer puts Vasgersian’s mic on mute.
Up Next: Despite all this, the Cubs have already done what they wanted to in the series by winning the first two games. They can still take it with a victory tomorrow as Jose Quintana matches up with Chase Anderson. If they want to win it in nine, that would be just fine with…(takes a quick internet poll)…everybody.
Also: Let’s Go Bucs.
Lead photo courtesy Benny Sieu—USA Today Sports