There’s something about rain delays.
Everybody knows the story of the Cubs rallying to win the World Series after a 17-minute rain delay and some inspiring words from Jason Heyward during a player’s only meeting. It’s one of the more overplayed narratives of Cubs 2016 World Series lore, and even inspired an NBC documentary called “Reign Men” (puns…the highest form of comedy). Once again, the Cubs’ backs were against the wall (to a far lesser degree), having been shutout in two straight games. Once again, they needed a rain delay to shake themselves out of a funk, as this looked like a different club from the one that started the season. I wonder what Jason Heyward said to the team this time?
What You Need to Know:
When there were rumblings about Jon Lester working to establish a bounce pass in order to control the running game, the world laughed. I imagine Ryan Braun laughed, too.
Braun isn’t laughing anymore (well, he was, but sort of at himself in an I’m just gonna laugh at myself to keep from crying sort of way). After reaching base in the bottom of the first, Braun stole second base without anybody noticing. And then he, being Braun, got all cocky and tried to steal third in the same way. Enter bounce pass. Braun walked back to the dugout with his tail between his legs, and from that point forward, it was all Cubs.
Against Brewers lefty Brent Suter, known for his ability to generate weak contact, the Cubs mashed, jumping out to a 5-0 lead by the end of the third. Jon Lester looked like himself again, twirling six scoreless innings. Javier Baez actually showed some plate discipline, drawing three walks in a game (two of which were intentional) for the first time in his career. The bullpen continued its dominance. Even Jason Heyward got into the mix, blasting his first homer of the year off Brewers closer Corey Knebel. 8-0 Cubs.
- How disappointed must Binny’s Beverage Depot be every time they see Ian Happ slotted as the leadoff hitter? Happ struck out to open the game, and by the end, he’d added four to his already robust portfolio of strikeouts this year. I still think he turns it around.
- Lester’s fastball velocity saw a slight increase from his first start, up to 90.8 mph from 90.2. Just as importantly, he was locating his pitches, earning 16 called strikes in the game.
- Three innings, one hit, five strikeouts, zero walks for the combo of C.J. Edwards, Steve Cishek, and Eddie Butler. The Cubs’ bullpen ERA is now down to a league-leading 0.62.
- Edwards was particularly unhittable, generating six swinging strikes on just 16 pitches.
- Willson Contreras had four hits of 105 mph or faster, per Baseball Savant; previously, he’d never had more than two such hits in any game in his career.
- Eddie Butler closed out the game for the Cubs, throwing 13 pitches in the ninth inning. Reports are he stayed on the field after the game and pitched six more innings, just for nostalgia’s sake.
Top WPA Play – Javier Baez’s hard-hit grounder up the middle in the second inning, which scored Albert Almora and Addison Russell. Truly one of the more impressive at-bats in recent memory for Javy, as he ran an 0-2 count to full with men in scoring position. If only he could bottle that plate discipline. On the very next play, he sprinted home from first on a Jon Lester single (essentially a weaker version of Javy’s own hit) which was bobbled by Lorenzo Cain. He slid head first, narrowly missed the tag, and lounged on the ground for a bit, soaking it in. There’s the Javy we know. (+.106)
Bottom WPA Play - Albert Almora reaching first on a fielder’s choice, with Willson Contreras being thrown out at second. When this is as bad as it gets, that’s pretty good. (-.035)
Up Next: The Cubs look to build on this victory, sending Kyle Hendricks (aka The Right-Handed, Much Better Version of Brent Suter) to the mound to take on Brandon Woodruff and the Brewers in Game 2 of the series.
Lead photo courtesy Benny Sieu—USA Today Sports