One could be forgiven if while watching ESPN tonight they did not know there was a baseball game tonight being played in Cleveland.
Between the live shots of the numerous televisions inside Progressive Field tuned to LeBron James beating up the Pacers, and the commercials for the NFL Draft in which the Browns will once again pick the worst quarterback possible, interest for tonight’s 4-1 Cubs loss to Cleveland seemed to be on the backburner.
What You Need to Know: It never felt like the Cubs were out of tonight’s game, which is kind of an obvious statement since they were never facing more than a three-run deficit. That feeling was not due to watching the Cubs tonight, however, but instead because of the way the team has played recently.
It felt that at some point the bats would bust out for a big inning against Cleveland’s number one drone-aficionado, Trevor Bauer. Or, when an unfortunate hamstring injury to Andrew Miller had him come out after only two pitches and left Cleveland’s bullpen scrambling.
Yet the flood of runs never came, which made Willson Contreras’ fifth-inning-ending groundout, or the back-to-back strikeouts from Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell to end the eighth inning that much more disappointing. Both innings ended with a man on third base, and could very well had made the difference tonight.
Next Level: Cleveland’s bats came ready to hit off Jon Lester tonight. Thanks to a low-scoring affair, that strategy paid off tonight. During Lester’s 7 innings of work tonight, 13 outs came via flyout, which is about twice the number of flyouts you would expect to see from a Lester start.
That approach meant Cleveland was only able to get four hits off Lester, but it also meant three of those hits were solo home runs.
After only giving up one long ball in his first four starts, it will be curious to see if tonight’s start was an outlier or if opposing teams will have a similar approach when facing Lester. Granted, tonight was made much easier thanks to having guys like Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnación in the lineup.
Top WPA Play: Anthony Rizzo drove in the Cubs’ only run in the fifth inning, a single to center that scored Ian Happ (+.142). It was only Rizzo’s seventh RBI this season, but possibly a sign of the slugging first baseman enlivening his turgid bat.
Bottom WPA Play: With the way that Kyle Schwarber has hit this year, and especially recently, his eighth-inning swinging strikeout that stranded Willson Contreras at third base proved the night’s most impactful, and disappointing, play in Cleveland’s favor. (-.075).
Up Next: A four-game series at home against the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers is next on the Cubs’ docket. Tomorrow night will feature two changeup artists, with Kyle Hendricks squaring off against Chase Anderson.
Lead photo courtesy Ken Blaze—USA Today Sports