What You Need To Know: This game was weird. It felt like it was over early, then got tighter than it should have been late.
The Cubs have decided they will now send nine hitters to the plate in every first inning, and they jumped on James Shields early. It’s a good thing they did, because after giving up five runs in two innings, Shields got in a time machine and went back about five years, shutting the Cubs down except for a David Bote infield hit in the sixth. Outside of Willson Contreras, the Cubs offense took the rest of the day off. Then, there was a blip in Carl Edwards Jr.’s dominant run, a scary error, and Abreu up as the tying run in the ninth. Thankfully, Brandon Morrow came in and was very, very nasty to end it.
Next Level: Shields actually ended up lasting longer in this game than Jon Lester. Lester cruised early, but all the sitting around and watching the Cubs hit (and the rain delay) might have had him a touch out of rhythm. He gave up a single and a walk in the fourth, and fell behind 3-1 to Jose Rondon before getting a double play ball to get out of it. In the sixth, he seemed a little more peevish than usual. Adam Engel doubled over Schwarber’s head, which frustrated Lester. Then, he tried to walk off the field a couple times, hoping for strike three calls that were clearly a little off the plate. Maddon caught the vibe that Lester was a little off, and pulled him after 92 pitches for a very effective Justin Wilson.
After 14 scoreless appearances, Carl Edwards proved he is human, giving up three hits, one of which landed in the stands. His velocity was also down a tick or two, sitting around 93. Hopefully, this is just the law of averages catching up all at once, and Carl gets to go back to being absolutely invincible now.
Kris Bryant also looked uncomfortable on a couple plays in right, including a full-on botch of play on a fly ball to right in the ninth. It’s a good reminder that playing a bunch of different positions in the major leagues is difficult, and as fans we probably still take the defensive versatility of players like Bryant, Zobrist, and Baez for granted.
In what has to be close to a record, Baez slid into all four bases in different ways in the first two innings. Straight headfirst into third, diving left-handed hook into first, swim move around a tag at second, and feet first to home. This Javy day has been brought to you by (insert detergent brand).
Kyle Schwarber was called out on one of the worst check swing calls you’ll ever see by third base umpire Brian Gorman, who must have been sleeping and woke up just to take a guess, and guessed wrong.
Justin Wilson, somehow, had an at-bat. His first bunt attempt was so bad, it likely inspired Maddon to call for Bote to just steal instead, and the steal was helped by the distraction that was Wilson’s hilariously clueless swing on the following pitch.
Top WPA Play: We’ve crunched the numbers, and it turns out, home runs are good. Rizzo’s three-run bomb to center in the first was a good start. (+.135)
Bottom WPA Play: Kris Bryant’s error, dropping Trayce Thompson’s fly in the ninth. (-.053)
Lead photo courtesy Matt Marton—USA Today Sports