A 5-1 showing against two of the league’s worst teams is almost expected, but the offensive explosion over these games has mostly quieted the early negative vibes around this Cubs team. They’re still waiting on a functional Yu Darvish to show up, but now with Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras hitting, things seem to be generally right with the world of Cubs baseball. Still waiting on Albert Almora to be in center field everyday, but whatever.
What You Need to Know: Even with White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito giving playoff Rick Ankiel a run for wildest pitcher ever, the Cubs managed to be just dysfunctional enough to let the Sox hang around, which in turn let Giolito hang around through 5.2 innings, despite walking seven. We call that the Tyler Chatwood special. The White Sox responded with a steady stream of understated offense against Kyle Hendricks, eventually finding themselves with a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, thus ruining the Cubs’ perfect homestand.
Don’t worry, though, Javier Báez still managed his daily dose of RBIs.
Next Level: Tyler Chatwood might have some competition when it comes to the ability to walk almost everybody and give up runs to almost nobody. Going into the game, Chatwood and Giolito led the MLB in BB/9 — Giolito with an unsightly 6.3 BB/9; Chatwood with a somehow-worse 7.6 BB/9. Contrast that with Kyle Hendricks, who barely eclipses those numbers when you add the last three years combined. Lucas Giolito is the pitcher Kyle Hendricks becomes in his nightmares. Giolito walks seven. Hendricks walks none. Giolito wins. Go figure.
The Cubs stole five bases off of Giolito. They had eight all season prior.
Hendricks, though pitching well overall, continues to give up home runs at an unusual clip. He’s already given up nine on the season (17 all of last season), which has led to a opponent slugging percentage of over .420 –about sixty points higher than his career average. It hasn’t even gotten summer-ish at Wrigley yet. That’s the bad news. There’s good news, too, though: His .234 BABIP, while a little generous, is more or less inline with his career numbers, and his 1.03 WHIP is excellent. Hopefully the uptick in HRs allowed is just a blip in the young season.
Top WPA Play: Javier Baez’s two-run single in the first, which he hit on a 3-0 pitch. Combined with a wild Giolito, it looked like the Cubs were poised for another offensive explosion. But, alas. (+.155)
Bottom WPA Play: Nick Delmonico’s game-tying RBI-triple in the sixth. The Sox would take the lead on a sacrifice fly later in the inning. (-.228)
Up Next: Before taking their show on the road to face the first-place (!!) Atlanta Braves, those same Braves will come to Chicago for a makeup game following the April 15 rain-out.
Lead photo courtesy David Banks—-USA Today Sports