The first game of a doubleheader going to extras after your starter lasting only five innings is, uh, generally Not Great, and it certainly led to a frustrating loss this afternoon.
What You Need To Know: Much of the game was a back-and-forth affair with the Reds taking the lead in the first and fourth innings, and extending it in the sixth, chasing Hendricks from the game. Though they had six hits and five walks against Luis Castillo in five innings, the Cubs managed only to scrape together two runs, waiting until the eighth inning to tie the game. Meanwhile, the bullpen put together another solid outing, holding the Reds scoreless for five innings until Justin Wilson walked in the winning run in the bottom of the 11th.
Next Level: For the Cubs’ offense, this was a game of missed opportunities. Batters were only 1-for-16 with RISP, stranding 14 runners. This season, the Cubs are stranding 7.8 runners per game, worst in the majors. Of course, the team has also scored the sixth most runs, so while the LOB is abnormally high, it hasn’t impacted the team that greatly, save for a frustrating game here and there.
On the pitching side of things, Kyle Hendricks cruised through much of his outing until he got to the sixth inning. After giving up two runs without recording an out, he was pulled at 71 pitches, ending his streak of quality starts at 4 games. Though Hendricks has been relatively reliable this season, today’s game feeds into a larger problem among Cubs starters of failing to pitch deep into games. This season, the team’s starters have pitched the fourth fewest innings of any major-league rotation, forcing the bullpen to have thrown the third-most innings. Only Lester and Hendricks have pitched past the sixth inning, and only Hendricks has done so more than once.
Luckily the bullpen has helped compensate, posting the 5th-lowest WHIP (1.20) and stranding runners at roughly an 80 percent clip, thanks, in part, to a .249 BABIP, the second lowest across MLB. Contributing to this excellent bullpen work today was newcomer Randy Rosario, called up as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader. In just his third career major-league appearance, he managed to strand Gennett at third, inducing two groundouts and a strikeout to keep the deficit at two, pitching a total of two innings while allowing zero hits and striking out two before giving way to Carl Edwards Jr. for the 8th inning.
The good news is that, if you reach your mind all the way back to last season, you’ll recall the starters began almost exactly as they have this season before turning it around in the second half to power the team to the division title.
Top Play (WPA): Anthony Rizzo doubled in Tommy La Stella in the 9th inning to tie the game at 4 and create the appearance that the Cubs might actually win (+.274).
Bottom Play (WPA): No surprises here, the bottom play is walking Adam Duvall to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the 11th inning, a perfectly frustrating end to a perfectly frustrating game (-.118).
Up Next: These two teams are right back at it, playing the second game of the doubleheader at 6:10PM. Jose Quintana (4-3, 5.23 ERA) faces off against Sal Romano (2-4, 4.84 ERA), so there may be a decent chance of seeing a position player pitch, which is sometimes victory enough.
Lead photo courtesy Jayne Kamin—USA Today Sports