Pressure to perform was squarely put on the Chicago Cubs offense, especially as they were facing an opposing starting pitcher making only his second career start.
Tonight’s 1-0 loss to Cleveland are the type of losses that prove costly when looking for wins in September.
What You Need to Know: Cleveland starting pitcher Adam Plutko hardly looked like a pitcher making his second careerbstart. For six innings he was able to keep Cubs bats quiet, and while he gave up four walks, none reached base via the hit.
That changed in the seventh inning, when he gave up two straight hits to Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras.
Wasting no time, manager Terry Francona went to the bullpen and brought out Andrew Miller. That set up a matchup between Miller and Javier Báez with Rizzo at third base, and it led to the most questioned move of the night.
On a 0-1 count, Báez layed down a squeeze bunt that rolled directly to Miller, who quickly threw the ball to home, beating Rizzo by a step.
The play at the plate was the closest the Cubs were to scoring tonight, and Cleveland relievers Miller and Cody Allen put the game out of reach.
Next Level: Jon Lester allowed only one run over seven innings, lowering his already team-leading ERA to 2.37. While it’s encouraging to see Lester giving the Cubs a chance to get the win every five games, the sustainability of this success is questionable.
His 4.28 FIP leads to the question, how long can the good times last? As long he’s being defended by one of the top defenses in the majors, look for Lester to avoid getting into much trouble while giving up plenty of contact.
Top WPA Play: Anthony Rizzo doubled to right field in the 7th inning breaking up Plutko’s no-hitter (+.130).
Bottom WPA Play: Later in the seventh inning, a poor squeeze bunt from Báez led to an easy play at the plate to tag Rizzo out (-.180).
Up Next: The Cubs will have a day off before welcoming the San Francisco Giants for a three-game series on Friday.
Lead photo courtesy Patrick Gorski—USA Today Sports