What You Need To Know: If you were to sketch out what a Cubs win on a Jon Lester start looks like, it would probably be exactly this. He doesn’t strike anyone out, there’s a lot of loud contact, but the Cubs play great defense behind him with notable catches/plays from Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, Jason Heyward, Javy Báez, and Kris Bryant. They get to the other pitcher just enough to provide a cushion for a beat-up bullpen that doesn’t need any of it when it’s all said and done. It’s not dominating, it’s just timely and efficient (though the Schwarber home run was certainly dominating). And what do you know, it’s a clean win, and it’s a clean series win on what could have been a disappointing series after yesterday’s fumble at the goal line in Game 1. And it’s still first place. Funny that.
Next Level: You do wonder how much longer Lester can keep walking this tightrope. There were some loud outs today, including four in the first two innings. Five flyballs found their way to the warning track, and on another summer day he might not even make it out of the fourth. One strikeout is worrying. Only two swings and misses all day, out of 119 pitches in total. The Cubs needed length after yesterday’s excursions, and they got it. Seven innings, and no runs. So I can’t really sit here and complain at all because no runs is no runs, much like a football in the groin is a football in the groin. But… two whiffs total?
Schwarber hit one 429 feet straight into center against a wind that knocked down pretty much everything the Dodgers threw against it all day. That’s just stupid power. I’d like to go on record again to point out that Schwarbs has been the best left fielder in the NL in terms of fWAR. Better than Yelich, better than Kemp, better than Ozuna, better than Giancarlo Stanton, and right on the heels of both J.D. Martinez and Andrew Benintendi. Are you watching, Joe Sheehan?
For the past two wins the Cubs really haven’t had to use anyone they would have counted on when the season started out of the pen, aside from Steve Cishek last night. This got done with Rosario, Bass, Scrabble II (Zastryzny), and Justin Hancock. This is the kind of depth a lot of teams sport, of course, and that’s the problem in the game I guess. Everyone can run 12-14 guys out from the pen and throw smoke and everyone goes home from there. But hey, I like it when it’s on our side.
J-Hey Baby I Got Ya Money had another two hits today, including another ringing double the opposite way. This has been the key to his recent surge: no longer hooking outside pitches into yet another groundball to second to illustrate the pointlessness of existence. Rather, he’s punching or driving them to left. Hence, he’s getting more inside pitches which he’s really putting a hurt on. Toss in throwing out Chris “Bruce Banner” Taylor at home to preserve the shutout in the third and you’re starting to see a full player that he once was. I ain’t mad at it.
Top WPA Play: Schwarber’s declaration of war in the 4th of Stripling that made it 2-0 was the Cubs’ best offensive play on the day (+.110). Their top play on the afternoon was Justin Turner’s third-inning flyout to end the inning (+.133).
Bottom WPA Play: Kiké Hernandez’s single (and I’m not convinced the Cubs have ever gotten him out) in the 3rd that sent Taylor to 3rd, where he would be swiftly cut down by Heyward on the next better (-.055). Pay for your insolence!
Lead photo courtesy Jim Young—USA Today Sports