What You Need To Know: All good things must end. The Cubs six-game winning streak came to an end as Mike Montgomery couldn’t quite dance with Tyler Mahle on one of those strange summer days that’s warm but the wind howls in from the lake. And though the winds and air said “Do Not Enter,” the Cubs tried to force their way into the bleachers to no avail in the big spots, and that’s how you end up with a low-run loss.
Next Level: The debate that follows the Cubs rotation around is whether strikeouts are truly missed and overrated or desperately needed when the Cubs sport the best defense in the game. Mike Montgomery was obviously in the former camp today, He only struck out two, and only generated four whiffs in total. Still, he only gave up six hits, not much more hard-hit balls and let the seven guys behind him take care of the rest. Now, whether this is the right approach or not, I’ll let you decide. The wind was howling in, so there wasn’t much to be afraid of. You’d really have to let a pitch get scorched to get through the wind today, and given how the Cubs outfield has played, anything that’s up there is going to get caressed by leather. Still, only generating four whiffs on anything is a tad worrying, but if you’re pitching to contact, that’s probably what you’re going to end up with and still be in the spectrum of “acceptable.”
Still, the Cubs couldn’t get anything going against Mahle, who only let up five hits in his 6 2/3 innings. The only run they could get off of him was from a leadoff double by Willson Contreras and then a couple grounders. Their only other run came in the eighth via a sac fly from Zobrist, which on any other day is well up into the bleachers, as was Russell’s fly in the ninto. But when your only runs come via outs, you know you’re not piling them up.
The Cubs ‘pen was excellent as usual, with only Randy Rosario getting into any kind of trouble. A returning Carl Edwards was able to untangle it with a few sweeps of his right arm. Justin Wilson was the big hero out of the ‘pen, striking out Scooter Gennett and Joey Votto back-to-back with a runner on second. More big spots like that from Wilson and he becomes yet another late-inning weapon, and getting Votto to K with a runner in scoring position is no small change, son.
Meanwhile, the Cubs continue to make Billy Hamilton look like Willie Wilson circa ’84. He went 3-for-3 with a run scored. Every other team knocks the bat out of his hands. Strange days, indeed.
Top WPA Play: Rizzo’s single in the 8th that put Baez to third in a position to score from Zobrist’s sac fly (+.111).
Bottom WPA Play: Jason Heyward’s full-count. two-out flyout in the ninth with a runner on second (-.147).
Lead photo courtesy David Banks—USA Today Sports