What you need to know: Today, the Cubs called up a prospect from Double-A Tennessee, and the move paid off. His name is Kris Bryant, and you may have heard of him, though it’s been a while. In his first game back since June 22, Bryant went 1-for-5, with two walks and a two-run shot to dead center that narrowed the Giants’ lead to 4-3 in the fifth inning.
The Giants built that lead with a four-run first that included a lead-off home run by Chase d’Arnaud and RBI hits by Gorkys Hernandez and Steven Duggar. The Cubs, meanwhile, began the game with RISP-woes, failing to plate runners in the first, second, and fourth innings.
Jason Heyward led off the second inning with a towering home run to right, part of a strong day at the plate, reaching in each of his first three at-bats. Javy Baez (who else?) tied the game in the seventh inning with a home run of his own.
After 12 2/3 scoreless innings from Mike Montgomery and the pen, Buster Posey brought a run across in the bottom of the thirteenth and the Giants walked it off.
Next Level: Montgomery’s day was better than his line: 5 IP, 4 ER, 8 H, 1 K. Most of that damage, however, was done in the first inning—in fact, most of it after an infield single with two outs that ricocheted off Montgomery’s glove and was followed by two RBI hits. If you play the (admittedly dangerous) hypothetical game and imagine Montgomery either making the play or not deflecting the ball, it’s not hard to see his day extending into the sixth, giving up only one run and three fewer runners.
I’m pointing this out because Montgomery pitched quite well for the next four innings. He moved quickly through the second, using only nine pitches. In the third, with runners on and no outs, he worked three consecutive outs by inducing weak and medium contact on ground balls.
That was the story of his sneakily effective day: he gave up an average exit velocity of 83.7 mph, including six outs on contact Statcast tracked at under 80mph (including two infield flies) and a ground ball to fly ball ratio of 10-to-three.
His slash line for the day— 7.20 ERA/5.93 FIP/4.96 xFIP—also agrees with my “better than he looked” assessment. But I think he performed better than even a regression to 4.96. Again, I’m dancing like an over-eager runner off in hypothetical land. I got caught out there frequently enough during my abysmal high school career to know better. Yet Montgomery gave a solid start today, and at times was even quite good, in a way the box score doesn’t show. And as the Cubs continue to stare at rotation uncertainty (Darvish, Chatwood, the trade deadline), that means Montgomery showed us exactly what he needed to.
Top WPA play: Javy Baez led off the seventh inning against Tony Watson. Watson threw a fastball. Javy didn’t like it, and sent it back 405 feet in his general direction. Of course, this being San Francisco, the ball only just cleared the fence. (+.202)
Bottom WPA play: James Norwood entered the game in the twelfth, making his major league debut with two strikeouts. Things didn’t go as smoothly in the bottom of the thirteenth: after Travis D’Arnaud smoked a ball into Ben Zobrist’s glove on the left field warning track, Brandon Belt walked and Andrew McCutcheon singled to bring up Buster Posey with two outs. Posey, perhaps taking revenge on Cubs fans for helping to vote in Willson Contreras as the starting All-Star catcher over him, drove in Belt with a hit off the right field wall (-.391)
Lead photo courtesy Patrick Gorski—USA Today Sports