What You Need to Know: Kyle Schwarber homered early for the Cubs, giving them the only run they would need in their second consecutive 1-0 victory. However, the defense stole the show by turning a whopping seven(!) double plays on the night, the most the Cubs have ever turned in a single game, and tied for most ever turned in a major league game. Cole Hamels pitched seven strong innings in the start, and the bullpen was able to hang on in the final two innings, in large part thanks to double plays which ended both the eighth and ninth innings.
Next Level: Hamels continues to impress as a Cub, turning in his fourth straight strong start with the team on Friday evening. However, unlike his previous start, in which he struck out nine Nationals, Hamels got it done a different way tonight, by keeping the ball on the ground and inducing five of those seven double plays to keep Pittsburgh off the board.
The Cubs turned two behind Hamels in each the first three innings, plus once in the sixth and once in the seventh. This not only got Hamels out of early situations with traffic on the bases, but also kept the pitch count low enough for him to pitch through the seventh inning. Coupled with Kyle Hendricks’ start on Wednesday and Jon Lester’s start on Thursday, that gives the Cubs three straight starts of at least six innings, a rare luxury for the team this year. Hamels’ lengthy start is even more important considering the fact that Tyler Chatwood will make his first start since July 26th on Saturday, which could mean a long day for the bullpen.
Interestingly, despite striking out only three Pirates, Hamels still had good stuff working on Friday. His fastball topped out at 94.4 mph and he induced 13 swinging strikes, only two fewer than his previous start. So, even though the outcomes looked quite different, the underlying numbers suggest that Hamels can continue to produce at a high level down the stretch.
Top WPA Play: Fittingly, the Cubs’ final double play of the night. With runners on first and second and one out in the ninth inning, Jesse Chavez got David Freese to ground to third base, where David Bote stepped on the bag and fired to first to end the game (+.335).
Bottom WPA Play: Corey Dickerson’s single to center field to lead off the ninth inning (-.134). Dickerson advanced to second base on a wild pitch, putting the tying run in scoring position with nobody out, briefly putting the Cubs’ lead in jeopardy.
Up Next: Tyler Chatwood gets the ball for the first time in nearly a month on Saturday night, looking to keep the Cubs’ three-game winning streak going against Pirates starter Joe Musgrove.
Lead photo courtesy Charles LeClaire—USA Today Sports