What You Need To Know:
Cole Hamels + Dillon Maples + Jaime García + Jorge De La Rosa = a winning formula.
After Pedro Strop went down, we wondered what the bullpen would look like in a close game, and tonight, we found out. It’s basically if you just hit “randomize rosters” on a three-year-old version of MLB The Show.
But guess what? Hitting is hard! Throw strikes, and good things can happen, and tonight, the Cubs pitchers did just that.
Three Hamels starts in a row, he has fought bad luck while getting little run support. Tonight he didn’t have his best stuff, but still got a good amount of soft contact. Unfortunately, some of it left the yard.
José Peraza, whose average exit velocity of 83.9 mph puts him in the bottom 3% of the league, homered to lead off the fourth. Joey Votto followed with a pop up that Statcast claimed had a hit probability of 37%. Statcast… was wrong. That Votto pop up landed in the seats, to make it 2-0.
That looked like it might be enough to win, with Matt Harvey cosplaying like it was 2015 again. But as soon as he left, Victor Caratini singled, a grounder took a bad hop on the way to Eugenio Suárez, and Ian Happ made the Reds pay with an opposite field, three-run homer.
Oh, and as if you needed another reason to not care about pitcher wins: your winning pitcher tonight was Dillon Maples, who got one out in the seventh.
Next level: All the runs scored tonight came via home run, and thankfully, the Cubs got the biggest one. But here’s a problem: the Cubs are 22nd in the majors in home runs as a team. Look up and down the roster at the names, and that seems crazy.
It would be unfair to say they’re #22 in home runs without mentioning that they’re also #8 in runs. Scoring runs, in any way, is the whole point, right? Right! The problem is, when a team is totally exhausted—like, say, one that has played a game every day in a row since late in the Eisenhower administration*—it’s going to be harder to string together enough clutch walks/singles to put runs on the board with no one hitting it over the wall.
We saw that play out as Javy Báez, David Bote, and new glove-first second baseman Daniel Murphy stranded three runners apiece, ending several promising threats.
Runs have been down overall in this second half for the Cubs, and besides Javy and Anthony Rizzo, no one else is really close to their true talent level when it comes to power. It’s probably too late to address in any significant way this year, but it’s something the Cubs absolutely have to think about this offseason… which hopefully is about seven weeks away.
It’s nice that the Cubs strike out infrequently. I think it would be nicer if their home run hitters were hitting home runs again, and hopefully there’s a little more where Ian Happ’s blast came from.
*Okay, since 7/21, but you can’t prove to me that Eisenhower wasn’t still in office then.
Top WPA Play: Hitting home runs is cool. Ian Happ made a cool home run in the seventh (+.433).
Bottom WPA Play: Something called a Curt Casali doubled in the ninth, putting the tying run at second (-.136).
Up Next: As you probably know, the league has mandated the Cubs never rest for 24 hours in a row, so they play again tomorrow afternoon against the Reds, as Jon Lester goes for his 16th win against Cody Reed.
Lead photo courtesy @Cubs on Twitter