What You Need To Know: What you need to know is that this Cubs team—a team that has gotten barely 1/2 a season out of its former MVP and an injured other half from him, lost its closer halfway through the year and is down another while their third most important reliever turned into a basket case, got just eight starts out of its #2 starter, and has to wade through all of its young hitters going through growing pains—just won its 93rd game, which is more than last year.
If the Brewers end up winning this division because they win 94 or 95 games, the story will be how good they were. It won’t be because the Cubs “choked” or “disappointed.”
Next Level: Right, game itself. It was not Swan Lake out there for Jon Lester. He couldn’t really find his curveball until very late in his outing. He couldn’t find the outside corner consistently with either fastball or cutter or change. He loaded the bases in the first, ducked traffic most of the night. And it could have ended in an ugly fashion.
But sometimes, most times when he’s like this, Lester just forces his way through five or six innings. He finds just enough pitches that do hit that outside corner. He can come inside just enough to keep hitters from sitting out there, even when he’s only got two pitches working. He got nine groundouts, only gave up one extra-base hit, and essentially muscles his way to six shutout innings.
– Unlike last night, the pen didn’t really screw around, even if it’s on fumes. Cishek had a clean 7th. Edwards looked to start on another one of his whirlybirds to the zoo, walking Starling Marte on four pitches that weren’t within a $20 Uber of the zone. But he immediately regained focus, got what should have been a double play ball out of Josh Bell, except for David Bote doing a hell of a Roger Dorn impression. And then THE FEAR crept into all of us, because that’s usually the thing that caused Carl to melt down.
But nope. A couple nasty cutters to Cervelli–who’s been Darth Vader all year to the Cubs–and a double play. Jose Osuna flied out, and hopefully this is a turning point for the Slim Reaper.
-It wasn’t magical in the rest of the field, either. The Cubs rally in the 2nd started when Marte let a fly ball turn him into stone in center like it was Medusa. Schwarber should have been on second, but whatever. Happ followed with a single, and the Bote drove them both in two outs later.
But the Cubs made three outs on the bases, starting with Contreras missing a hit-and-run and leaving Happ out to dry. Then Contreras doubled, but was thrown out at the plate on an iffy send on a single from Lester. Lester scored on another iffy send later in the inning. Báez got hung up between second and third, though was able to stay out there long enough to get replaced at second.
Not vintage stuff. But at this point, just get it in the left column.
– Happ has been on base seven times the past two games, and the Cubs could use someone from the outer rim getting hot heading into whatever next week is going to be. We may have to live with Happ’s Twisted Metal routes in center but it’s fine if he’s hitting.
– Contreras is now getting pitches around his shoulders on the ground. It’s truly a marvel.
– One game up, three to go. A reeling Cardinals team in the way. It’s still in the Cubs hands. The Brewers just swept them. Cubs will likely only need two (being hopeful). Go get ‘em.
Top WPA Play: Bote’s triple in the 2nd that scored two and put the Cubs up for good. (+.176)
Bottom WPA Play: Josh Bell (who I’m told has the ill communication) reaching on Bote’s error in the 9th. (-.076)
Lead photo courtesy @Cubs on Twitter