It was a damp, cloudy day at Wrigley and the weather was reflected in the Cubs’ play as they quickly went down by two runs when Travis Shaw hit a home run that fell into the basket. The basket was apparently not pleased, because it threw the ball back out onto the field. The gloom persisted through almost 9 innings, but some late-game heroics provided a nice dose of sunshine.
To this point, Kyle Hendricks has not been the same pitcher who led the league in earned run average last year. He seemed to have difficulty controlling his pitches and commanding the strike zone, and he even walked the opposing pitcher for the first time in his career. There were times when he got squeezed by the home plate umpire, but overall Hendricks just wasn’t in good form. He gave up two home runs, the two-run dinger to Travis Shaw in the 1st and a solo shot to Jett Bandy in the 2nd. In all, the Cubs starter lasted only 5 innings, giving up 4 runs on 4 hits while walking and striking out 4 on 91 pitches.
The offense did not do a whole lot overall today. They got 4 hits, walked twice, and left five men on base. The bats could not get much solid contact, with Albert Almora’s solo home run and Willson Contreras’s RBI single being the only really hard-hit balls. That is, until the 8th inning started.
Kris Bryant worked an 0-2 count into a walk, Anthony Rizzo singled to right to move Bryant to third, Addison Russell singled to right to score Bryant and move Rizzo to second, Willson Contreras struck out looking, Rizzo and Russell successfully executed a double steal, Albert Almora struck out after a good battle, and Javy Baez struck out swinging. Wow, that was a long sentence. And a bit of a letdown. I was ready to get excited and write about how the Cubs offense came through in the clutch, but it was not to be. Yet.
The Cubs created some drama in the 9th against the Brewers’ closer Neftali Feliz. After Kyle Schwarber popped out to second, Jon Jay walked and Miguel Montero singled to right to push Jay to third. Bryant singled to center to tie the game and Anthony Rizzo grounded out to the pitcher to put the Cubs up against the wall. The Brewers chose to pitch to Addison Russell and maintained that strategy even after a 2-0 count. That’s when he absolutely destroyed a fastball, depositing it into the left field bleachers to seal the win.
Stats that Matter
- Kyle Hendricks’ fastball was hovering around the 84-86 mph range consistently today. I’m one of the people who thinks velocity is irrelevant, and that location and pitch sequencing are much more important. I can’t, however, see really any pitcher being successful (except Greg Maddux) by throwing as softly as Hendricks has this year. He’s also given up hard contact at a much higher rate so far this year than he was last year (44.1% this year vs 25.8% last year), so it could be due to his lower velocity.
- Russell’s home run left the yard at 109 mph, just a couple ticks faster than Almora’s.
The Bottom Line
The Cubs won it late for the second time in a row to take the series from the Brewers. The offense has had great moments the past two games, but the pitching cannot continue to allow early runs, and the offense has to produce throughout the game, not simply in the late stages. I am confident they will, and that the first two weeks are not indicative of how the entire season will go for them.
The Cubs have an off day tomorrow before heading to Cincinnati to face the division-leading Reds. Jon Lester will take the bump for the Cubs while Tim Adleman will start for the Reds. First pitch is at 6:10 CST, and the game will be broadcast on WGN.