While he lacks awe-inspiring stuff, the repertoire is deep and Weaver throws plenty of strikes, a combination which I think will equate to a solid mid-rotation big-league starter. There’s a chance for more if the cutter, which is still fairly new, progresses beyond my projection.
Kyle Hendricks seeks to extend the Cubs' 11-game winning streak. Hendricks' rise to success has mystified me because he just doesn't profile as anything better than a Mike Leake type, but he's been quite good this year. Because I'm mostly just cribbing Fangraphs now, this is what they published about Hendricks recently:
Hendricks has recorded an average strikeout rate, low walk rate, and limits the damage on balls in play. While his high ground-ball rate suggests he might start allowing more hits, the fact that his fly balls skew toward pop ups protects him from too much regression in the BABIP department. Hendricks hardly ever throws a breaking ball and sits 89-90 with his fastball, but he’s been one of the more effective pitchers in the league over the last two-plus years, sitting 26th in WAR since this date in 2014.
Luke Weaver's MLB career started off in promising fashion, striking out Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant and getting Rizzo to ground out. The change was as devastating as advertised. To quote noted VEBer As You Van Slyke It, who watched the game with her own two eyes:
Looked fantastic in the first. Great command.
(I need a nickname for) Weaver got into some trouble in the bottom of the second. He gave up a double to Ben Zobrist, then hung one of his prized changeups to chronic underachiever Addison Russell, who knocked it into the stands. After inducing a Jason Heyward flyout, Weaver walked Wilson Contreras and gave up a single to Javier Baez, moving Contreras to third. Hendricks tried for a safety squeeze, but Weaver fielded the bunt cleanly and threw Contreras out at home, preventing the run. He then walked somebody but got Bryant to ground out. And it wasn't enough for him to just stand on the mound for this - he covered for the throw. Because he's a professional. But still, Cubs lead, 2-0.
Weaver settled in for the next couple innings, and take it with a grain of salt, but he looks like a valuable contributor at this level, at the very least. Meanwhile, Hendricks was mowing down Redbirds like he was Clayton Kershaw -- ok, bad example -- Madison Bumgarner -- eh, nevermind. Just some soft-tossing lefty, I guess. Point is I don't understand how Hendricks is this good when his tools are so average. But somehow, I knew we were going to win this game. Call it intuition, call it blind optimism, I don't know. Maybe I really do have a time machine. But I titled this article in the fourth inning.
Alex Reyes took over for Weaver in the fifth. Weaver's final line: 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HR. Apart from that jittery second inning (which may have had something to do with the strike zone, by the way), he was good and looked maybe great.
Reyes was Reyes, which is exhilarating. 3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 101 MPH, arm like a dang rocket, mind of a freaking scientist... You get the idea. Kid is fun to watch.
Brandon Moss asked a very relevant question of Hendricks in the sixth: "Why in the hell are we striking out against this guy? He's not even a good pitcher!" He did his part to rectify the situation, opening Dinger Camp up by murdering the next pitch he saw. How hard did he hit it, you ask? Well, if Twitter can be believed...
Understand how hard Brandon Moss hit that ball, it was 79 MPH coming in & he slammed it through a head wind about 15 rows into the bleachers— Chris Tunno (@TunesSTL) August 13, 2016
But judge for yourself:
In the top of the seventh, Jedd Gyorko announced he was sick of being BABIP'd to death, so he was declining to put the ball in play. In lieu of such action, he elected to tear the cover off of it, depositing it squarely in the left field bleachers.
Also noteworthy: Mike let Alex Reyes bat to end the inning, increasing my excitement because it meant seeing more Reyes pitching. (This was tactically sound, because the bases were empty.) Tie Game, 2-2.
In the top of the eighth, Carl Edwards Jr. (isn't that a NASCAR driver? The Tebow Effect is getting out of hand...) or some such person relieved Hendricks. Hendricks' final line: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 12 K, 2 HR. Not bad for a guy with a 90 mph fastball and no single remarkable tool. I continue to be utterly mystified.
It turned out to be a good thing that Edwards came in, too. With one out, Piscotty worked a stellar full-count walk, then Matt Carpenter found a timely base hit somewhere in his bag of tricks. Moss worked a pretty swell walk, demonstrating well Edwards' propensity for missing the strike zone. Yadi stepped to the plate with the sacks jammed and one out, but alas, he struck out BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! the pitch was a wild one, and it scooted back to the backstop so that Piscotty could score. Very polite. Jhonny Peralta walked, and so did Gyorko (on four straight pitches). So, Edwards is wild. After 4 walks and 2 runs (one on a wild pitch, the other on a walk), zany trickster Joe Maddon decided he'd had enough and pulled him. After the break, Grichuk hit a birthday grand slam on the second pitch from Joe Smith, because, you know, it's his birthday.
LOLCUBS Cardinals lead, 8-2.
Siegrist worked a scoreless bottom of the inning, inducing groundouts from the top of the Cubs order.
Maness turned things into a circus in the ninth and allowed -- nay, invited -- one run (go read about it somewhere else if you want - it was pretty ugly), but Mike pulled him and Zach Duke came in to shut it down with no outs and tiny ursine creatures on second and third. Another of Maness' runners scored in the process, but Duke shut down the bad guys. CARDINALS WIN, 8-4 IN WRIGLEY AND REYES PITCHED AND SO DID WEAVER AND THERE'S SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS AND LIGHT IN THE WORLD AGAIN!
Fun fact from the broadcast: The last Cardinal to hit a grand slam on his or her birthday was none other than Colby Rasmus.
I had the Thursday recap, and I was very, very critical of Matheny's decision not to use phenom Alex Reyes in relief in that 11-inning heartbreaker. I'm nothing if not humble though, and it appears he might have had solid reasons for that decision. Piggybacking Weaver and Reyes looks downright genius in hindsight, and it's not clear that would've been possible if Reyes had been used two nights ago - at least not for as many innings as he got in today. Now, I don't want to go too far in this praise/apology - it's possible that Mike stumbled into this, and if that's the case, then shame on him. But I'm assuming this was probably the plan, so Thursday feels a little less bad, especially because the piggyback worked beautifully.
The Cubs had an 11-game winning streak. As mother always said, if you can't be better, be petty. So, ha! We broke your stupid streak, Cubs.
WPA GRAPH OF DOOM
Next up: 7:08 PM CDT, tomorrow. Leake vs. Lackey. Be there.