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Cubs Mercifully Never Let Cardinals Get Their Hopes Up

Cubs score early to win 5-0

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals headed to Wrigley Field to take on the Cubs in the first of a three game set.

Today's Lineup:

That...that is not Mike Leake.  That is Woody Williams doing Mike Leake cosplay.  I don't know who you're trying to fool, Cardinals.

Onto the game!

Joining me in commentary today is Jon Snowzeliak as we watch the Cardinals take on Matt's Carpenter's former college teammate Jake Arrieta.

First Inning:

Arrieta struck out the side, with only Matt Carpenter putting up much of a fight.  Carpenter ended his at-bat swinging at a pitch well below the zone. Snow, give me a silver lining!

Carpenter has been punched out looking at bad pitches so often that I imagine he plans for it with a guy like CB Bucknor behind the plate.

Good point, Snow.  In the bottom of the inning, a leadoff walk by Dexter Fowler boded poorly for the Cardinals chances.  If there was something that could go the Cubs' way this inning, it did.  Kris Bryant would follow up with single that barely cracked 70 mph off the bat to left fielder Kolten Wong.  Wait...*scrolls up to lineup*...okay, sure, left fielder Kolten Wong.  Also seen this inning: two wild pitches, two doubles, another single, Kolten Wong falling down.  When the dust cleared, the Cardinals were in an enormous 4-0 hole.

Let's Talk About This Defensive Lineup:

How's that game plan coming, Mike?

Sounds about right.  So what type of defensive alignment did Mike Matheny put behind Mike Leake (owner of a 1.18 GB/FB ratio this year)?  A shortstop who had a grand total of 29 games at SS in the previous 3 years, an average fielding third baseman at second, the moldering corpse of Jhonny Peralta at third, and Kolten Freaking Wong in left field.  Oh, and Yadier Molina, who is on pace to break his career innings played mark and has already played 19 games in September so far, behind the plate.  What say you, Snow?

When Matt Adams is the defensive highlight of your infield lineup, you know you're in trouble.

Third Inning:

Peralta and Wong would lead off with singles.   Mike Leake would come to the plate, be hit in his pitching hand during a bunt attempt as he attempted to pull the bat back, have that called a strike, and finally hit into a double play.  Mike Matheny, already angry about a fair/foul call in the first, would rail at CB Bucknor to no avail.

Fourth Inning:

Matt Adams walks!  Matt Adams is picked off first.  A wonderful vignette to encapsulate this season: an improbable offensive outcome immediately followed by a mindbogglingly dumb moment.  The immovable object meets unstoppable force.  Leake was lifted for Dean Kiekhefer in the bottom of the inning after putting Arrieta and Kris Bryant on.  Kiekhefer failed to get Anthony Rizzo out and was lifted for Miguel Socolovich.  To be fair, he wasn't getting a  ton of latitude from Bucknor:

From another angle:

Socolovich would induce a near tailor-made double play ball, but Ben Zobrist was able to beat it out to allow Arrieta to score.  5-0 Cubbies.

Sixth Inning:

Trevor Rosenthal came in for the sixth and looked pretty good, actually!  A whole boatload of 97-98 mph fastballs, a couple 89-90 changeups, and decent movement.  I tired to rouse Snow for some commentary, but he left to refill his mint julep.  I think the mistakes in the game were getting to him.

Ninth Inning:

Bucknor blows ANOTHER call on strike 3 to Matt Carpenter, who was quite unhappy about the call.  At this point, it was near meaningless, but still frustrating. John Rooney got quite salty during the next at-bat - when the next pitch was in the dirt, Rooney remarked "I wonder if Bucknor thinks that is a strike too." See the maps of Bucknor's zones today:

Pitcher lines:  Mike Leake, who averages 1.4 BB/9, had 3 walks through 3 innings.  Even with the Bucknor's capricious strikezone, it was not an auspicious sign for his control.  He would finish with 3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K.  Arrieta had the much prettier line, going 7 IP with 5 H, 1 BB, 10 K.  A whole arsenal of Cardinals relievers would make appearances ranging from "brief" to "barely noticeable":  Jerome Williams, Zach Duke, Sam Tuivailala, Rosenthal, Socolovich, and Kiekhefer would all take the mound at one point or another.

WPA Graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Final words:

Snow, what do you say?

The Cubs' lead was never out of reach and yet felt completely insurmountable from the beginning.

True!  Cubs and Cards have two more games in this series while fighting the Giants and the Mets for a WC spot.  Johnny Cueto and Noah Syndergaard are both scratched from their next starts, the Mets have been getting kicked in the gut in the late innings, the Giants look very fallible, and yet...Cardinals desperately need no more repeats of today to stay in contention.