For our next look back at the biggest 2017 WPA events, we stay in the very same series as we looked at last week. In that one, we looked at Hector Rondon’s unfortunate ninth inning from the Friday afternoon game where he blew a late lead leading to a Cubs loss. Today, we move forward two days for one of the biggest positive WPA events of the year.
Following Friday’s heartbreaking loss, the Cubs watched the Yankees score the first eight runs of the game on Saturday. They battled back but dropped a second straight game by a score of 11-6. That game dropped the Cubs to 16-14 on the season.
Jon Lester started the Sunday game for the Cubs and with Luis Severino on the mound for the Yankees it felt like the Cubs had a bit of an edge. Jacoby Elsbury lead off the game with a single but then Willson Contreras picked him off of first. Aaron Hicks walked and Matt Holday followed with a single. The two runners stole second and third and then Ex-Cub Starlin Castro drove in the first run with a ground out.
Neither team had another base runner until the third when Aaron Hicks was walked, but there was no further damage. In the bottom of the inning, Javier Baez hit his fourth home run of the season with two outs (.121) to tie the game 1-1. Kyle Schwarber followed with a double, but that was where he stayed.
The Cubs put runners in scoring position in both the fifth and the sixth innings, but couldn’t get either runner home. But in the top of the seventh, Starlin Castro reached on a Kris Bryant error and then scored on an Aaron Judge triple to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Then in the eighth, Jacoby Ellsbury took Justin Grimm deep with a man on to make it 4-1 Yankees.
A one out Kyle Schwarber walk and a Kris Bryant single off of Dellin Betances made it interesting in the bottom of the eighth, but Anthony Rizzo struck out (-.064) and Ben Zobrist grounded out to end the threat. At this point in the game, Anthony Rizzo was hitless in four at bats with three strike outs and a WPA of (-.137).
Justin Grimm then threw a perfect ninth and Aroldis Chapman came into the game to close it out for the Yankees. The bottom of the ninth began with an Addison Russell walk. Jon Jay followed with a single and Willson Contreras struck out for the first out. Albert Almora Jr. followed with a single and it was 4-2 (.114). Javy Baez followed with a single of his own (.245) and then stole second (.084). Kyle Schwarber then struck out and the Cubs were down to their final out. The Yankees decided to intentionally walk Kris Bryant to get the lefty-lefty matchup against Anthony Rizzo. But Chapman got one too far inside and Rizzo was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and two outs to tie the game at 4-4 (.384).
Both teams were retired in order in the tenth and the Yankees again in the eleventh. Kyle Schwarber drew a two out walk in the bottom of the eleventh but advanced no further. The Cubs bullpen posted their fourth consecutive perfect inning in the twelfth. Then Anthony Rizzo lead off the bottom of the inning with a double, his first hit of the day (.172). Miguel Montero flew out to left and Rizzo advanced to third. Russell then struck out. Jon Jay was intentionally walked but Willson Contreras could not get the run in against yet another ex-Cub in Adam Warren.
Mike Montgomery finally allowed a baserunner out of the Cubs pen with a lead off single to Brett Gardner. He was able to hold him there. The Cubs were retired in order in the bottom of the 13th. Each team had a walk in the 14th (the Cubs was by Anthony Rizzo (.055) but neither got him past first base. The 15th saw a Yankees walk and a Cubs single by Almora. Again, neither moved past first.
In the 16th, the Yankees had both a single and a walk off of Brian Duensing in his second inning of work but didn’t score. Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked with the bases empty and two outs (.029) in the bottom half as John Lackey was the next hitter.
Pedro Strop worked a perfect 17th and the Yankees worked around a Willson Contreras single in the bottom of the inning. Then in the 18th inning off of Pedro Strop throwing a second inning, the Yankees got a single and an error by Willson Contreras to start the inning. Another player who spent time in the Cubs system, Ronald Torreyes then sacrificed and Castro reached on a fielder’s choice grounder as Hicks beat the throw to the plate. Gary Sanchez followed with a single and then Didi Gregorious grounded into a fielder’s choice. Didi then stole second but Chase Shreve, the Yankees pitcher grounded out.
Javy Baez grounded out and Kyle Schwarber struck out to start the bottom of the inning. But then Kris Bryant drew a walk and once again Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked (.073). After being retired four straight times, three by strike out, Rizzo reached base six consecutive times including two intentional walks. He ended up registering a WPA of .578. Unfortunately, Kyle Hendricks struck out to end the game. The Yankees swept a three game set from the Cubs.
For the second time in the nine biggest positive games, the Cubs lost. They did win one of the biggest negative games, but they are left with a losing record in the biggest WPA games of the year heading into the final two biggest WPA games of the year.
Next week, we’ll look at the biggest negative game of the year. That one is unusual in that it comes from one of the most consistently positive performers on the 2017 Cubs. I’ll also be back later this week to take another look back at the 1984 Cubs who continue to inch closer to their first ever National League Central crown.