Sometimes, there’s just nothing you can do but this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Jon Lester had an outstanding outing Wednesday night, allowing just six hits and one run over seven innings. Since the beginning of 2016, there have been 224 games in which a starting pitcher has had those exact numbers. Teams whose starters have done that have gone 144-80 (.643) and only six have lost 1-0. So there’s a good chance that a team with a starter doing what Jon did Wednesday is going to win.
I mentioned defense. It started with the first batter of the game [VIDEO].
Kyle Schwarber made an excellent stop on Francisco Lindor’s single and threw a laser beam to Javier Baez, who made one of his patented Javy tags on probably his closest friend in baseball. Lindor immediately knew he was out and trotted off the field, no challenge was considered.
In the bottom of the first, Ian Happ led off with a walk. Schwarber was the next hitter and lofted a popup into short left field. It wound up in foul territory, caught by Michael Brantley. Happ had started to trot to second base, apparently thinking the ball was fair, and then stumbled getting back to first base and was doubled off. Even the Indians announcers wondered where Happ was going [VIDEO].
In hindsight, that might have been a turning point in the game. The Indians scored the only run of the game, one of those “manufactured” runs, when Rajai Davis led off the third with a single, was sacrificed to second by pitcher Adam Plutko (in his first professional plate appearance), and one out later scored on a single by Brantley.
It’s only 1-0, but the Cubs had already failed to score after Plutko walked the bases loaded in the second inning. Sure, the batter with the bases loaded was Lester, but he’s turned himself into a not-terrible hitter (for a pitcher). Lester hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop, nicely struck, but for an out, and the inning was over.
That was the first of 13 straight Cubs retired by Plutko, who didn’t allow a hit through six innings.
Now come on. A guy making his second big-league start is not going to no-hit the Cubs.
And he didn’t. Anthony Rizzo ripped a double down the line to lead off the seventh. Willson Contreras beat out an infield single, advancing Rizzo to third.
That brought up Javy, and also brought Andrew Miller into the game for Cleveland. Miller hasn’t been as dominant this year as in recent previous years, so... maybe there’s a chance.
Baez fouled off the first pitch, and then bunted.
There was some consternation on Twitter about this bunt, that it was just Javy being Javy, but that’s not true — the bunt was Joe Maddon’s call:
“High strikeout percentage versus Miller,” manager Joe Maddon explained of his decision to have Baez bunt. “And Javy is one of the best bunters. I talked to him about it in the dugout. He kind of liked it, so we went with it.
“If he gets that (bunt) down, we got first and second with nobody out and a run in. I just thought, Miller, long-legged, it’s tough to make that play. We just bunted it right back at him. If it goes down the first base line, I think that’s kind of an easy run. But the ball broke in on Javy. That’s not an easy pitch to bunt.”
Miller told reporters he was expecting a bunt based on his days playing against the Rays when Maddon managed them.
The play was close enough that Joe asked for a review [VIDEO].
You know, Rizzo nearly slid under that tag, it was closer that it would have appeared when the ball first got to Indians catcher Yan Gomes. But that was the closest the Cubs would come to scoring, even after Javy’s bunt put runners on first and second with one out. Addison Russell struck out and Jason Heyward grounded to first to end the inning.
Carl Edwards Jr. threw a scoreless eighth (despite allowing two hits) and Brandon Morrow had a scoreless ninth, helped out on the third out by another defensive gem from Javy:
Javy had also made this slick stop in the fourth inning [VIDEO]. But that all went for naught when the Cubs were too impatient with Indians closer Cody Allen. Schwarber singled with two out in the eighth, so Francona brought in Allen for a four-out save. Kris Bryant looked at a ball and a strike before flying out to center to end that inning, and then Allen needed only six pitches for a 1-2-3 ninth.
Just as the Cubs know they’ve got a better team than their 25-21 record, so the Indians also are a good team despite being just 24-23 after this two-game sweep at Wrigley Field. The Cubs got excellent pitching and defense, so that’s something, at least. Hopefully the offense gets untracked this weekend against the Giants after scoring just one run in two games against Cleveland.
Again Wednesday, a surprisingly large number of Indians fans were at Wrigley Field, on an absolutely gorgeous night for baseball, temperatures in the 60s and light winds. Even without much wind, there were some fly balls hit by Cubs batters that either didn’t carry, or in one case, a ball hit by Russell in the second inning, robbed of an extra-base hit by Davis [VIDEO].
So, as I said at the beginning of this recap: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The Cubs will enjoy an off day Thursday before opening a three-game series against the Giants Friday afternoon at 1:20 p.m. CT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Derek Holland for San Francisco. TV coverage Friday is on ABC7 Chicago.