As a fan actually at Wrigley Field for the second half of the double header yesterday, I can tell you that the loss was as frustrating in person as any game I’ve been to in a while.
The Cubs were unable to plate a single run against Drew Pomeranz for six innings. And then, despite good opportunities in both the eighth (bases loaded) and ninth (tying run on second base), the Cubs couldn’t push a single guy across to save the game.
What I found decidedly un-frustrating, though, was John Lackey’s fantastic performance. As a whole, Lackey pitched eight innings of one run ball, giving up just one run on three hits no walks and seven strikeouts. That’s a bona fide gem in my book, and I was glad to see Lackey do so well.
But Lackey himself, on the other hand, had at least one moment where he wasn’t too happy.
Going into the top of the fifth inning, Lackey’s line was a clean 4.0 IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R. Indeed, he retired the first two batters of the fifth inning as well, and had a perfect game going through 4.2 IP (does it count as a perfect game at that point? I’d say retiring the first 14 batters qualifies). That was, of course, until Christian Bethancourt stepped up to the plate and deposited a deep, deep home run onto Waveland Ave.
Check it out:
To my eye that pitch wasn’t all that bad. It was as down as Ross was calling for, and it just barely nicked the inside corner (although, it looks like Ross was calling for it out over the plate). Unfortunately, the placement didn’t matter, because Bethancourt crushed it, launching it at 29 degrees off the bat with an exit velocity of 109.1 MPH. According to Statcast, the ball traveled 445 and was in the air for 6.6 seconds, but inside Wrigey Field, that ball felt like it would never land.
However, it wasn’t exactly the home run itself, that put Lackey in a bad mood, instead it was Christian Bethancourt’s long admiration of it that ticked off the veteran right hander. “How many home runs does he have?” Lackey told reporters after the game. “I have a long memory …. He’ll learn”
Remind me never to get on Lackey’s bad side for any reason … like ever.
Apparently, as Bethancourt was slowly trotting to first base and admiring his moonshot of a home run, Lackey unleashed some of that inner-cowboy spirit we’ve been hearing so much about. The cameras caught him shouting, “You better f***ing run!” And, as you can imagine, Bethancourt picked up the pace ever so slightly after that.
The home run was a bummer, as it ended Lackey’s perfect game, no-hitter, the shutout and ultimately wound up being the only run the Padres needed all night. Still, that was a seriously impressive performance from John Lackey, even against a lighter hitting team like the Padres. Now, on the seaosn, Lackey’s line reads 3.54/3.16/3.21 with both a solid strikeout rate (25.3%) and walk rate (5.4%). Both of those marks are better than average.
In his past three starts, including last night, Lackey has given up just five earned runs on 12 hits, 4 walks and 20 strike outs over 23 innings pitched. He might be frustrated by last night’s result and Bethancourt’s lingering stares, but I’m encouraged that the Cubs third starting pitcher is really beginning to dial things up here in the early quarter of the season.