I’m going to disabuse you of one notion right up front: James Shields did not pitch well tonight.
Yes, the Cubs did not score a run while he was in the game, and yes he went 7.2 innings. But it really wasn’t his skill that held the Cubs scoreless (5 Ks and 4 BBs, and so many balls in the air) so much as the Cubs’ own struggles to strike the ball consistently with authority, even against extremely hittable pitches. It was that, plus a healthy sprinkle of luck. (For context, Shields came into this start with a 2.10 ERA over his last five starts despite a 5.10 FIP and a comically low 11.8% strikeout rate. Over that stretch (and continuing into tonight), he has a .208 BABIP against and a 100%(!!!) left on base rate. I have never seen a stretch that lucky. Seriously. It’s no doubt happened, but I’ve never personally observed it.)
I’m usually a tip-your-cap kind of guy, because often when the offense looks “bad,” it’s because the opposing pitcher, you know, has a job to do, too. Tonight, though? The Cubs offense was just bad. (And unlucky. I have to say that in fairness. But, you know, bad.)
With that all in mind, the Cubs offense did a whole lot of nothing, and what happened on the pitching side (which was all pretty much fine, except for Travis Wood’s three straight walks) didn’t really matter. Kyle Hendricks looked good again. Joe Nathan looked good again. The pitching was good enough to win.
So that’s neat.
But, on the balance, it was a really crummy loss, featuring the Cubs’ offense failing in almost every conceivable way (some bad luck, but a lot of bad contact and whiffs on ugly pitches, too).