With yesterday’s win, this is the first time the Cubs are two games over .500 since June 26, and the team has its first four game winning streak since June 6. That time, the Cubs made it up to five games, which, sadly, was their longest winning streak of the year.
- Jon Lester had himself a game last night, throwing seven strong innings with six strikeouts, one walk, and just three hits. After the worst start of his career the last time out, it was good to see Lester come back with a typical, head down, strong outing. If any pitcher in baseball would be completely unaffected by a disastrous outing, it’s Jon Lester.
- Highlights from the outing:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 18, 2017
- Lester was charged with a really tough earned run when a Javy Baez throwing error on a double play attempt allowed the runner going to first to get to second base. That runner subsequently scored on a two-out hit after stealing third base. But without the throwing error, that runner would have been on first base to begin the sequence, not second base. Is the official scorer to assume (1) the runner would have stolen second base, and (2) would thereafter have scored from second on the hit? The answers to those questions are apparently yes and yes.
- Baez’s throwing error demonstrated his pure hatred of tablets, by the way:
Defensive wizard Javy Baez pic.twitter.com/0H1VxeSES7
— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) July 18, 2017
- As for Lester, he not only dominated on the mound, but he also did some work at the plate and on the bases:
Jon Lester tonight:
XBH (a double)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 18, 2017
- That stolen base was the first of his career, and Lester’s teammates treated him right:
Cubs took a collection, were able to retrieve the second base that Lester stole. Money goes toward charity.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) July 18, 2017
- He also did a crazy thing at the plate to avoid getting wrecked by a pitch:
- Hey, how about that game-saving block by Willson Contreras last night with the tying run on third base? Wade Davis really spiked one that had disaster written all over it, but Contreras got his body up and big enough to slow it down. I had been critical of Contreras’s blocking earlier this year, but it seems like there’s been improvement. Props.
- Home plate ump CB Buckner was getting a lot of grief last night for his strike zone, which was certainly not good, but, upon review, it wasn’t one of those times where it was brutally inconsistent in a way that stands out. Instead, what stood out was just a handful of truly awful calls that you can see at Brooks. The Cubs missed out on a couple strikes that were extremely in the zone, got one that was extremely out of the zone, and Ian Happ got rung up on a pitch way out of the zone.
- (By the way, that final pitch to Sean Rodriguez was solidly out of the strike zone, in case you were wondering. Didn’t matter, though, because he *OBVIOUSLY* offered at the pitch. I don’t really see how both the first base ump and home plate ump blew that one.)
- John Lackey makes his first post-break start today, and we’ll see if the rest did him a solid like it seems to have done for everyone else. Joe Maddon is confident that Lackey will be better in the second half (ESPN), but a regression in his velocity, movement, and command make you a little uneasy that the 38-year-old will be able to bounce back this time.
- Luke has been tracking long-time Cubs pitching prospect Dillon Maples for years (he was a big money draftee back in 2011), and we’ve all been thrilled to see how he’s broken out in a relief role this year, dominating at High-A and AA before, as Luke mentioned this morning, now being promoted to AAA. That was initially reported by Patrick Mooney, who has a full write up on Maples here, and you’re gonna want to check it out. I especially love hearing that Maples honed his slider this year in the relief role, and was encouraged by the Cubs to throw it more often, believe it was an 80(!) on the 20-80 scouting scale. The reason I love hearing that is when a breakout is paired with something tangible like that, it often becomes sustainable. Consider Maples on your radar for the big league bullpen later this year.
- On the not-so-good side of things on the pitching prospect front, I didn’t realize how long Oscar De La Cruz had been out – since late May – with another elbow injury (Tribune). De La Cruz has the frame, the command, and the fastball you’d want from a frontline starter, but he’s not been able to stay consistently healthy.
- This is such an enjoyable video on so many fronts:
- And if you needed any more evidence that the 2017 Astros are the 2016 Cubs:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) July 18, 2017
- The added markdowns at the official MLB Shop (a wonderful partner of BN’s, which supports this place when you make purchases via our links, cough cough) last through today, so check it out:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) July 18, 2017