The Weekend Takeaway
We all knew it was coming sooner or later: Jake Arrieta exited Wrigley Field Sunday afternoon without a win for the first time since July 2015.
The culprit? The 25-34 Diamondbacks, who utilized the talents of Yasmany Tomas and Paul Goldschmidt to hang three runs on the Cubs’ starter over five innings for a 3-2 squeaker. Arrieta struck out the side in the first inning, then allowed three straight hits to the heart of Arizona’s lineup before striking out the side again in the second. After an uneventful third inning and another three whiffs in the fourth, the right-hander pitched into a jam in the fifth frame with four consecutive singles, allowing the Diamondbacks to drive in their third and final run of the day.
Thankfully, we’re watching this game play out in 2016, when pitcher wins and losses are no longer considered the standard of player evaluation. Arrieta’s trek toward another bundle of Cy Young votes was quite possibly lifted by his three-run, 12 strikeout appearance, one that reached a season high in strikeouts even as it tacked on a few extra points to his 1.56 ERA. His sinker hung on for a 10-pitch punch-out in the first inning, his slider floated high above the zone to induce the first whiff of the second, and his curveball flummoxed the bottom of the order in the fourth.
Partial credit for the loss also goes to the Cubs’ lineup, who slacked on their 7.3 average run support and put up just two runs behind their ace, half of which was delivered by the man himself:
— #VoteCubs (@Cubs) June 5, 2016
Although the Cubs successfully evaded their 40th win of the year and now sit a mere 9.5 games ahead of the Pirates in the NL Central, something tells me that they’ll be fine.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
Clayton Kershaw had an offday on Saturday in only the way that Clayton Kershaw can. He tagged Bud Norris with a pitch on the shoulder, earned a balk to put Jeff Francoeur in scoring position, and struck out just four batters over six frames, his lowest strikeout count in a quality start since May 2013.
Despite a few snafus, Kershaw held the Braves scoreless through six innings. His pitches traveled to all quadrants of the strike zone, landing for only nine called strikes in 96 attempts. For a little context, the left-hander has earned a minimum of 15 called strikes in 10 of 12 outings this season.
While a few balls drifted outside the zone—and, conversely, a few called strikes drifted outside of it—Kershaw’s poor command wasn’t a reflection of shoddy umpiring. Nor were batters swinging at his pitches more than usual. In fact, the left-hander induced just 13 swinging strikes from the Braves’ lineup, well below his season average of 16.3 such strikes per outing.
It might, however, have had something to do with a 27-pitch sixth inning, in which four sliders ended up in the dirt and it took 18 pitches to retire Ender Inciarte, Freddie Freeman, and Jeff Francoeur on routine fly- and groundball outs.
As the saying goes, you can’t win them all, unless you’re Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers bullpen polished off the last third of the shutout, leaving Kershaw his eighth win of the year and a 1.90 DRA and 48 cFIP with which to lead the rest of the league.
Among the Clayton Kershaws and Jake Arrietas of the professional baseball-sphere, it can be difficult to recall those less-talented, still enormously impressive names who are also capable of making historical baseball feats look effortless. Take Jose Fernandez, for instance. On Sunday afternoon, Fernandez executed seven innings of a 1-0 shutout, allowing just four baserunners and striking out a career-high 14 batters. His eighth consecutive win not only furthered a personal record, but matched a franchise-best mark.
The right-hander made his home in the bottom left corner of the strike zone, clustering his heaters and curveballs along the edge of the zone while the Mets struck out right and left. New York second baseman Neil Walker fell victim to Fernandez’s curve three times, battling through five-, six-, and eight-pitch at-bats only to whiff at the same cleat-high curveball every time.
Marlins batters fared little better against the Mets’ Matt Harvey, who gave up four hits and struck out three over seven innings. The two hurlers were locked in twin shutouts until the fifth inning, when J.T. Realmuto broke through with a one-out single to give the Marlins the edge.
Will Bartolo Colon ever cease to amaze? The logical part of my brain says “yes, this human specimen will eventually stop performing wonders with baseballs,” but then he does something like this
(that’s a 108.4 mph line drive, to be precise), and I forget how all of this baseball stuff works.
Defensive Play of the Weekend
In one of the strangest plays of the weekend, the Dodgers recorded an 8-3-4 putout when Joc Pederson made a sliding catch on Saturday night. With the Braves’ Nick Markakis on first base, Adonis Garcia hit a flyball to center field and jogged toward first for the out. Pederson, who appeared to catch the ball, threw to first base, where the ball was then flipped to second for the force-out.
Before Garcia could flip his bat on the way to the dugout, third base umpire Mark Ripperger had ruled Pederson’s grab a non-catch, called Markakis out on the basepath between first and second base, and awarded first base to Garcia.
What to Watch on Monday
Steven Matz might not have the flowing locks of Asgardian ace Noah Syndergaard, but his stuff has looked every bit as otherworldly. In May, his DRA was clipped to a modest 3.61 after an abbreviated start against the White Sox, during which he delivered three runs on seven hits and logged only three strikeouts over 5 â…” innings. Despite his substandard performance, an anomaly among seven quality starts and a career-high 53 strikeouts, Matz paired an 8.6 strikeout rate per nine innings with a 1.8 walk rate, good for fifth-lowest among major-league pitchers. Assuming that the Mets are able to bounce back from their scoreless appearance against the Marlins on Sunday, Matz should be in fine shape for his career debut against an ailing Pirates lineup on Monday night (7:05 ET).
The Mariners are playing a dangerous game of “will they, won’t they” as they wait for Felix Hernandez to finish rehabbing a strained calf muscle and return to the head of the rotation. On one hand, they can pull historic comebacks out of their ballcaps, overturning 10-run deficits and turning Petco Park into a Coors Field batting cage. On the other hand, they can also capsize against a starter with a 5.07 DRA, one whose 0.1 WARP is the highest mark he’s reached since 2014.
The Mariners open their seven-game homestand on Monday against the Indians with left-hander James Paxton, who was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma in the wake of Hernandez’s absence. If they can find some consistency within their lineup and unseat Cleveland over a four-game spread, they might get another shot at toppling the Rangers from first place when Texas comes to town next weekend (10:10 ET).