The Chicago Cubs’ (12-8) surprisingly strong start has been outlined by impressive quality starts from the rotation and an offense that ranks top-five in numerous statistical categories.
In Smyly’s fourth outing of the 2023 regular season, he was perfect through the first seven innings.
21 Dodgers up, 21 Dodgers down.
Opening up the top half of the eighth inning stepped David Peralta, who was only batting .220 to start the season, but he was a pesky out for the Cubs so far. In the teams’ previous series, Peralta hit a pinch-hit walk-off two-run single against righty closer Michael Fulmer, which ended the Cubs’ shutout and the game.
In Friday’s game, Peralta took a full swing, slicing his bat and hitting a 32.9 mph slow roller down the third base line. Both Smyly and catcher Yan Gomes rushed the ball, hoping to get the out and preserve perfection. Smyly hustled to the ball, but Gomes’ momentum steered him directly into Smyly’s path, essentially tackling him. Gomes’ play would have been great on the gridiron, and he played into the situation during his post-game press conference.
The camera crew had a perfect shot of Smyly after the collision: A lounging Smyly could do nothing but laugh at his performance and how perfection was evaded.
This play shows how difficult it is to throw a perfect game. In nearly every historic pitching performance that ends in perfection, there’s one miraculous play that has a low chance of occurring in a normal game. During Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, Dewayne Wise’s 9th-inning home run robbery of Gabe Kapler virtually sealed it.
In this game, though, this play could have been the defensive gem of the night. Peralta’s slap hit would have been a perfectly placed bunt down the third base line. Looking back at the video, it would have been challenging for Smyly to turn and make the throw, even with Gomes out of the way.
While the fans sitting in The Friendly Confines would have loved to see the Cubs’ first-ever perfect game in franchise history, they still recognized how historic Smyly’s effort was on the mound Friday. Smyly was the first Cub to go perfect through seven innings in 30 years.
In total, Smyly had one of the best pitching performances of his career, finishing with 7.2 innings, one hit, 10Ks, and zero walks.
He threw 68/103 pitches for a strike while accumulating 18 whiffs. When the Dodgers made contact with his incredible breaking balls or fastballs, it was weak. The average exit velocity was only 76.7 mph.
Overall, an amazing performance in a remarkable stretch for the 33-year-old lefty. Since mid-July last season, Smyly has combined for a sub-3 ERA in his last 16 starts. This all includes his first start of the 2023 season, when he didn’t make it past the fifth inning against the Cincinnati Reds (4.2 IP, nine hits, six earned runs, and a home run).
Since the disastrous start, Smyly has thrown for 5+ innings in three straight appearances while allowing a maximum of one earned run in each start.
If the past three starts can prove what’s to come for Smyly, the Cubs are going to win a lot of games this season.
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