These are the 3 biggest plays in Cubs' finale win over LA

April 17th, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- The Cubs believe they built a team capable of contending for the October stage this fall. Spring optimism always abounds, but the early portion of their schedule has provided the chance to see how they measure up against playoff-caliber competition.

With a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon, the Cubs escaped the always-intimidating Dodger Stadium with a pair of wins in the three-game series. It marked the third consecutive series win against the Rangers, Mariners and Dodgers.

"We all believe in there. We're nasty. We have a good team," Cubs lefty said. "When you start knocking off some series wins against opponents like this, I think it really just takes it to another level of being like, 'Yeah, we are just as good as them.'"

Here is a look at Chicago’s latest win through the lens of the three biggest moments in terms of Win Probability Added.

Sixth inning: Patrick Wisdom homers off Julio Urías
WPA: 18.6%

The Cubs have witnessed Wisdom launch home runs in bunches over the past few seasons. This series in L.A. was the latest instance -- with the slugger going deep in each of the games against the Dodgers.

"I wish I could just bottle it up and keep it in my locker," Wisdom said.

Wisdom was in an 0-2 count with two outs in the sixth, when he pulled a cutter from Urías into the left-field stands. The blast was the third baseman's team-leading sixth of the season and gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead. Wisdom later added a single to the right-center field gap.

"The homers, when he touches [the baseball], we're used to seeing that," Cubs manager David Ross said. "The thing that is standing out to me right now is the hard line drives to right-center. And even when he's beat a little bit, the bat's in the zone a really long time."

Going into Sunday's game, Wisdom's contact rate in the strike zone in '23 (85.2 percent) was noticeably up from '22 (77 percent) and '21 (71.7 percent). He has dramatically cut down his whiff rate out of the gates and, when he has chased pitches, he has fought them off more consistently.

"It's just going out there and swinging at my pitches," Wisdom said. "And putting controlled swings on it, looking for things in my zone. The staff here has done a good job of putting my blinders on, if you will, to just that. Just stay in your zone."

Seventh inning: Mark Leiter Jr. strikes out Max Muncy
WPA: 15.5%

With two on, one out and the Dodgers threatening to swing the game's momentum back their way, Ross summoned the right-handed Leiter from the bullpen. Due up for the Dodgers were a pair of elite lefty bats (Freddie Freeman and Muncy) with J.D. Martinez between them.

"I'm sure there's a lot of people questioning why," said Ross, who had lefty Brandon Hughes available in the bullpen. "He's been really solid. He's been great. Excellent."

In fact, Leiter has been something of a specialist against left-handed batters in his Cubs tenure. His splitter dives away from a lefty bat and was sharp again in Sunday's win. Leiter struck out Freeman with his signature pitch and did not let a bobbled infield single off Martinez's bat faze him.

After Muncy went down swinging with the bases loaded, Leiter let out a howl as he bounded off the mound. Lefty batters are now 2-for-18 with 10 strikeouts against the reliever so far this season. All hitters are 2-for-13 with 10 strikeouts against his splitter.

"Leit Show's great," Wisdom said. "We love when he comes in."

Sixth inning: Cody Bellinger homers off Urías
WPA: 13.5%

Bellinger received a tribute video and standing ovations on Friday night. He robbed a home run and turned some of the cheers into playful boos on Saturday. And in the finale of his return trip to play his old team, the center fielder belted a no-doubter.

"That had to feel good here," Ross said.

Bellinger followed Wisdom's blast by turning on a 1-0 heater from Urías, launching into the right-field stands. It was the first home run by a lefty off the Dodgers left-hander since July 16, 2022.

Per Statcast, the homer had a 108.1 mph exit velocity, which was Bellinger's hardest-hit ball in play of any type since Sept. 18, 2020 (109.6 mph). The outfielder dealt with a series of injury setbacks across '21-22, hindering his performance and factoring into L.A.'s decision to cut ties over the winter.

"It sure felt like it," Bellinger said of it being his hardest-hit ball in three years. "I mean, I didn't feel it, you know what I mean? So, it felt really good. I just tried to put my best swing on it."