The Cubs moved to the precipice of their third consecutive National League Championship Series with a win yesterday. To be sure, it was a sloppy game by the Cubs with four errors, a mystifying baserunning error among other mistakes by the Cubs. And yet, they were able to scratch out a win. One more Cubs win sends the Nationals home for yet another disappointing end to their season.
Credit for where the Cubs stand in this series almost entirely belongs with the Cubs pitching staff. But for one inning in this series, it has completely and totally shut down a high powered Nationals offense. That inning counts too, so the Nationals are very much still alive, but were it not for the Cubs pitching, this series might already be over in the wrong direction. The Cubs pitching staff, even including the one bad inning, have a 2.08 ERA and have only allowed 15 hits in 26 innings. Aside from that one inning, the Nationals have scored just two runs and one of those was very, very unearned. That’s a command performance by the pitching staff.
Of course, I shouldn’t have to remind any of you how fast things can turn. Jake Arrieta is on the mound at Wrigley Field where he has made 59 career regular season starts and has a 2.31 ERA and a WHIP of .959. Tanner Roark, the fourth starter of the Nationals is on the mound for the Nationals and on paper, this looks like a clear advantage for the Cubs. But, if the Nationals steal this game somehow, things swing hard in the other direction. Kyle Hendricks was great in game one, but will he be as effective seeing the Nationals for the second time in a week? And even if he is, will Stephen Strasburg match him pitch for pitch? Hopefully the Cubs win today and we don’t ever have to consider those possibilities.
Before we can move forward though, we need to look back on yesterday’s thrilling game and what WPA has to say about Heroes and Goats. As always the Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA (Win Probability Added — here’s a good explanation of how WPA works) and are not in any way subjective. Many days WPA will not tell the story of what happened, but often it can give at least a glimpse to who rose to the occasion in a high leverage moment or who didn’t get the job done in that moment. Also note, for the purposes of Heroes and Goats, we ignore the results of pitchers while they are batting and hitters while they are pitching. With that, we get to the results.
Game Chart Monday, October 9 (Cubs win 2-1):
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jose Quintana (.295). I’ve told you how dominant the Cubs pitching has been. Jose Quintana threw 5⅔ innings and allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out seven. Had Kyle Schwarber made a not all that difficult catch running towards the line, Quintana would have finished six shutout innings. Instead, he allowed one unearned run. And in the story of Jose’s life, he gets a no decision despite pitching great.
- Hero - Albert Almora Jr. (.188). In what has been a year to make me eat words I’ve had earlier in life, Albert has repeatedly eat my words about my thoughts while he was developing in the minor leagues. I just never thought that he would get to where he was an offensive threat in the major leagues. Obviously he had a very productive season at the plate and he had an enormous hit yesterday, pinch hitting in the seventh inning. Ben Zobrist had a one out double for the first Cubs hit and Almora singled him in to tie the game at 1-1.
- Sidekick - Wade Davis (.161). Wade picked up his second save of the postseason with a 1-2-3 ninth. Wade Davis has appeared in 25 career postseason games. He sports a 4-0 record along with six saves in 34⅓ innings of work. He has a 0.79 ERA (1.49 FIP) and strikes out 12.58 batters per nine innings (up from 11.84 in the regular season). Wade has been an amazing pick up for this Cubs team.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Addison Russell (-.200). Addison was hitless in three tries yesterday and struck out twice. It was Addison’s fly out to center with one out and runners at first and second that landed him here (-.145). That’s largely because, inexplicably, Jason Heyward was most of the way to second base. Granted, he’s in a tough spot, because he doesn’t want to be forced out at second if the ball drops. But even more so, he doesn’t want to be doubled off of first and end the inning.
- Goat - Kris Bryant (-.083). Kris did draw a walk, but was otherwise quiet in four plate appearances. His strike out in the eight with a runner on second and one out in a 1-1 game was worth (-.072).
- Kid - Pedro Strop (-.069). Pedro did come in and allow an inherited runner to score when Ryan Zimmerman crushed one to right center that found the gap. Pedro did otherwise look good in recording four outs in this one. This podium spot should really belong as much to Kyle Schwarber for dropping the ball that should have ended the inning one batter earlier.
Next, we take a look at the cumulative standings for the playoffs. As a reminder, we award three points for Superhero, two for Hero, and one for Sidekick. And we deduct three points for Billy Goat, two for Goat and one for Kid.
- Kyle Hendricks 3
- Anthony Rizzo 3
- Jon Lester 3
- Jose Quintana 3
- Willson Contreras 2
- Albert Almora Jr. 1
- Wade Davis 1
- Kris Bryant -1
- Jason Heyward -1
- Pedro Strop -1
- Kyle Schwarber -2
- Mike Montgomery -2
- Ben Zobrist -3
- Carl Edwards Jr. -3
- Addison Russell -3
Three Superhero performances in three days out of the Cubs starters. If that trend continues today, the Cubs should be in very good position to advance to the NLCS. Anthony Rizzo has been the clear offensive MVP for the Cubs as he’s driven in five of the nine runs the team has scored so far and right now I’m feeling very comfortable with my prediction that he would be the Cubs MVP in this round.
As I said earlier, it is Jake Arrieta against Tanner Roark today. Jake had a 1.69 ERA in 11 starts in July and August before a hamstring injury forced him to leave a start early in Pittsburgh on September 4 and Jake didn’t look quite right in his final two starts of the season, though he did hold the Brewers to one run in five innings in one of those.
Tanner Roark made 19 appearances, 17 of them starts, from June 14 until the end of the year. In those appearances, he had a 5.28 ERA and the Nationals were 8-11 in thos games. Of course there is an appearance against the Cubs in there in which he threw 6⅓ innings and allowed two runs on five hits. He also threw his two best games (by Game Score) of the year in that stretch against the Diamondbacks and Brewers. So it wasn’t a straight drop to the bottom and he does have an ability to rise up to the level of quality opposition. It’s hard to imagine that this won’t be a fourth straight close game.
Yesterday, 82% of you felt that the Cubs would still win this series even after a heartbreaking game two loss and 44% of you thought we’d win both yesterday’s game and today’s both. Let’s hope that 44% of you were right. Today, we’ll have a more typical poll and look at who you felt was the Superhero of yesterday’s game given that there were so many important moments.
Who was the Cubs Superhero of Game 3?
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Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments below)