All of the noise and complaints aside, my signature reminds us constantly that sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other guy. Stephen Strasburg turned in an amazing performance yesterday, totally baffling Cubs hitters. And so, we tip our collective cap in his direction.
I’ve steered clear of BCB, so I’ve not read everyone else’s take on the game or where things stand, but I’ll give you mine. For me, there were two defining at bats in the game. The first was Addison Russell’s
home run fly out in second inning. That ball was crushed. Some days that ball would be out on the street. But not in the second inning when the wind was howling in. The second was Russell’s error that led to the first run. Teams with a history of postseason struggles look for reasons to get tight and try to do too much. If Addison’s ball finds the basket and/or he makes the play to keep the score tied, this game could have played out differently.
Just the same, here we are. One game to decide who goes home and who has a date with Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday night. This game would have scared the hell out of me. I know I saw at least one tweet suggesting that Max Scherzer will try to pitch on two days rest. I figured we’d see him in relief, if he’s going to try to start, that sounds like lunacy, but whatever. I implicitly trust Kyle Hendricks in an elimination game. I trust the Cubs players to stay calm under mounting pressure. I expect the Nationals to battle history. We’ve all seen it so many times in the past here in Chicago. To be sure they will one day defeat their own demons. And of course, that night will be tonight. But I remain supremely confident that this team will win and advance. But I sure don’t expect the Nationals to go quietly.
As always, we look back on yesterday’s game. To be sure, it wasn’t a day filled with many heroes save for one amazing performance. But let’s take a look at 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 Wednesday, October 11 (Cubs lose 5-0):
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jon Lester (.189). Jon Lester staked his claim to a second consecutive NLDS MVP. Unfortunately, the baseball gods didn’t cooperate. Jon threw 3.2 innings allowing just one hit, one walk and one run that scored after he left. Jon retired the first ten batters he faced, walked the next one and then picked him off first base! Unfortunately, the Cubs bats were silent all day and so the epic story of Jon Lester getting the win in relief with 3 perfect innings will not be written.
- Hero - Jake Arrieta (.089). Jake wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen him over the years. But, he did pitch four innings and allow no earned runs. He allowed two hits and five walks. To be sure, Laz Diaz had an unpredictable strike zone behind the plate, but once again I give credit to the Nationals hitters who were patient and worked a number of long at bats, running Jake’s pitch count up quickly.
- Sidekick - Jason Heyward (.043). For whatever reason, Jason sees the ball better against Stephen Strasburg than almost any other hitter. Certainly any hitter on the Cubs. He had a hit and drew a walk, but on a day when the Cubs didn’t muster any offense, it had little impact on this game.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Wade Davis (-.216). Michael Taylor greeted Davis with a grand slam in the eighth inning after Wade came in with the bases loaded and two outs. This was one of those days where the Cubs didn’t catch the breaks. Of course by the eighth inning the wind was no longer howling in and a lazy fly ball had just enough oomph to reach the basket and snuff the Cubs hopes of having six outs to work with and just a one run deficit.
- Goat - Javier Baez (-.173). Javier has been a total non factor at the plate in these playoffs. To date, he has a .100 OPS based on one walk he drew (though he did score after he reached base). Assuming the Nationals do start Gio Gonzalez today as would be expected, it’s going to be a big game for Javy who has hit lefties very well this season.
- Kid - Addison Russell (-.111). Addison hasn’t been much better than Javy, but he did hit a ball that should have found the seats yesterday. Addison has a .343 OPS in the series. He too could be a key contributor against Gio Gonzalez though.
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.
- Jon Lester 6
- Kyle Hendricks 3
- Anthony Rizzo 3
- Jose Quintana 3
- Willson Contreras 2
- Jake Arrieta 2
- Albert Almora Jr. 1
- Jason Heyward 0
- Kris Bryant -1
- Pedro Strop -1
- Wade Davis -2
- Kyle Schwarber -2
- Mike Montgomery -2
- Javier Baez -2
- Ben Zobrist -3
- Carl Edwards Jr. -3
- Addison Russell -4
Sometimes WPA very correctly tells you how things are going. We see all of the Cubs starters at the top of the standings. The starters have been fantastic. Anthony Rizzo appears near the top, he’s had an outstanding series, yesterday’s tough game not withstanding. Contreras has done a nice job of getting on base in the series. But most of the Cubs hitters and every Cubs reliever who has affected an outcome is negative. The bullpen hasn’t been effective in either loss and the bats have largely been ineffective across the board.
That will all have to change today. The Cubs have to put some runs on the board today (obviously) and the earlier the better. Hopefully Albert Almora Jr. has a better game against Gio than the last time. I’d like to see him leading off again with Bryant, Rizzo, and Contreras behind him. Hopefully the Cubs can jump on him from the first inning. Just like Strasburg yesterday, give Kyle Hendricks an early lead and let’s see how the Nationals do facing elimination. There was nothing the Cubs did yesterday that really made the Nationals actually face their elimination as they were in control of the game from start to finish.
We will finish with a poll. On Tuesday morning, 63% of you chose Jose Quintana as your Superhero of the Game. Today we’ll be voting on Goat of the Game.
Who was the Cubs Goat of the Game?
This poll is closed
Carl Edwards Jr.
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)