The playoffs started for the Cubs with two games that were well pitched by the starters. If the Cubs continue to get starting pitching the way they did in those two games, they will be a tough out. I was as frustrated Saturday night as anybody, but if that same situation comes up Monday night, I’m totally fine handing the ball to Carl Edwards Jr. again. I trust him. Wade Davis can’t throw all of the innings and I really like the Cubs’ odds in the games where only a starter, CJ, Davis, Pedro Strop and Mike Montgomery touch the ball. It didn’t work out on Saturday. And as it turns out, Bryce Harper is still really good at baseball.
I know I’m not the first to say it, but you have to have been okay with a split in D.C. for the first two games of the series. Yes, after stealing one from Stephen Strasburg, you had to be thinking sweep. I totally get it. But it is what it is. Max Scherzer takes the ball in Game 3 and Strasburg will be waiting if it goes five. This was always going to be tough and of course, it has been.
As a side note, I can’t believe I haven’t actually seen anyone anywhere point it out, so I will (though it is possible that I’ve been so busy that I just haven’t seen it). The Cubs are the only team who has won a road game so far in the 12 games played so far in the playoffs. I’m hoping that goes ahead and stays that way through the Divisional Series round. That would have the Cubs winning in four and everyone else going five games.
Incidentally, I was told by at least one regular poster on BCB that the Yankees and Red Sox were overmatched. The Yankees should be up two games to one and the Indians are very fortunate that it is reversed. I’ll say again, these eight teams playing baseball right now are very good. None of them are perfect, but all of them have a lot more strengths than weaknesses. I love playoff baseball.
Before we turn the page and look ahead at game three, let’s look back at those first two games and see what WPA had 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 Friday, October 6 (Cubs win 3-0):
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kyle Hendricks (.438). WPA is telling us that Kyle just about won this game by himself. Each team starts the game with a bank of .500 and is trying to move their number to 1.000 while moving the other team to .000. Kyle accomplished .438 out of the .500 that the Cubs needed to win. He did that with seven strong innings allowing two hits and three walks. A masterful performance.
- Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.153). My pick to click in this series started the series off well, recording two hits and driving in two of the three runs. Anthony had a two out RBI single in the sixth with a runner on second (.117) and then added a two out RBI double with a runner on third in the eighth (.066).
- Sidekick - Kris Bryant (.108). Kris only had one hit on the night, but it was a big one, an RBI single in the sixth inning with a runner on second and two outs (.168). That was the first run of the game.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Ben Zobrist (-.110). Ben was hitless in four at bats in the game. Ben flew out to center with one out and a runner on second in the sixth inning (-.052) just in front of the Bryant and Rizzo two out hits.
- Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.062). Kyle had no hits in three tries. He struck out twice.
- Kid - Jason Heyward (-.059). Jason was also hitless in three at bats, he ends up ahead of Schwarber because he was hit by a pitch in his last plate appearance.
Game Chart Satuday, October 7 (Cubs lose 6-3):
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jon Lester (.253). Lester threw six innings and allowed one run on two hits and two walks. He really only struggled in one inning and he escaped that inning without allowing any runs. Hopefully the Cubs survive long enough to see more of that.
- Hero - Willson Contreras (.122). After coming back from missing several weeks due to injury, about the only thing we didn’t see from Willson was his power. He hit a home run Saturday. He also added two walks in what was a very productive night at the plate. His home run was worth (.104).
- Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo (.105). Two games in, the Cubs Superhero of the Year has been on the Hero podiums twice. Anthony had just one hit on the night, but it was a two run homer (.158).
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Carl Edwards Jr. (-.444). I should have probably suggested you look away before you got to this section. This wasn’t pretty. The Bryce Harper homer was worth (.388) by itself. I only thought it was a little hyperbole when I told my daughter who had been out all evening that it was hit about 7,000 feet.
- Goat - Mike Montgomery (-.359). He didn’t really fare any better than Carl, though he did record one more out and allow one less run, so there is that I guess. The Ryan Zimmerman homer was worth (-.300). It’s unusual to see two guys record scores this low in the same game. But that’s what happens when you are that close to victory.
- Kid - Albert Almora Jr. (-.078). The Cubs specialist against left handed pitching did not look special at the plate on Saturday. To be fair, the Nationals have a lot of very good pitching. I’ll still be waiting to see Albert get some key at bats against left handed relievers later in the series.
With two games in the books, we can take a look at the standings. 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
- Jon Lester 3
- Anthony Rizzo 3
- Willson Contreras 2
- Kris Bryant 1
- Jason Heyward -1
- Albert Almora Jr. -1
- Kyle Schwarber -2
- Mike Montgomery -2
- Ben Zobrist -3
- Carl Edwards Jr. -3
This afternoon, the Cubs will look to take the lead in the series with Jose Quintana on the mound against Max Scherzer. Scherzer is the reigning N.L. Cy Young winner and also won that award in the AL in 2013. He led the N.L. in WHIP in 2017 and also bWAR. He’s a formidable opponent, to be sure. For what a 24-inning sample size is worth, he’s 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA at Wrigley in his career. The Nationals have never faced Jose Quintana. Jose finished his season with five September starts in which he was 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA and a WHIP of .959. Scherzer left his last start with a hamstring cramp and otherwise would almost certainly have taken the ball for the Nationals in Game 1.
This looks to be a tough game with a slight advantage for the Nats. Hopefully the Cubs will find a way to pull this one out in front of what will surely be a raucous Wrigley Field crowd. The 3 p.m. start time in October could make this one interesting as the shadows will likely be in play throughout the game and could make some of the visibility interesting. Either way, I’ll be back here on Tuesday morning to recap the game.
As always, we’ll end with a poll. I’ll take this in a different direction today. Heading back to Wrigley Field where is your confidence level in regards to this series?
Where is your confidence level at with this series?
This poll is closed
Cubs win in four!
Cubs win in five (Phew!)
Nationals win in four (sad)
Nationals win in five (heartbreaking)