Last week, we covered a seven-game homestand. After the longest road trip of the season (12 games) that we covered the week before ended at 6-6, there was reason to be optimistic that the Cubs could pile up some wins and build a little cushion in the division. Unfortunately, it didn’t go that way. Things started out promising enough with two wins in three games from the Expos. But then the Phillies came to town and swept the Cubs in a four game set. After losing five of seven, the Cubs find themselves two games out of first place. This week, we’ll look at a very brief three-game trip to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates. As we talked about last week, the Cubs made a huge trade during the homestand and brought in Rick Sutcliffe and George Frazier to the pitching staff and Ron Hassey as catching depth. Let’s see if the Cubs were able to bounce back quickly from their rough homestand.
Game 64, June 19 - Cubs win 4-3 to snap skid (35-29)
- Superhero - Keith Moreland (.237). Keith had two hits in four at-bats in this game. The first of those two hits game in the first inning with runners on first and one out. Keith tripled, driving in a run (.143). In the third, he added an RBI double with runners on first and second and one out (.104).
- Hero - Lee Smith (.180). Big Lee came in with the score 4-1 and runners on second and third with no outs. Rick Sutcliffe had started the game with eight shut out innings, but a walk, a dropped fly ball and a double chased him. It wasn’t pretty, but Lee got the job done. The first batter walked and that was followed by a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2. Smith issued another walk to load the bases. He struck out Marvell Wynne and then walked Lee Mazzilli to make it 4-3. Ex-Cub Bill Madlock then stepped in. The two time batting champion scorched a liner but it was caught by Ryne Sandberg to end the game.
- Sidekick - Ryne Sandberg (.134). Ryno reached three times in four plate appearances and scored a run. He singled with a runner on first and no outs in the first (.103), added a one out, bases empty walk in the third (.016) after which he scored and he tripled with one out and the bases empty in the fifth (.020).
- Billy Goat - Jody Davis (-.041). Jody was hitless in four at-bats.
- Goat - Ron Cey (-.035). Ron actually had an RBI ground out in the third (.013) and a single in the eighth with two outs and the bases empty (.001). He lands here largely for his line out with a runner on third and one out in the first (-.045).
- Kid - Leon Durham (-.022). Leon was also hitless in four at-bats with two strike outs.
Keith Moreland provided an offensive spark in this game. While this game was of course notable because it marked the Cub debut of Rick Sutcliffe, for Keith this game rewarded the Cubs for their confidence in him. With the Sutcliffe trade, Mel Hall and Joe Carter were traded, a present and a future outfielder, paving the way for more playing time for Keith who started just six games in the month of May. This was the fifth consecutive game started for Keith who hit .350/.381/.800 over these games. Getting away from small sample sizes, Keith would start 44 consecutive games for the Cubs. In those games he’d provide a line of .269/.307/.463 and hit eight home runs while driving in 31 runs. He also provided the kind of versatility that Joe Maddon would love, as during the stretch, he’d start games at first, third, right and catcher.
Game 65, June 20 - Cubs fall flat against Pirates 5-1 (35-30)
- Superhero - Bob Dernier (.076). Bob reached twice in four plate appearances. In the fourth inning with the Cubs losing 1-0, he walked (.052), stole second (.037) and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly to tie the score. He added a single in the sixth with two outs.
- Hero - George Frazier (.033). Frazier gave the Cubs two scoreless innings (sixth and seventh) to keep the score at 3-1 and give the Cubs a chance to get back in the game. He allowed one walk and no hits.
- Sidekick - Ron Cey (.008). On a day when the Cubs mustered only three hits and two walks, only three Cubs finished with a positive WPA. Ron had a two out single with a runner on first in the seventh inning (.037) that represented one of the best opportunities for the day.
- Billy Goat - Chuck Rainey (-.228). In five innings Chuck allowed eight hits and a walk. He managed to minimize the damage though, allowing only three runs (two earned).
- Goat - Jody Davis (-.100). Jody was hitless in three at bats and flew out following the Cey seventh inning single (-.064) to land this spot.
- Kid - Larry Bowa (-.070). Bowa was also hitless on the day in three at bats.
Ron Cey really struggled throughout the 1984 Cubs season. As we talked about in a previous column, Cey was a strong run producer at the plate. He didn’t offer much other contribution at the plate though, particularly in the first portion of the season. June was a particularly bad month for him as he had his lowest OPS month of the season (.222/.275/.306). He hit just two home runs and drove in 11 runs.
Game 66, June 21 - Cubs late rally falls short, they lose for the sixth time in seven games (35-31)
- Superhero - Ryne Sandberg (.234). The Cubs had 14 hits in this one, but it still wasn’t enough. Ryno had four of them himself, including a first inning solo home run (.123). He also singled and scored in each of the third and fifth innings.
- Hero - Keith Moreland (.214). Moreland stayed hot with two more hits. He also drove in three runs including a two run double in the third (.198). He just missed a second two run hit when Gary Matthews was out trying to score on a fifth inning single after Sandberg had already scored.
- Sidekick - Jody Davis (.071). Jody sneaks into the third spot in this one. He had one hit in four at bats.
- Billy Goat - Dennis Eckersley (-.669). That’s one hideously bad WPA score, particularly for a starting pitcher (though it is not the highest negative WPA recorded by a Cubs starting pitcher in 1984). Dennis recorded one out in the seventh inning. Along the way he allowed nine hits, three walks and seven runs (all earned).
- Goat - Ron Cey (-.146). Ron did have one hit in four at bats. All three times he was retired, there were men on base and two of the three ended innings.
- Kid - Larry Bowa (-.073). Larry was hitless in three at bats before being lifted for a pinch hitter.
Dennis Eckersley managed a game score of 26 for this game, despite pitching into the seventh inning. Unfortunately, this isn’t even his lowest game score of the season, as we’ll cover that game next week. It was a rough start to Eckersley’s Cubs career. This was his sixth start as a Cub. Over those games, he posted a record of 1-4 (the team was 1-5). He threw 39⅓ innings, basically 6½ innings per start. That’s the good news. The bad is that he allowed 41 hits and 21 runs (4.81 ERA).
- Ryne Sandberg 15
- Gary Matthews 14
- Richie Hebner 12
- Steve Trout 11
- Bob Dernier 11
- Leon Durham 9
- Rich Bordi 7
- Scott Sanderson 6
- Keith Moreland 5
- Gary Woods 2
- Lee Smith 1
- Dickie Noles 1
- Jay Johnstone 1
- Henry Cotto 1
- Mel Hall 0
- George Frazier -1
- Warren Brusstar -1.5
- Don Schulze -2
- Dennis Eckersley -3
- Porfi Altamarino -3
- Tim Stoddard -3.5
- Tom Veryzer -4
- Dave Owen -4
- Rick Reuschel -5
- Chuck Rainey -8
- Bill Buckner -9
- Dick Ruthven -9
- Larry Bowa -11
- Jody Davis -11
- Ron Cey -21
Ryne Sandberg makes two visits to the Hero podiums and it moves him into the season lead. Gary Matthews had no points in either direction in the series and holds steady, falling one point behind. Bob Dernier picks up a Superhero and moves over the 10 point plateau. Dennis Eckersley falls into negative territory with his rough outing. Larry Bowa makes two appearances on the Kid podium back to back and that moves him past the negative 10 mark. Jody Davis actually fell as far as -12 with two straight appearances on the Goat side of the ledger before picking up a Sidekick point in the series finale. Ron Cey makes two more appearances on the Goat podiums and moves past the -20 barrier to take a large “lead” for the last spot.
With the two losses to finish this series, the Cubs fall to just four games above even for the season. They also fall to 2.5 games out of first place. Surely, the collective collars were starting to tighten a little in Chicago with the rough stretch of play. Especially after making multiple trades to try to bolster the pitching staff. Next week, we’ll cover a seven game homestand against division rivals the Cardinals and Pirates. Included in next week’s column will be the “Sandberg Game.”