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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 92

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The Cubs get another excellent start and then hold on to win 4-3.

Lester shines on the mound (and also at the plate!)
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs opened play following the All-Star Break with a sweep of the Orioles that featured a Cubs offense that was hitting the ball early, often and with authority. Not to be out done, Mike Montgomery threw two perfect innings while the Cubs were building an eight-run lead on Friday before fading. Jake Arrieta threw six innings of one run ball Saturday while the Cubs were building an 8-1 lead, before failing to get out of the seventh. Jose Quintana was the cherry on top with seven innings of shutout ball on Sunday.

The Cubs traveled to Atlanta to face the Braves and hoped that these positive trends would continue. The Cubs did manage nine hits and four walks in the game, but they just never really seemed to come up with the big hit when it counted. Hats off to the Atlanta Braves defense, as it seemed like every time the Cubs would bust it open, either Brandon Phillips or Freddie Freeman was there to make a key stop and end the rally.

Jon Lester though continued the string of strong performances out of the gate. Jon threw seven innings of one run ball to hold the Braves down while the Cubs tried to put runs on the board. Ultimately, the Cubs did put four runs on the board and Wade Davis struggled to get the last out, but ultimately did remain perfect is save situations. The Cubs are now the proud owners of a four game winning streak, all on the road. The Cubs also won their last road game before the All-Star Break, so they have actually won five in a row on the road. For a team that is only 23-25 on the road, this is a pretty significant streak.

This is the third time this year that the Cubs have won four or more games consecutively, with the most recent time being June 2 to June 6 when they won five in a row, which has been the longest winning streak of the season to date. The Cubs will try to match that streak tonight in a rematch with the Braves.

On that happy note, we’ll talk about what WPA had to say about the Heroes and Goats of the game. As a reminder, the Heroes and Goats themselves 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, July 17th:


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Jon Lester (.317). Coming off the nightmarish start last Sunday, Jon Lester looked great, allowing only three hits, one walk and one run. For good measure, he nearly hit a home run, took a walk and stole a base.
  • Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.123). I went way out on a limb yesterday and predicted Rizzo would have a big series in Atlanta and he didn’t disappoint. He singled in the first, walked in the fifth, and homered to extend the Cubs lead to 3-1 in the seventh.
  • Sidekick - Addison Russell (.068). Addison’s eighth inning pinch hit two out double gave the Cubs a 4-1 lead, a run that turned out to be very important. After a dreadful start to the season at the plate for Addison, he now has a .291/.337/.581 line over his last 28 games and 92 plate appearances. His BABIP over that time is .333 which isn’t crazy high, though it is significantly higher than his career mark of .294.

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.151). Progress isn’t linear. Kyle has been doing very well at the plate since returning to the major leagues. You’d like to see his batting average a little higher, but his numbers have been by and large decent. Last night though, he took a step back by going hitless in four tries including a strike out and a couple of grounders to the right side.
  • Goat - Kris Bryant (-.103). Kris has been very hot lately, but couldn’t get anything going last night at the plate. He was hitless in five tries.
  • Kid - Javier Baez (.000). Ouch. Javier had a perfectly good night at the plate, picking up two hits in four tries and scoring two runs. Last night is a great illustration of what his story is as far as Heroes and Goats though. Javier struck out leading off the third (-.025), singled with no outs and Jason Heyward on first in the fifth (.080), struck out with Ian Happ on third and one out in the sixth (-.069), and doubled with two outs and the bases empty in the eighth (.014). The strike out was in one of the two elevated leverage at bats in the game and the double was in one of the two lower leverage at bats.

With that, let’s take a look at the year to date standings for Heroes and Goats. As a reminder, we award three points for Superhero, two for Hero, and one for Sidekick. And we deduct -3 points for Billy Goat, -2 for Goat and -1 for Kid. Here then are the standings.

Cumulative Standings (Italics indicates no longer with the organization):

  • Anthony Rizzo 33
  • Willson Contreras 20
  • Wade Davis 13
  • Kris Bryant 10
  • Jon Jay 8
  • Kyle Schwarber 7
  • Miguel Montero 6
  • Mike Montgomery 4
  • Kyle Hendricks 4
  • Tommy La Stella 4
  • Justin Grimm 3
  • Felix Pena 3
  • Jose Quintana 3
  • Matt Szczur 2
  • Brian Duensing 2
  • Eddie Butler 1
  • Albert Almora Jr. 1
  • Mark Zagunis 0
  • Ian Happ -1
  • Seth Frankoff -1
  • Hector Rondon -1
  • Dylan Floro -1
  • Pedro Strop -2
  • Victor Caratini -3
  • Pierce Johnson -3
  • Carl Edwards Jr. -3
  • Jason Heyward -4
  • Brett Anderson -5
  • Jeimer Candelario -5
  • Addison Russell -6
  • Jake Arrieta -9
  • Jon Lester -11
  • Koji Uehara -13
  • Ben Zobrist -16
  • John Lackey -16
  • Javier Baez -25

Anthony Rizzo widens his lead at the top while Jon Lester moves up a spot with his strong start. Kyle Schwarber falls out of double digits and Kris Bryant is close to following him out of the double digit club.

As noted, the Cubs will try to equal their longest winning streak of the season tonight. John Lackey returns from the disabled list to take the ball for the Cubs. John’s struggles have been well documented. His ERA is the highest since 2011, his home run rate is one of the worst in baseball. It hasn’t been pretty, but maybe having nine days between starts will help him out as he’s been dealing with plantar fasciitis. John did have an eight inning start against the Braves last May that was a very good one.

The Braves counter with Sean Newcomb, a rookie left hander making just his seventh start. In his six previous starts, he had three pretty good ones (against the Mets, Giants and Padres), an average start (against the Marlins), and his last two have been pretty bad (against the Nationals and a nightmarish start against the Astros). The Cubs have hit lefties much better than rightys this year, so hopefully they will be able to put some runs on the board tonight. I’ll return tomorrow with a recap of the game.

Before we go, we’ll end with a poll. Yesterday, we looked at some of the stars for the Cubs over the last month. 80% of you voted Willson Contreras as the top star over that time. Honorable mention to Jose Quintana who only just joined the team, but more than a handful of you recognized him and the boost he brought to the team when he was acquired. Today, we’ll look at the Hero of the game from last night’s game.

Poll

Who was the Cubs Hero of the game last night?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    Jon Lester
    (155 votes)
  • 2%
    Anthony Rizzo
    (4 votes)
  • 3%
    Addison Russell
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Koji Uehara
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments below)
    (1 vote)
167 votes total Vote Now