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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 93

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Willson Contreras home run powers Cubs to fifth straight victory.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves
Baez and Contreras lead the Cubs to victory.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

For me, the post All-Star Break Cubs games have reminded me of one big thing. Baseball seasons are so very long. Very much like people say about Chicago weather, if you wait long enough things can change. Going into the All-Star game, you had to either be ignoring the available evidence or extremely optimistic to still have any high level of confidence in this Cubs team. And here we are, five games down and the picture has changes a lot. Combined with the mini-slump the Brewers are in, the Cubs are back knocking on the door in their division.

To be fair, the Orioles pitching staff is a staff that has already set records and not of the good kind. This Braves team is somewhere along the process of rebuilding. So these aren’t exactly world beaters that the Cubs have won five consecutive games against. But, the flip side of that coin is that the Cubs faced struggling pitchers and struggling teams in the first half and the results were always right around .500. For five days now, the Cubs have taken care of business. Of course things can change. Sweeping anyone is hard, so I imagine we’ll still see some fight out of the Braves today. Certainly the Cardinals will fight extremely hard this weekend as they too try to stay close enough to have a chance to win this division.

Focusing on last night’s game, the Cubs got a decent start from John Lackey, a big home run from Willson Contreras and a strong night at the plate from Javier Baez. The bullpen nailed down the win and the Cubs matched their longest winning streak of the year. A quick turn around today for the final game of the series and the road trip and so let’s get right to the Heroes and Goats from this one as determined by WPA.

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 Tuesday, July 18th:


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Willson Contreras (.185). If you were one of the people who had Willson Contreras down for a huge season behind and at the plate, you are more than half way to taking a victory lap. Willson had just one hit yesterday, but that hit was a three run home run to put the Cubs ahead 4-1.
  • Hero - Javier Baez (.162). Some of the things that we all love about Javier are not captured by WPA. But three hits including the home run the put the Cubs on the board and tied the game at one were plenty to get him onto the podium. With a lefty on the mound, it was easy to expect a good game from Javy given his .290/.342/.565 line on the season against leftys.
  • Sidekick - John Lackey (.136). It certainly wasn’t always pretty, but John was largely effective at keeping the Braves off of the scoreboard with five innings of one run ball before being lifted for a pinch hitter with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth. The peripherals weren’t great, so I’m not going to pretend he turned any corners. He was good enough. That’s what the Cubs are currently looking for out of their fifth starter.

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - Addison Russell (-.050). A tough night at the plate for Addison as he goes hitless in five at bats including two strike outs.
  • Goat - Jon Jay (-.026). Tough love. Jon Jay pinch hit for John Lackey in the sixth with the bases loaded and no outs and struck out. Jay has been a .393/.419/.500 pinch hitter, so we’ll cut him a little slack.
  • Kid - Albert Almora Jr. (-.016). Along with Javier, Albert has really added some punch to the lineup against left handed pitching with a .368/.471/.596 line against leftys. Last night Albert had just one hit in four tries, but he lead off the sixth with a single and scored.

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 Conteras 23
  • Wade Davis 13
  • Kris Bryant 10
  • Kyle Schwarber 7
  • Jon Jay 6
  • 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 0
  • 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 -9
  • Jake Arrieta -9
  • Jon Lester -11
  • Koji Uehara -13
  • John Lackey -15
  • Ben Zobrist -16
  • Javier Baez -23

An interesting day in the standing as a red hot Willson Contreras has moved to within 10 points of Anthony Rizzo. Surely Willson will get a day off today after five straight starts behind the plate, we’ll see if Anthony can pad his lead. At the bottom, John Lackey moves past Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez closes the gap behind Ben as well.

This morning and afternoon the Cubs will look for a season high six game winning streak. A win would equal the largest number of games over .500 for the Cubs this season at four games above. Mike Montgomery will take the ball for the Cubs. Mike has never started against the Braves. Last time out, he did well the first time through the lineup, but struggled after that. R.A. Dickey will be on the mound for the Braves. The Cubs haven’t faced Dickey as a starter since 2011. Dickey has been on a hot streak for the Braves. In his last five starts he’s 4-1 with a 1.09 ERA. This could be a tough one.

As usual, we’ll end with a poll. Yesterday we looked at the Hero of the game for Monday night’s game. 93% percent of the votes went to Jon Lester. I’ll be interested to see if the votes are so decisive today as we vote on the Hero of the game for Tuesday night’s game.

Poll

Who was the Hero of the game for the Cubs?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    Willson Contreras
    (76 votes)
  • 13%
    Javier Baez
    (16 votes)
  • 11%
    John Lackey
    (14 votes)
  • 10%
    Duensing/Strop/Edwards/Rondon
    (12 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments below)
    (0 votes)
118 votes total Vote Now