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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 125

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Cubs win fifth straight game, 9-3.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds
Tommy La Stella homers in Cubs win.
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The month of August has been an interesting one for the Cubs. They’ve put up a 12-9 record thanks in no small part to the five game winning streak that they are enjoying. That record is even more impressive considering that they currently have their starting shortstop, their starting catcher (one of the most productive catchers in baseball) and their top starter all on the disabled list. I tip my hat in two directions. Most importantly, I tip it to the players for rising to the occasion and playing good baseball in the absence of those players. Not insignificantly, I tip my hat to the front office. Having redundancy is huge and not something we have often been able to say about the Cubs. Having a number of middle infielders has allowed Javier Baez to slide to shortstop. Trading for Alex Avila at the trade deadline insulated the catcher position and Rene Rivera has since been added for more depth.

Last night, another of those depth pieces was on display as Mike Montgomery, who has now pitched against the Reds in his last three outings, threw six scoreless innings. After throwing twice in the last Reds series including a long relief outing when Jon Lester was injured, Mike Montgomery took Jon’s spot in the rotation and was fantastic. The bats staked him to an early lead, kept adding on until it was 9-0 and the team was able to coast to a 9-3 victory.

The Cubs have reached 11 games over .500 for the first time after spending much of the season in a very small range between four over and two under. With recent struggles by the Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs suddenly look much more likely to reach the playoffs. The Cubs now have the third best record in the National League (by .001 ahead of the Diamondbacks) and tied for the sixth best record in all of baseball. It took a long time to get here, but finally the Cubs appear to be taking control. Or at least they’ve built a little bit of cushion ahead of head to head matchups in September against the teams trying to catch them. That is always a good thing in case one of those teams gets real hot against you.

On that note, we’ll turn our attention to the heart of this column, Heroes and Goats. 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 Wednesday, August 24:


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Jason Heyward (.211). It’s a small sample and there’s not a lot of power on display in it, but August 6 to present (14 games, 12 started, 54 plate appearances), Jason has a .340/.426/.383 (buoyed by a .400 BABIP though). Jason had two more hits last night including two different RBI singles, both coming with two outs, one with the bases loaded in the first (.143) and one in the third inning with runners on first and second (.068).
  • Hero - Mike Montgomery (.145). Mike Montgomery threw six scoreless innings allowing only four hits and one walk while striking out four. Mike has a 3-3 record as a starter with a 4.47 ERA. He has his WHIP down to 1.273 and his K/9 as a starter is 8.0. I really hope Mike gets every chance to make the starting rotation right now. Even as a John Lackey supporter, I wonder if Mike is one of the five best starters on the Cubs this year.
  • Sidekick - Tommy La Stella (.119). You don’t expect a lot of power out of Tommy La Stella, but last night he helped out the offense with a three-run homer that capped the scoring at 9-0 (.021). Ironically, sequencing placed his first plate appearance as his biggest WPA event. In that plate appearance, Tommy drew a walk with the bases loaded and two outs to drive in the first run (.093). Tommy has made the most of his limited playing opportunities. He has a line of .295/.406/.500. Tommy would start for several teams and would be a fifth infielder on more than a few others.

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - Alex Avila (-.093). Alex had a mixed bag kind of day. He struck out in the first with the bases loaded and one out (-.073) which is largely how he got this spot on the podium, he followed that with a strikeout in the third with a runner on second and one out (-.021), he then singled in the fourth and scored on the La Stella home run (.001), he struck out in the sixth with two outs and a runner on first (.000) and walked in the ninth (.000).
  • Goat - Javier Baez (-.049). Javy had a tough night at the plate for one of the few times since he started playing every day. Javy struck out with runners on first and second and two outs in the first (-.027), flew out with runners on first and third and two outs in the third (-.022), struck out in the fifth (-.001), and singled in the seventh (.00).
  • Kid - Hector Rondon (.000). I had to decide a tie between Hector and Albert Almora for this spot. Seemed like the guy who allowed three solo home runs was the right choice. Hector appeared to be challenging every hitter and just trying to get the game over so I’m not going to think about this performance a lot. I imagine that’s just what his agent will be trying to do when Hector is going through the arbitration process and trying to agree to a new deal for next year.

Next, we take a look at the cumulative 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.

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

  • Willson Contreras 32
  • Anthony Rizzo 32
  • Wade Davis 16
  • Kris Bryant 15
  • Jon Jay 9
  • Kyle Hendricks 8
  • Mike Montgomery 8
  • Jake Arrieta 6
  • Miguel Montero 5
  • Tommy La Stella 5
  • Justin Grimm 3
  • Kyle Schwarber 2
  • Felix Pena 2
  • Matt Szczur 2
  • Alex Avila 1
  • Jose Quintana 1
  • Eddie Butler 1
  • Brian Duensing 0
  • Mark Zagunis 0
  • Pedro Strop -1
  • Seth Frankoff -1
  • Jack Leathersich -1
  • Justin Wilson -2
  • Pierce Johnson -3
  • Hector Rondon -5
  • Ian Happ -5
  • Brett Anderson -5
  • Jeimer Candelario -5
  • Albert Almora Jr. -6
  • Jason Heyward -8
  • Carl Edwards Jr. -9
  • Victor Caratini -9
  • Jon Lester -11
  • Ben Zobrist -12
  • Javier Baez -14
  • Koji Uehara -14
  • Addison Russell -15
  • John Lackey -21

Tonight, the Cubs will look to complete their second consecutive sweep tonight as they wrap up their series with the Reds. Jake Arrieta will take the ball for the Cubs. He has a 5-1 record and a 2.00 ERA over his last seven starts (with three unearned runs over that time). Jake has started two games against the Reds this year, both in Cincinnati. In the last one, on July 2 he held them to one hit and two walks over seven innings. In an April start, the Reds did put five runs on the board (four earned), but Jake got the win. He had a very good start against them last April in Cincinnati too as some of you might recall. Oddly, this will be the sixth consecutive time that Jake has faced the Reds on the road.

The Reds will counter with Sal Romano. Sal has never started a game against the Cubs. Sal has actually had reverse splits so far in his career as righthanded hitters have a .312/.383/.570 line while lefthanded hitters have a .259/.354/.432 line. We might see Albert Almora Jr. and/or Rene Rivera in this game. Either way, the Cubs will look to continue the misery for the Reds.

As always, we end with a poll. Yesterday, Javier Baez received 47% of the votes to 33% for Ben Zobrist for Hero of the game in Tuesday night’s game. Today we’ll vote on the Hero of the game for Wednesday.

Poll

Who was the Hero of last night’s Cubs win?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Jason Heyward
    (33 votes)
  • 70%
    Mike Montgomery
    (136 votes)
  • 6%
    Tommy La Stella
    (12 votes)
  • 1%
    Anthony Rizzo
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Jon Jay
    (1 vote)
  • 4%
    Other (please leave your choice in the comments)
    (8 votes)
192 votes total Vote Now