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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 152

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Cubs beat the Brewers in dramatic fashion; Magic Number: 6!!!

Javy Baez comes through with a game-saving single with two out in the ninth
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

If anybody needed a test run for the playoffs, you got a good preview of it. If anyone thinks that the Brewers are totally over matched, they haven’t been paying attention. That team has some pieces that are starting to fall into place. Craig Counsell went to the whip weeks ago and is doing everything he can to coax his team into the playoffs. Until this week, almost every button he had pushed had been successful and it looked that way again Wednesday night when he deployed all three of his go to relievers Anthony Swarzak, Josh Hader and Corey Knebel which meant that the three of them had thrown a combined total of eight times in a three game set against the Pirates. The only one who didn’t throw in all three games was Hader who has been a starter throughout the Brewers system and largely hasn’t been used in back to back games.

With that backdrop, the Brewers went into last night’s game short handed in their bullpen. Zach Davies was terrific as he has been more times than not this season with the Brewers. Interestingly, Zach struggles at home, except against the Cubs who he’s now pitched very well against three times in Milwaukee. Counsell was able to get this game to his bullpen with a 2-2 score in the top of the eighth. For the eighth, he was able to get a scoreless inning out of Jacob Barnes who was also one of seven pitchers used on Wednesday, but he narrowly escaped unscathed when he was able to strike out Anthony Rizzo and coax Willson Contreras to ground into a double play.

That left Jeremy Jeffress, a former closer with the Brewers, to throw the ninth inning. Of course Jeffress too was used in the game on Wednesday. Jeffress was a little slow making his break to the bag and Ian Happ was ruled safe on what should have been an easy ground out to start the ninth inning. Why wasn’t it easy? Ignoring the Jeffress part of the play, Counsell had moved around much of his infield to start the ninth inning including shifting second baseman Neil Walker over to play first. One of the things that happens when players aren’t playing their natural positions is that they don’t understand all of the nuances of playing the position. Neil ranged to his right to field the ground ball. Afterall, he’s a second baseman with good hands and a little range. He scooped up the ball and made the throw to Jeffress who may have just beaten Happ or it was a tie, it was very close but the call on the field stood. Had Walker gone to cover first, that ball is a ground out to second and the Cubs probably don’t tie the game and go on to win. It’s a game of inches and a few key decisions that can determine the entire outcome.

The Cubs picked up a huge win and applied maximum pressure to the Brewers heading into the remaining three games of the series. The Brewers appear to be more than up for the challenge and show no signs of being a team who hasn’t been in this position before. It should be a tough weekend, but at least the Cubs have added a game to their lead and even in the worst case scenario, will leave Milwaukee ahead by a game and a half on the Brewers with just seven games to play.

On that happy note, let’s look back and see who the key players in this game. In a game with lead changes late and extra innings, we’ll see some big WPA numbers. So let’s see what WPA says about last night’s 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 Thursday, September 21 (Cubs win 5-1 in 10 innings):


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Kris Bryant (.396). Kris didn’t have the biggest WPA event of the night, but he did have the biggest overall night. His home run in the 10th inning ended up winning the game (.251). Kris was one of the few guys with success in his career against Davies and last night he continued that. Kris had two hits off of Davies and also had a walk in the eight inning (.098). But of course, Kris doesn’t get a chance to be the Superhero if it wasn’t for...
  • Hero - Javier Baez (.308). I imagine I wasn’t the only one screaming at my television when Javy was looking at a 1-2 count when Jeffress hadn’t even come close to throwing a strike. Certainly you can question Jeffress on the Happ infield single and his effort getting over to first base quickly, but the pitch he made to Javy should have been fine. It was another well below the knees. The picture at the top of this article is that of Javy hitting that ball and you can see Javy chopping down on that to come up with a single through the infield to tie the game (.309).
  • Sidekick - Wade Davis (.237). It was Joe’s turn to pull out all of the stops and on Thursday that included Wade Davis pitching for the fifth time in the Cubs last six games (seven days overall) and also recording five outs (facing seven batters overall). Wade struggled initially hitting Ryan Braun and allowing a single that was hit so hard that the runner couldn’t score from second. Then Wade retired five consecutive outs to notch a very important win including a strike out of Domingo Santana with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - Justin Wilson (-.274). Justin just can’t get it done for the Cubs. He allowed three hits to the four batters he faced, one of which scored the go ahead run in the bottom of the eighth. I just can’t see how the Cubs can afford to use Justin for more than one batter at a time anymore this year.
  • Goat - Willson Contreras (-.240). Willson had a tough night at the plate. He lands here because he grounded into a double play with one out and the runners on first and second in the eighth inning (-.179).
  • Kid - Pedro Strop (-.187). I have plenty of confidence in Pedro, but last night he was very upset with the strike zone. To be fair, I thought the strike zone was spotty at times, but more than anything, it just seemed like a tight strike zone. During the at bat where Pedro started yelling at the umpire, I didn’t think Pedro through one pitch that was without a doubt in the strike zone. Pedro allowed a hit and two walks in facing four hitters. But ultimately, he got out of the inning unscathed, though he did allow a runner he inherited from Brian Duensing to score.

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)

  • Anthony Rizzo 43
  • Willson Contreras 36
  • Wade Davis 23
  • Kris Bryant 22
  • Kyle Hendricks 17
  • Mike Montgomery 11
  • Jake Arrieta 7
  • Jon Jay 6
  • Miguel Montero 5
  • Alex Avila 5
  • Felix Pena 4
  • Justin Grimm 3
  • Brian Duensing 3
  • Rene Rivera 3
  • Dillon Maples 2.5
  • Matt Szczur 2
  • Taylor Davis 2
  • Eddie Butler 1
  • Jose Quintana 0
  • Tommy La Stella 0
  • Mark Zagunis 0
  • Kyle Schwarber -1
  • Seth Frankoff -1
  • Jack Leathersich -1
  • Mike Freeman -1
  • Pedro Strop -3
  • Pierce Johnson -3
  • Jen Ho Tseng -3
  • Hector Rondon -5
  • Brett Anderson -5
  • Jeimer Candelario -5
  • Justin Wilson -6
  • Albert Almora Jr. -8
  • Victor Caratini -9
  • Carl Edwards Jr. -11
  • Ian Happ -11.5
  • Addison Russell -12
  • Jon Lester -14
  • Koji Uehara -14
  • Javier Baez -19
  • John Lackey -20
  • Jason Heyward -20
  • Ben Zobrist -21

Another day with a lot of movement. With it tight at the top and the bottom, there will likely continue to be a lot of movement right down to the end. Last night, Willson Contreras dropped to seven behind Anthony Rizzo for the top spot. Kris Bryant moved back into the plus 20 club and in the process, moved to within one point of Wade Davis for Sidekick of the Year position (third place). Javier Baez picked up a couple of points which was enough to both leave the negative 20 club and move him out of the cellar (and out of the bottom three). I’m sure there will be even more movement by the time I next update you on the standings on Monday.

Before we go, I’ll take a quick look at the three games remaining in this series. First up, we get John Lackey against Brandon Woodruff tonight. John has a 4.05 ERA over his last seven starts (40 innings). He’s faced the Brewers three times this year, losing twice and allowing eight runs in 19 innings. Woodruff has never pitched against the Cubs, but he has a 3.28 ERA over his seven starts since being called up (35⅔ innings). He’s thrown seven innings in two of his last three starts. In the other he allowed six runs in five innings against the Pirates. He is usually allowed to throw between 90-100 pitches regardless of where that is in the game.

Saturday afternoon will see Kyle Hendricks against Brent Suter. Kyle has been fantastic over his last seven starts with a 2.35 ERA. He’s faced the Brewers four times already this year, allowing 12 runs in 22 innings. Suter is left handed and had an excellent start against the Cubs on July 28 when he allowed just four hits and one walk in seven shut out innings. In his last seven starts (which includes that game) he has a 4.18 ERA, though he only has 32⅓ innings in those starts. He has been getting irregular starts and hasn’t gotten anywhere near 100 pitches since a start in August against the Reds when he actually threw 100 pitches in five innings in which he allowed five runs.

Sunday afternoon the Cubs will have Jose Quintana face Chase Anderson. Jose has one start against the Brewers which was the July 28 game against Suter. Jose pitched well, but was a tough luck loser when the Cubs offense struggled against Suter. Jose allowed just two runs on four hits and three walks in six innings of that one. Overall, Jose has pitched better of late and has a 3.76 ERA over his last seven starts (40.2 innings) with just one bad start in there against the Phillies in late August. Anderson has faced the Cubs three times. On September 9, he threw five innings of 1 hit no run ball and picked up a win. Over the three starts against the Cubs he has thrown only 14 innings while allowing nine runs. Overall, Chase has pitched extremely well in his last seven starts with a 5-1 record and a 2.39 ERA. He has really helped keep the Brewers in the race.

Should be an exciting weekend. We’ll be back to talk about it on Monday. But before we go, we’ll finish with the usual poll. Yesterday, Jon Lester received 96% of the votes for Billy Goat of the game. I suspect today’s poll won’t be so lopsided as we look at Superhero of the Game.

Poll

Who was the Superhero of last night’s game?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Kris Bryant
    (66 votes)
  • 43%
    Javier Baez
    (87 votes)
  • 17%
    Wade Davis
    (34 votes)
  • 0%
    Jon Jay
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Jake Arrieta
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Kyle Schwarber
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    Ian Happ
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (Please leave your suggestion in the comments below)
    (2 votes)
199 votes total Vote Now