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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 157

Cubs dig deep hole early, rally falls short; Magic number remains at 1

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals
Arrieta struggles in Cubs loss.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Not too much about the 2017 season has been easy for the Cubs. And so in their first chance to clinch the division, they came up short. The Reds lost to the Brewers by one, the Cubs lost to the Cardinals by one and the N.L. Central crown will have to wait at least one more day. The math is staggeringly in favor of the Cubs winning, so this is going to be a hiccup. In the simplest terms, there are 10 opportunities over the next five days for either the Cubs to win or the Brewers to lose. AND even if all of that failed, there would be an 11th chance with the two playing head to head. There is 1/1024 chance of flipping a coin 10 times in a row and having it have the same result every time. And this isn’t a coinflip, the Cubs will be favored in all or most of the games remaining and the Brewers may not be favored in every game. It’s going to happen. Just not last night.

Jake Arrieta allowed five runs in three innings. The Cubs offense had a ton of baserunners thanks in part to seven walks from Cardinal pitchers. But in the end, the Cubs just couldn’t put enough runs on the board to steal this one.

To make matters worse, the injury bug is bouncing around again. Albert Almora Jr. left the game after running into the wall. X-rays were negative, but I imagine they’ll hold him out for a couple of days just to be safe. Javier Baez didn’t start due to some soreness where he was struck in the knee on Monday. Addison Russell had a scheduled day off as he worked his way back from foot issues. And in post game comments we learned that Jake Arrieta isn’t all of the way back from a hamstring injury and has had to make adjustments to deal with that issue. If you are like me and had Jake penciled in for a Game 1 start, you may want to tap the brakes. Maybe it is the time for Kyle Hendricks to get the top start.

Before we can get to Game 1, there is still a division to clinch and more immediately, I need to give you last night’s recap of Heroes and Goats. As always the Heroes and Goats 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, September 26:

Source: FanGraphs


  • Superhero - Willson Contreras (.237). Willson hasn’t gotten back into the groove hitting the ball yet since being back, but his eye has been fantastic. Last night, he took three walks including a walk with the bases loaded and two outs in the the third (.068) that cut it to 5-2. He then walked leading off the ninth inning (.115) with the Cubs down 8-7. He later stole second with two outs (.033). Unfortunately, Javier Baez couldn’t come up with the big hit this time.
  • Hero - Jason Heyward (.121). Jason had a hit and two walks last night. The hit was a three run home run in the eighth that made it 8-6 (.078). He also walked (.028) with two outs in the ninth after Willson had stolen second. From August 28 to present, Jason has 94 plate appearances. During that time he has a .291/.380/.456 line that amounts to a wRC+ of 121. He’s up to a wRC+ of 88 on the season.
  • Sidekick - Tommy La Stella (.110). This is definitely a first since I’ve been running this column. Tommy reached base on a catcher’s interference with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth (.110). That brought the Cubs to within two runs at 5-3. Unfortunately, with Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs scored no more runs in that inning.


  • Billy Goat - Jake Arrieta (-.329). Jake allowed six hits, two of which were home runs and one was a triple. He also allowed a walk and five runs (three earned) in his five innings of work. Jake has now allowed 16 unearned runs on the year, two more than Jon Lester has. The whole pitching staff has allowed 59 unearned runs and 30 of them have come between those two pitchers. Odd.
  • Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.171). Anthony was hitless on the day, though he did draw a walk, and is in a bit of a slump. His ground out with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth was especially disappointing (-.089) as it came on a 2-0 pitch. In the first eight games of this road trip, Anthony has 37 plate appearances and a line of .156/.270/.250 (wRC+ 24). Hopefully Anthony can get it turned around quickly. When he gets hot, he can carry a team for a week or two at a time.
  • Kid - Javier Baez (-.139). Javy pinch hit with two outs and runners on first and second in the ninth inning. He struck out to end the game (-.139).

The Cubs left the bases loaded in the third and fourth innings, and runners on first and second in the ninth. They needed just one more of those runs and came up short.

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 41
  • Willson Contreras 32
  • Kris Bryant 26
  • Wade Davis 20
  • Kyle Hendricks 18
  • Mike Montgomery 11
  • Jon Jay 7
  • Miguel Montero 5
  • Alex Avila 5
  • Jake Arrieta 4
  • Felix Pena 4
  • Justin Grimm 3
  • Rene Rivera 3
  • Jose Quintana 3
  • Dillon Maples 2.5
  • Brian Duensing 2
  • Matt Szczur 2
  • Taylor Davis 2
  • Eddie Butler 1
  • Tommy La Stella 1
  • Mark Zagunis 0
  • Kyle Schwarber -1
  • Seth Frankoff -1
  • Jack Leathersich -1
  • Mike Freeman -1
  • Leonys Martin -1
  • Pedro Strop -3
  • Pierce Johnson -3
  • Jen Ho Tseng -3
  • Hector Rondon -5
  • Brett Anderson -5
  • Jeimer Candelario -5
  • Justin Wilson -6
  • Carl Edwards Jr. -8
  • Albert Almora Jr. -9
  • Victor Caratini -9
  • Ian Happ -9.5
  • Addison Russell -12
  • Jon Lester -14
  • Koji Uehara -14
  • Jason Heyward -18
  • Javier Baez -20
  • Ben Zobrist -20
  • John Lackey -22

Anthony Rizzo takes a step back while Willson Contreras takes one forward and just like that, the lead is down to nine. Still a lot with only five games to go, but not insurmountable. Tommy La Stella moves back into positive territory. Jason Heyward moves out of the negative 20 club while Javy goes back into it. Four points separate four players at the bottom. John Lackey makes his last start of the season tonight and that could go a long way to sorting out the bottom five.

John will be facing Michael Wacha in the third game of this series. It would be fun if the much maligned Lackey could be on the mound in the game that clinches the division for the Cubs. John has faced the Cardinals three times this year. In those three starts he’s pitched 17⅔ innings and allowed eight runs. Michael Wacha has also faced the Cubs three times and he’s pitched 16 innings in those three games and the Cubs have scored 14 runs in those games. The Cubs have hit Wacha extremely well, especially Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant who have matching 1.186 OPS against him in 40 and 30 plate appearances respectively. In small sample sizes, six other Cubs have an OPS over 1 against Wacha incuding Willson Contreras at 2.171 based upon two home runs and a walk in seven plate appearances. Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ have also taken Wacha deep twice. This very well could be the night.

As always, we wrap this column up with a poll. Yesterday you voted on the Superhero of Monday’s game. 68% of you chose Addison Russell. Today we’ll be voting on Billy Goat of the Game.


Who was the Cubs Billy Goat of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    Jake Arrieta
    (93 votes)
  • 8%
    Anthony Rizzo
    (11 votes)
  • 2%
    Javier Baez
    (3 votes)
  • 5%
    Ian Happ
    (7 votes)
  • 10%
    Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments below).
    (14 votes)
128 votes total Vote Now