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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 139

Old fashioned pitcher’s duel ends in 1-0 Cubs victory.

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

It was certainly uncomfortable dropping the first two games of the Pirates series. Especially staring down a matchup with Gerrit Cole. If you didn’t know, Gerrit has a career ERA of 2.74 in 13 starts against the Cubs with a 1.024 WHIP. The Cubs have a combined OPS of .574 against him. Every team with a lower OPS against him has faced him only one or two times. So really, he is one of those guys who saves his best for the Cubs. Wednesday night was no exception. Gerrit threw eight innings allowing two hits and four walks while striking out eight and allowing no runs. Were I writing this column for the Pirates, he’d be a Superhero with his (.532 WPA). The Cubs have had four bigger games in 2017 by WPA standards, but none by a pitcher. That was a beauty.

But, the Cubs matched him zero for zero for eight innings. And then the front office had one of those innings that they smile on. Leonys Martin (acquired in August trade) scored the winning run on a hit by Alex Avila (July trade) and Wade Davis (December trade) got the save. Of course if you want to go down the rabbit hole, Jose Quintana threw the first six scoreless innings (July trade), Pedro Strop got the win (July ‘13 trade), and Hector Rondon threw the other inning (December ‘12 Rule 5 acquisition). This only amuses me, because I’ve seen some Pirates fans recently suggest that the Cubs bought their World Series. I mean, I guess in that they do have to be able to pay these guys after they acquire them. But none of the guys mentioned in this paragraph make so much money that a small market team couldn’t afford him.

Of course, I could follow the last paragraph with one about all of those players the Cubs “bought” in the amateur draft, you know the large number of Cubs first round picks that are all playing in the major leagues currently for the Cubs? I won’t bore you guys with all of that, but it just felt like one of those days where I’m thankful for the immense talent pool this front office has put together. We are always reminded that there are no guarantees in baseball, but it sure looks like this team is poised to have a competitive window that lasts at least three or four years past this year. I don’t care if you are this year’s pre-September Dodgers or whichever AL team will sneak in as a wildcard, the playoffs are a tall mountain to climb. But this team does have enough talent to make that climb and repeat as champions. I’m going to enjoy watching them try and sweat a little less knowing they just made that climb successfully last year.

But, we have another 23 games to recap, well 24 including yesterday’s before we can start the climb. So let’s look at what WPA had to say about Heroes and Goats for the Cubs from last night’s 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 Wednesday, September 7 (Cubs win 1-0):

Source: FanGraphs


  • Superhero - Jose Quintana (.345). Not quite as dominating as Gerrit Cole, but still probably the second best game he’s thrown as a Cub with only six hits, one walk and six strikeouts to go with his six scoreless innings. The second consecutive Cub starting pitcher to have a strong outing since Jake Arrieta was injured.
  • Hero - Alex Avila (.316). Just one hit on the day, but when that hit is a two out RBI triple in the ninth inning of a 0-0 game, that’s going to be worth a ton (.371).
  • Sidekick - Wade Davis (.189). Wade threw one of his more dominant innings to date for the Cubs, retiring the side in order, striking out two and preserving is 29th save in 29 tries. An amazing season for Wade this year.


  • Billy Goat - Jason Heyward (-.108). The at bat that lands Jason here was in the seventh inning with a runner on second and two outs, he flew out to end the inning (-.062). This is the third straight game with a goat appearance for Jason.
  • Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.092). Anthony did draw the walk in the ninth inning that was the run that actually scored (.058), but he is here largely because of grounding into a double play in the first (-.085) to end the inning after the Cubs had coaxed back to back walks out of Cole.
  • Kid - Ian Happ (-.091). Ian also drew a walk, in the seventh inning (.042). But he lands here largely because of his strike out with the winning run on in the ninth inning (-.090) that set up the Avila heroics.

Next, we take a look at the cumulative standings through the Sunday game. 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 38
  • Willson Contreras 32
  • Kris Bryant 20
  • Wade Davis 18
  • Kyle Hendricks 14
  • Mike Montgomery 11
  • Jake Arrieta 7
  • Justin Grimm 6
  • Miguel Montero 5
  • Tommy La Stella 3
  • Felix Pena 2
  • Matt Szczur 2
  • Brian Duensing 2
  • Dillon Maples 2
  • Alex Avila 2
  • Eddie Butler 1
  • Kyle Schwarber 1
  • Jose Quintana 1
  • Mark Zaguins 0
  • Rene Rivera 0
  • Seth Frankoff -1
  • Jack Leathersich -1
  • Ian Happ -2
  • Justin Wilson -2
  • Pierce Johnson -3
  • Pedro Strop -4
  • Hector Rondon -5
  • Brett Anderson -5
  • Jeimer Candelario -5
  • Victor Caratini -9
  • Albert Almora Jr. -10
  • Carl Edwards Jr. -12
  • Ben Zobrist -14
  • Jon Lester -14
  • Koji Uehara -14
  • Addison Russell -15
  • Javier Baez -15
  • Jason Heyward -19
  • John Lackey -21

Anthony Rizzo falls back out of the plus 40 club (Willson is returning soon, this race may not be over!) Alex Avila moves into positive territory and so does Jose Quintana. Jason Heyward moves a bit closer to the cellar and the possibility of the dubious distinction of finishing as Top Goat for the season for the second year in a row. Let’s hope Jason can turn it around at the plate.

Tonight, the Cubs wrap up this series and the season series with the Pirates as well as this brief road trip. The Cubs will have Jon Lester on the mound. This is his second start back from the disabled list. He did not pitch particularly well in his first start back, but he did record a win. Jon has actually faced the Pirates three times already this year. The last two of those he was knocked around pretty good in including a 10 run (four earned) first inning in which he only recorded two outs in before the All Star Break. Overall, he has a 6.85 ERA in his last five starts against the Pirates. The Cubs really need to get Jon back going in the right direction. He has a 5.63 ERA in his last seven starts overall.

On the mound for the Pirates will be Jameson Taillon, the promising young righthander for the Pirates. Jameson has struggled a bit since the start of August with a 5.50 ERA over his last seven starts. His starts against the Cubs this year are a mixed bag. He threw a great game in April at Wrigley allowing only one unearned run over seven innings. But in a June start in Pittsburgh, the Cubs scored four runs in five innings against him. Jameson is hit a bit harder by left handed hitters (.746 v 848 OPS), but it is not a huge difference, though his strike out rate drops very significantly against lefties. In small sample sizes, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez have both crushed Taillon. And for good measure, Jon Jay is 2-for-2 against him. I’m going way out on a limb and guessing this will not be another 1-0 or even a 2-1 type game.

As always, we finish with a poll. Yesterday Carl Edwards received a surprisingly small 93% of the vote. Today, we’ll be voting on Hero of the game. I’m going out on another limb and guessing that this will be a closer vote.


Who was the Cubs Hero of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Jose Quintana
    (55 votes)
  • 55%
    Alex Avila
    (70 votes)
  • 0%
    Wade Davis
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Other (please leave your choice in the comments below)
    (0 votes)
126 votes total Vote Now