Last week, we covered a seven-game East Coast road trip. On that trip, the Cubs won five of seven including three of four against the Mets. The Mets had built a 4½-game lead over the Cubs before the Cubs won three straight to move back within 1½ games.
This week the Cubs have an 11-game homestand and an opportunity to take control of the division with four more games against the Mets. While that sounds like a recipe for success, as I noted last week, over the three previous homestands the Cubs have a record of just 13-13. Let’s see if they can do a little better on this pivotal homestand.
Game 103, July 30 - Cubs beat Phillies 3-2 (60-43)
- Superhero - Dennis Eckersley (.370). Eckersley was superb in this one, throwing seven innings and allowing seven hits and a walk while striking six. He allowed one run. He picked up the win, his fifth as a Cub and ninth overall.
- Hero - Lee Smith (.232). Big Lee came in with two outs in the eighth inning and the Cubs leading 3-2 after Tim Stoddard allowed an RBI single. He retired the four hitters he faced and picked up save number 22.
- Sidekick - Ryne Sandberg (.108). On a day when the Cubs didn’t have a ton of offense, Ryne had a hit, an RBI and a walk. The hit was a one out, RBI triple in the seventh inning (.108) that extended the Cubs lead to 3-1.
- Billy Goat - Keith Moreland (-.127). Zonk had a tough day at the plate with no hits in four at bats.
- Goat - Larry Bowa (-.073). Larry did manage one hit in four at bats, but lands down here.
- Kid - Tim Stoddard (-.053). Stoddard had a rough appearance facing five hitters and retiring only two of them. He allowed a run that made it 3-2.
As the Cubs slowly took control of the National League East, Lee Smith was finding a groove. From July 4 to August 11 Lee appeared in 17 games, finishing 14 of them. He recorded 10 saves and four wins (he did blow two saves). He threw 26 innings in those games and allowed only 15 hits and two walks. He struck out 18 and recorded an ERA of 1.04 (3 runs, all earned). Opponents had a line of .172/.191/.184. Despite the two blown saves, that was quite a dominant stretch for the Cubs relief ace.
Game 104, July 31 - Cubs bats shut down in 12-inning 2-1 loss to the Phillies (60-44)
- Superhero - Rich Bordi (.423). This is amazingly the fourth consecutive Superhero performance from the Cubs rotation. And even more amazing, none of those games were started by staff ace Rick Sutcliffe. Rich Bordi was fantastic in this one with nine innings of two-hit, one-walk ball. He allowed just one run on a home run by Juan Samuel with two outs in the ninth inning. Rich posted a game score of 82 despite only striking out four.
- Hero - George Frazier (.146). Frazier threw the 10th inning and allowed just one hit in his inning of work.
- Sidekick - Warren Brusstar (.068). After Tim Stoddard pitched a perfect 11th, he went back out for the 12th and allowed the go ahead run. Brusstar came in and got the final two outs of the inning and held the game at 2-1 to give the Cubs bats one last chance.
- Billy goat - Jody Davis (-.241). The Cubs had just seven hits and three walks in 12 innings against Phillies pitching. Jody had one of the hits but lands down here from two large negative events. The second of those was a fly out for the first out in the bottom of the 12th (-.129) after a Bob Dernier single. The first though was stranger. Jody was caught stealing after singling to lead off the 10th (-.133).
- Goat - Tim Stoddard (-.207). As noted earlier, he worked a perfect 11th, but he went back out for the 12th. The first batter he faced, Juan Samuel lead off with a single. He then stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. He allowed a walk, a sacrifice fly and another walk before finally leaving.
- Kid - Leon Durham (-.186). Leon was hitless in five at bats on the day.
Unfortunately, while Lee Smith was warming up, Tim Stoddard was cooling off. Over a similar stretch as the one we looked at with Lee, Tim appeared in 17 games between July 6 and August 22. In those games he appeared in 17 games, finishing 9 of them. He had a 3-4 record and saved two games. He threw 28 innings and allowed 29 hits and 15 walks. He did strike out 29 but he allowed five home runs. He allowed 18 runs (all earned) over that time for a 6.00 ERA. Opponents had a line of .290/.378/.540. Nothing like turning every hitter you face into a borderline MVP candidate.
Game 105, August 1 - Cubs register 10th walkoff win with 5-4 win over Phillies (61-44)
- Superhero - George Frazier (.165). Dick Ruthven actually registered the highest WPA in this one, but he did it with a day at the plate that included a hit and an RBI. Alas, we don’t look at pitcher’s hitting. Frazier threw 1⅔ innings of relief in this one. He recorded the last out in the seventh inning, getting out of a first and second two outs jam, and then pitched the eighth and recorded the first out in the ninth. He left after a one out walk to Sixto Lezcano in the ninth.
- Hero - Ryne Sandberg (.132). Ryno reached base three times in five at bats in a game started by future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. He also reached on an error in the first. The big blow was a fourth inning home run (.094) with the Cubs losing 3-0.
- Sidekick - Keith Moreland (.124). After a couple of rough days at the plate, Keith busted back out with three hits and a walk in five plate appearances. Amazingly, Keith lands here after striking out with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the ninth (-.101). His sixth inning homer tied the game at 3-3 (.172).
- Billy Goat - Lee Smith (-.174). Lee came in with one out in the ninth and a runner on first. He allowed a Juan Samuel single. Samuel then stole second and Sixto Lezcano scored when the throw to second went into the outfield. Samuel reached third on the throw. Smith recovered and got two harmless grounders to first to maintain a tie score.
- Goat - Gary Woods (-.051). Gary started this one in right field with Keith Moreland moving in to play first and was hitless in three plate appearances with a walk.
- Kid - Larry Bowa (-.042). Bowa had one hit in four at bats.
George Frazier finds his way onto the Hero podiums on consecutive days. George had a very nice stretch of games between July 28 and September 6. He appeared in 16 games, finishing 10 of them. He had a 3-2 record and recorded three saves. He pitched 31 innings allowing 23 hits and seven walks. He struck out 27 and allowed five runs (only 4 earned) for a 1.16 ERA. He allowed opponents a line of .198/.244/.224 over that time. He helped stabilize the pen over this period for the Cubs.
Game 106, August 2 - Cubs come from behind to beat Expos 3-2 (62-44)
- Superhero - Lee Smith (.378). Smith came into this game in the ninth inning with runners at first and second and one out. Pete Rose was the hitter. Smith got Rose to hit into a double play. I vividly remember this one as Rose crushed a ball up the middle. Smith deflected it with his glove and/or shoulder and the ball caromed to Dave Owen who caught it on a fly and threw to first to double off the runner and end the game.
- Hero - Keith Moreland (.135). Another good day at the plate for Keith as he comes up with two hits in four at bats. The big one was a two out sixth inning solo homer (.183) that tied the game at two.
- Sidekick - Rick Sutcliffe (.082). Amazingly, heading into the ninth inning of this game, Rick Sutcliffe was looking to give the Cubs five consecutive Superhero starts. He had allowed six hits, three walks and two runs through eight while striking out 10. But he allowed singles to two of the first three hitters and left. He held onto just enough WPA to eek out this podium spot.
- Billy Goat - Gary Matthews (-.119). Sarge was hitless in four at bats.
- Goat - Larry Bowa (-.055). Bowa was hitless in two at bats before leaving for a pinch hitter in the seventh.
- Kid - Ryne Sandberg (-.029). Ryne had just one walk in four plate appearances.
For Rick Sutcliffe, this was win number 12 on the season, including an 8-1 record as a Cub. This was his 10th start as a Cub and the sixth time he completed at least eight innings. In those 10 starts, the Cubs were 9-1, he threw 73⅓ innings, allowed 61 hits and 26 walks. He struck out 68. He allowed five home runs and 27 runs (only 20 earned). This was good for a 2.45 ERA and an opponent line of .220/.289/.365. He wasn’t always dominant, but he gave the Cubs a ton of innings and they were winning almost literally every single time he pitched.
Game 107, August 3 - Cubs fall behind 5-0 and lose 6-5 to Expos (62-45)
- Superhero - Leon Durham (.257). Leon had been struggling at the plate heading into this one, but busts out with two hits. Included in his day was a two run homer with two outs in the sixth (.078). This cut the Cubs deficit to 5-2.
- Hero - Jay Johnstone (.119). This is a rather mundane looking line to be up here. Jay was hitless in one at bat. The at bat was pinch hitting for Dave Owen in the seventh inning. He was batting after a Ron Cey homer made it 5-3 and Steve Lake had doubled. He reached on an error, putting runners at first and third with no outs.
- Sidekick - Ron Cey (.108). For Cey, it was two hits and a walk on the day. The homer alone was worth .095 WPA.
- Billy Goat - Tim Stoddard (-.227). The struggles continued for Tim as he threw two innings and allowed a hit, three walks, and the decisive run.
- Goat - Steve Trout (-.224). The string of strong Cubs starts comes to an end with Steve getting knocked around. He allowed seven hits, two walks and five runs (four earned) in 4.1 innings of work. The offense bailed him out though and he did not take the loss.
- Kid - Henry Cotto (-.145). More Heroes and Goats weirdness as Henry lands here despite two hits in five at bats. Henry was caught stealing after leading off with a single in the bottom of the first. He also made the second out in the seventh inning with the tying run on first and made the second out in the ninth inning.
If you look at the full numbers for July for Henry Cotto, it isn’t pretty. He played in 23 games, starting four. He had 33 plate appearances and a line of .214/.313/.214. But if we shift the focus a bit and instead look at the period between July 28 to August 10, he appeared in 16 games, 10 of them were starts and he had 49 plate appearances. In that time, he hit .391/.404/.457. Arbitrary end points to be sure, but this was one of the best stretches of the season for Henry. As it turns out, this later set isn’t arbitrary at all though, as it coincides with time missed by Bob Dernier. This was a key stretch for the Cubs and they faced it with Henry Cotto in center and leading off. Henry very much responded and contributed.
Game 108, August 4 - Cubs jump on Expos early and win 4-1 (63-45)
- Superhero - Dennis Eckersley (.255). Eck was very good again. He threw 6⅔ innings and allowed seven hits, two walks and one run. He picked up his sixth win as a Cub evening his record as a Cub at 6-6. It was his 10th win overall (also good for a 10-10 record).
- Hero - Leon Durham (.162). Leon had two hits and a walk in four at bats. He got the scoring started for the Cubs in the second. He didn’t pick an RBI though as he singled with a runner on first and two outs but Keith Moreland came all of the way around to score on an error. Durham also singled and scored the Cubs’ fourth run in the fourth.
- Sidekick - George Frazier (.129). Another superb outing for George as he threw the final 2.1 innings allowing only one hit and striking out three. He picked up his second save.
- Billy Goat - Dave Owen (-.062). Dave was hitless in four at bats.
- Goat - Gary Matthews (-.050). Sarge had one hit in his four at bats.
- Kid - Ron Cey (-020). Cey had just one walk to show for his four plate appearances.
A few weeks ago I talked about the fantastic string of starts from July 1 until the end of the season for Dennis Eckersley. He continues that work here with his second win on the homestand. For the month of August, Dennis will start five games and compile a 3-1 record (the Cubs will be 3-2). He will pitch 37 innings and allow 36 hits, 10 walks and 10 runs (eight earned). He will strike out 11 and allow just one home run during a month when the wind is typically blowing out a good portion of the time. He will post a 1.95 ERA and an opponent line of (.252/.303/.315).
Game 109, August 5 - Cubs defeat Expos 4-3, win three out of four (64-45)
- Superhero - Keith Moreland (.381). It was a two hit day for Keith Moreland, but it only took one to land him here. Keith stepped to the plate with the Cubs losing 1-0, the bases loaded and two outs. He took one deep and just like that it was 4-1 Cubs (.342).
- Hero - Lee Smith (.298). Lee threw the final two innings for the save. He allowed only one hit and didn’t walk anyone to preserve the 4-3 lead he was handed.
- Sidekick - Rick Reuschel (.253). Starter Rich Bordi only last four innings and was touched for six hits, including two home runs, and three runs. Reuschel came in and threw three innings of scoreless relief allowing one hit and one walk while striking out four.
- Billy Goat - Ron Cey (-.105). It was a tough day at the plate for Ron, three at bats and three strike outs.
- Goat - Dave Owen (-.092). Owen was also hitless in three at bats.
- Kid - Jody Davis (-.088). As was Jody Davis. The Cubs got a combined nine hitless at bats out of their sixth, seventh and eighth hitters on this day.
Rick Reuschel pitched in relief in five games for the Cubs. Ironically, this was the only one the Cubs won and he in fact picked up the win to even his record at 5-5. It wasn’t anything particularly reflective on Rick that the Cubs weren’t winning the games in which he pitched in, though his numbers weren’t good. He threw 9⅔ innings and allowed 11 hits and four walks while only striking out six. He allowed 5 runs, good for a 4.66 ERA. Opponents hit .306/.375/.472. He was simply used in low leverage, long relief type situations as a reliever. But all of these numbers are better than those he had as a starter. Regardless, Reuschel wasn’t able to contribute much at all to the 1984 Cubs.
Game 110, August 6 - Cubs triple up Mets 9-3 (65-45)
- Superhero - Jody Davis (.211). Jody had an RBI double in the first with two outs (.091) and then hit a two run homer with two outs in the third (.126).
- Hero - Warren Brusstar (.119). Despite the lopsided final score, Brusstar came into a 7-3 game and the bases loaded in the sixth. He got a ground out to end the inning and then threw two more innings, allowing a triple in the seventh and a double in the eighth, but no runs.
- Sidekick - Dick Ruthven (.094). While the Cubs were scoring five runs in four innings off of Dwight Gooden, Dick was allowing one earned run in five and two thirds innings. He did allowed two unearned runs in the sixth that made the game quite a bit more tense. He allowed seven hits and two walks while striking out three.
- Billy Goat - Ron Cey (-.040). Ron was hitless in four plate appearances, though he did walk and score a run.
- Goat - Bob Dernier (-.013). Despite this placement on the podiums, it was a positive return to the lineup for Bob. He had two hits, including a triple, in five at bats and drove in a run to make it 9-3 in the eighth.
- Kid - Gary Matthews (-.004). On a day where the Cubs clicked on all cylinders it didn’t take much to land here. Gary had a hit and a walk in his five plate appearances. He scored one run.
It was asked in the comments of a previous column if anyone recalled when Harry Carry began his odd little Jody Davis song to the tune of an old song about Davey Crockett. I suspect this might have been the game. Davis came through in each of his first two at bats, including the home run. He drove in four runs in all. Two days earlier he’d hit a two run homer and he had a couple key RBIs earlier in the homestand that didn’t quite show up on the podiums. Regardless, Harry Carry really loved Jody Davis. The second half of 1984 was quite tough on Jody and this homestand was little different. He had 38 plate appearances and had a .206/.211/471. line. But, he did drive in nine runs and five of his seven hits on the homestand were extra base hits. So maybe this was it.
Game 111, August 7 - Cubs edge Mets 8-6 (66-45)
- Superhero - Keith Moreland (.401). A resurgent Keith Moreland has two hits and a walk in five plate appearances. His two out, three run homer in the fifth turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead (.376).
- Hero - Ron Cey (.282). Cey had a big day at the plate with two hits and two walks in four plate appearances. His two run homer, two batters later made it 7-4 Cubs as the Cubs stormed back from a 4-2 deficit with a six run fifth inning.
- Sidekick - George Frazier (.195). George continues his hot streak by retiring the final seven hitters in the game. He came in after Rick Sutcliffe allowed an RBI double and an RBI single back to back with two outs in the seventh to cut the lead to 8-6.
- Billy Goat - Rick Sutcliffe (-.232). I love Rick Sutcliffe. But if you only remember sunshine and rainbows from 1984, you aren’t remembering right. He was tagged for 10 hits and six runs in this one. He definitely allowed some runs over the course of the season when Jim Frey was trying to steal a few more outs from a tired Sutcliffe, but the Mets scored two in the second, two in the fourth and two in the seventh off of him in this one.
- Goat - Ryne Sandberg (-.107). Just one hit in five at bats for Sandberg, but he did score a run.
- Kid - Jody Davis (-.036). This is the kind of luck that followed Jody as far as Heroes and Goats went in 1984. He got on base twice, once with a single and once via walk. He scored both times, and still he ends up here.
I’ve talked a lot about Keith Moreland and how his role expanded during the season. I’ve also talked about how he was a guy that Joe Maddon would love to have. He played right field primarily, but also played first, third and caught for the 1984 Cubs. I’ve also talked that beginning June 9, he began playing every inning of every game, while still moving around and playing four different positions. Given the rigors of summer, some catching work and day games it would have been intuitive for Keith to tail off. Instead, he had a line of .360/.400/.559 in August over 28 games. And through August 24, he will continue to play every inning of every game. Keith Moreland probably made the most under rated contribution to the 1984 Cubs.
Game 112, August 7 - Cubs double up Mets 8-4 (67-45)
- Superhero - Henry Cotto (.177). Getting the start in the second end of a a double header, Henry Cotto had four hits in five at bats. Once again he was in the lead off spot and playing center for this one. Henry had four singles, a stolen base and two runs scored in the game.
- Hero - Scott Sanderson (.162). It was a short start for Scott, but an effective one as he threw four innings and allowed just one hit and one walk while the Cubs were building a 5-0 lead. He even had an RBI single and scored a run in the bottom of the fourth as the Cubs had a five run inning.
- Sidekick - Ron Cey (.158). It was another two hit game for Ron. He had a two out, two run double in the fourth (.081) that gave the Cubs a 5-0 lead. He added an RBI single in the sixth (.081) after the Mets had cut it to 5-4.
- Billy Goat - Leon Durham (-.092). Leon was retired in both of his at bats before leaving this one early.
- Goat - Keith Moreland (-.089). Keith did have two walks in four at bats and played both third base and first base in this one, and this was also the game where Moreland charged the mound and got into it with Mets pitcher (and future Cubs GM) Ed Lynch. Interestingly, neither Moreland nor Lynch was ejected. Al wrote more about this brushup back in 2014.
- Kid - Larry Bowa (-.082). Larry was hitless in four at bats but did score one run after reaching on a fielder’s choice.
Scott Sanderson threw 29 innings in August across five starts. He allowed 30 hits and seven walks. He allowed 16 runs (14 earned). He was 0-2 with a 4.34 ERA. He’ll bounce back though and have a strong September to close out the season. The Cubs were 15-9 in the games that Scott started across the whole season. Scott gave the Cubs the kind of season you’d hope for out of a fourth starter in 1984. That was a little more scary early on when he was more important than that, but once the Cubs picked up Rick Sutcliffe and Dennis Eckersley to go with Steve Trout, he slotted in nicely behind them.
Game 113, August 8 - Cubs complete four game sweep of Mets with 7-6 win (68-45)
- Superhero - Keith Moreland (.442). Once again, the offensive star was Moreland. He had three hits in four at bats in this one. He drove in the Cubs first run with a two out single in the third (.110), drove in the second and third runs with a two out single in the fifth (.209), and gave the Cubs a 6-5 lead with a one out single in the seventh (.176).
- Hero - Bob Dernier (.168). Bob was on base four times in five plate appearances with two walks, a single and a hit by pitch. He also scored two runs.
- Sidekick - Jay Johnstone (.140). After the Mets took a 5-3 lead in the top of the seventh, Johnstone lead off the bottom of the inning with a triple. The Cubs ended up scoring four runs in the inning.
- Billy Goat - Warren Brusstar (-.332). Brusstar came into the game in the seventh inning after starter Steve Trout allowed a walk and a single with one out. Brusstar allowed a sac fly to tie the game. Then the next three hitters followed with walk, walk, single and the Mets took a 5-3 lead before Brusstar finally got the third out.
- Goat - Jody Davis (-.138). Jody was hitless in four at bats.
- Kid - Ron Cey (-.078). As were Cey and Dave Owen too. This time, Thad Bosley broke up the group as he batted sixth and had a couple of hits and an RBI.
Jay Johnstone had a very slow start to the season and through June 20, he had a season line of .190/.261/.286. Of course he was getting limited playing time. In late June and early July he got a few starts in proximity and from June 21 until the end of the year, he had 57 plate appearances and had a line of .327/.386/.404. He became a fairly effective bat off of the bench.
- Ryne Sandberg 33
- Gary Matthews 17
- Lee Smith 16
- Richie Hebner 14
- Rich Bordi 12
- Tim Stoddard 9.5
- Leon Durham 8
- Scott Sanderson 8
- George Frazier 6
- Thad Bosley 5
- Bob Dernier 4
- Keith Moreland 4
- Dennis Eckersley 3
- Warren Brusstar 2.5
- Dickie Noles 2
- Jay Johnstone 2
- Steve Trout 1
- Gary Woods 0
- Mel Hall 0
- Rick Sutcliffe -1
- Dan Rohn -1
- Ron Hassey -1
- Henry Cotto -1
- Don Schulze -2
- Porfi Altamarino -3
- Tom Veryzer -4
- Dick Ruthven -6
- Bill Buckner -9
- Rick Reuschel -9
- Chuck Rainey -10
- Dave Owen -12
- Ron Cey -26
- Jody Davis -29
- Larry Bowa -33
For the homestand, George Frazier and Keith Moreland made the biggest contributions from a Heroes and Goats stand point at +7 each. Three players had the biggest negative contribution for the homestand at -6 each. They were Gary Matthews, Tim Stoddard and Larry Bowa. With the homestand in the books, Ryne Sandberg has again built a commanding lead. He didn’t gain at all, but Gary Matthews having a tough stretch gives him a 16 point lead at the top. Ryne remains the only Cub at +30 or greater and now is the only Cub at +20 or greater. Rich Bordi moved into the +10 group and replaces Tim Stoddard who moves out, leaving the group at five. At the bottom, Larry Bowa is the first to cross the -30 mark and he’s moved out to a 4 point “lead” on Jody Davis who remains in second. Ron Cey and Jody Davis make up the -20 club. Dave Owen drops into the -10 group and Rick Reuschel departs, leaving that group at five as well.
The Cubs completed a nine-win, two-loss homestand that coupled with winning the last three games in New York on the previous road trip, gave them seven consecutive wins over their closest division rival. That turned a 4½-game deficit in the division into a 4½-game lead. That was in the span of 13 games.
Next week, we’ll see if the Cubs can maintain their success as they head out on the road. This trip will be another long one with 10 games in three cities. They’ll start with four in Montreal and then head to Houston and Cincinnati for three each as the season reaches the three-quarter pole. After the trip, the Cubs will have only 39 games remaining and so, a strong road trip here could lock things up.