Last week we looked at a 10-game road trip on which the Cubs lost six games. Despite the struggles, they remained three games ahead of the Mets in the division. This week, we’ll cover a nine game homestand. A three-game lead with 39 games to play is fairly comfortable, but if the Cubs can have a strong homestand and maintain or increase that lead, they’ll be looking very likely to capture the National League East championship for the first time in club history. The league split into two divisions in 1969, and the Cubs have never won the division over that time.
Game 124, August 20 - Cubs pound Astros 6-1 (73-51)
- Superhero - Steve Trout (.241). It wasn’t the prettiest start of the season for Trout, but he goes the distance in this one. He only allowed seven hits and one run, but he did allow seven walks.
- Hero - Keith Moreland (.139). Another strong day at the plate for Zonk. He had two hits in four at bats. He had a one out, two run single in the first (.098) and added a one out RBI single in the third (.046). In all, he drove in the Cubs first three runs and also scored the fourth.
- Sidekick - Ryne Sandberg (.117). Ryne had just one hit, but also drew a walk in four plate appearances. He singled in the first (.083) and walked in the third (.018). Both times he was driven in by Moreland.
- Billy Goat - Jody Davis (-.022). There wasn’t a lot negative for the Cubs in this one. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead after one and 4-0 after three and cruised to an easy win. Jody was hitless in three at bats.
- Goat - Leon Durham (-.020). The Bull was also hitless in three at bats, two of them were strike outs.
- Kid - Larry Bowa (-.019). Larry was the third of three Cubs to go hitless in three at bats.
August was a quiet month for Steve Trout. He started six games and completed two of them. He compiled a 2-0 record and a 3.32 ERA (third best of the season for him behind April and May). He pitched 40⅔ innings, allowed 48 hits, 16 runs (15 earned) and had exactly 18 strike outs and 18 walks. The Cubs in season pitching acquisitions outshined Steve through the summer months, but he remained an integral part of the rotation.
Game 125, August 21 - Cubs thump Astros 11-5 (74-51)
- Superhero - Dennis Eckersley (.155). Once again the Cubs get back to back Superhero starts and Steve Trout is involved. Eckersley throws the back half and almost matches the performance of Trout. He threw seven innings allowing six hits and one run. He only walked one though.
- Hero - Ryne Sandberg (.148). Another strong day at the plate for Ryno. This time he had three hits in five at bats. He singled in the first (.089), stole second (.021) and later scored. In the third he singled again (.023), stole second again (.015) and scored. He added a two run single with two outs in the eighth that made it 11-4 Cubs (.004).
- Sidekick - Keith Moreland (.123). Keith had a quiet day at the plate, going hitless in four at bats. How does he end up in this spot? In the first inning with two outs and runners on second and third, he reached on an error that scored two runs (.167). That turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.
- Billy Goat - Leon Durham (-.048). Once again, there was little bad for the Cubs on this day. A little bad luck for the Bull when Moreland is on the Hero side with no hits in four at bats and Durham is here with a hit and a walk in four plate appearances. He scored one run.
- Goat - Larry Bowa (-.032). Larry had one hit in three at bats.
- Kid - Ron Cey (-.002). For Cey, this is particularly bad luck. He had two hits in three at bats and added a walk. He scored twice. Cey grounded out to end the first while the game was close and then reached base three straight times as the Cubs were jumping out to an 8-1 lead.
Larry Bowa really struggled in August. He played in 20 games, starting 16 of them. He had 55 plate appearances and reached base just 11 times for a line of .154/.200/.173. He offered little in the way of on base skills and almost no power. Even in the days of light hitting defensively oriented shortstops, Larry Bowa was a well below average player.
Game 126, August 22 - Cubs fall to Astros 8-3 (74-52)
- Superhero - Gary Matthews (.071). Sarge had one his in four at bats, but it was an RBI double in the first (.107). That gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. He later had an RBI fielder’s choice that cut the deficit that had grown to 7-2.
- Hero - Warren Brusstar (.047). After starter Dick Ruthven allowed seven runs while recording just five outs, Brusstar came in and recorded the final out of the second and then threw three more innings. He allowed just one walk and no hits
- Sidekick - Ryne Sandberg (.042). Sandberg had a single and a walk in four plate appearances in the game. He scored a run.
- Billy Goat - Dick Ruthven (-.464). Ruthven recorded just five outs in this one. He allowed six hits, including two home runs, two walks and seven earned runs.
- Goat - Bob Dernier (-.080). Bob was hitless in four plate appearances.
- Kid - Keith Moreland (-.063). Unlike the previous two games, this one went south and just stayed there. Bob and Keith were actually two out of four Cubs who were hitless in four plate appearances. Leon Durham and Jody Davis also shared the distinction but missed the podium.
Bob Dernier had just a brutal August. He played in 23 games, starting 21 of them. He had 97 plate appearances and recorded a line of .169/.229/.258. That was his lowest OPS month of the season by over .150 points. His next worst month was September. Dernier missed time and then was never the same player again afterwards. He left the second game of the double header on July 29 after five innings and didn’t start another game until August 6. From August 6 until the end of the year he hit .193/.276/.290 (after hitting .319/.395/.397 before). He had 34 stolen bases before the injury and just 11 afterwards.
Game 127, August 24 - Cubs blank Braves 3-0 (75-52)
- Superhero - Rick Sutcliffe (.505). Rick posts the seventh largest WPA game of the season for the Cubs in this one. He threw a complete game shut out. He allowed five hits, one walk and struck out six.
- Hero - Gary Matthews (.146). Sarge reached base three times in four plate appearances. He tripled in the first (.058) and later scored on a wild pitch (.064). He singled leading off the third (.025) and walked in the seventh (.003).
- Sidekick - Ryne Sandberg (.095). Ryno had two hits in four at bats. The first was a solo homer in the first (.097). He had an RBI single in the seventh (.051).
- Billy Goat - Jody Davis (-.086). Jody had one hit in four at bats.
- Goat - Ron Cey (-.073). Cey had one walk in four plate appearances.
- Kid - Bob Dernier (-.058). Bob did reach on a fielder’s choice and steal a base in the second and then had a sacrifice bunt in the seventh to show for his four plate appearances.
Rick Sutcliffe shows up here with what was actually just his fourth highest game score of the season, largely because he only struck out six. With this game, Rick Sutcliffe recorded his 12th win as a Cub in just 14 starts. Over those 14 games, he threw 103 innings, allowed 92 hits and 41 runs (only 34 earned). He struck out 99 and walked 33. Amazingly, Rick had a 3-1 record in five starts with a game score under 40. His numbers were great as a Cub, but they were certainly amplified by some very solid run support.
Game 128, August 25 - Cubs edged by Braves 3-2 (75-53)
- Superhero - Thad Bosley (.131). Thad got a start in this one and had two hits in four at bats. He singled in the seventh (.068), went to third on a Ron Cey single and scored on a wild pitch (.093).
- Hero - George Frazier (.100). Frazier allowed just one hit in two innings of work while giving the Cubs a chance to come from behind.
- Sidekick - Jody Davis (.051). Jody had two hits in four at bats. The Cubs only managed five hits and two walks on the day.
- Billy Goat - Gary Matthews (-.198). Matthews reached only once in four plate appearances, that was on a walk. He grounded into a double play in the eighth to end the inning (-.153)
- Goat - Leon Durham (-.155). Leon was hitless in four at bats.
- Kid - Bob Dernier (-.155). Dernier was also hitless in four at bats.
Gary Matthews had a strong August. He played in 27 games, all starts. He had 114 plate appearances, with a line of .316/.407/.449. He only drove in eight runs, but he scored 24 of them. On that pace, he’d have a 144 runs scored season. In a testament to how consistent he was all year long, this was actually the third worst month of the year for Gary, falling just a bit behind his July, but well behind his April and September. At 33 years old, Gary had a strong second half and helped get the team to the finish line.
Game 129, August 26 - Cubs shutout Braves 5-0 to take two of three (76-53)
- Superhero - Steve Trout (.416). Trout goes the distance for a second consecutive start allowing eight hits and two walks while recording the shutout. Trout’s record moves to 12-5 with the win and his ERA drops to 2.36. He recorded a game score of 75.
- Hero - Leon Durham (.280). A huge day at the plate for the Bull as he has two home runs in four at bats. He hit a solo shot for the first run of the game with two outs in the fourth (.130) and then added a three run homer with one out in the sixth (.174) to make it 4-0.
- Sidekick - Ron Cey (.007). This is a super low score for a Sidekick in a victory. But it was plenty deserved. Cey had two hits in three at bats including a home run.
- Billy Goat - Bob Dernier (-.105). The struggles continue with a hitless in four at bats day.
- Goat - Jody Davis (-.049). Just three hitless at bats for Davis.
- Kid - Tom Veryzer (-.040). Tom actually had one hit in three at bats, but ends up here.
For the Cubs, August was a great month. They went 20-10, their best record in any month. The pitching was a huge part of that with a 3.45 ERA, though that was actually just their third lowest of the season. The staff combined for six complete games and two shutouts, both season highs. In 30 games, they had 15 games where the starter recorded a game score of 50 or better. But, a big part of the month was the stellar bullpen work. The relievers appeared in 70⅓ innings allowing only 59 hits and 22 walks. They allowed 25 runs (23 earned). They struck out 53 hitters. That amounts to a 2.94 ERA and a 1.152 WHIP. They recorded nine saves.
Game 130, August 28 - Cubs beat Reds 5-2 (77-53)
- Superhero - Keith Moreland (.284). Keith had two hits in four at bats. The Cubs fell behind quickly in this one as the Reds scored two in the first. But it was already 2-1 when Moreland stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first with runners on first and second and one out. Keith hit a three run homer to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead (.220). He added an RBI triple with two outs in the third (.087) to complete the scoring.
- Hero - George Frazier (.138). Frazier’s excellent string continues as he came in with a runner on first and one out in the seventh and closed out the rest of the game. He allowed just one single in recording eight outs and his fourth save.
- Sidekick - Dennis Eckersley (.113). Eck allowed four hits, a walk and two runs in the top of the first. But for a caught stealing, this might have created an enormous hole for the Cubs. But he allowed just five hits and one walk in the next 5⅓ innings and picked up his 12th win of the season.
- Billy Goat - Bob Dernier (-.051). Yet another hitless in four at bats game. This makes five consecutive games on the negative side of the ledger. Overall, this is the eighth consecutive Dernier appearance that was on the down side.
- Goat - Ron Cey (-.045). Penguin joins Dernier down here.
- Kid - Larry Bowa (-.030). It was a little less bad for Larry as he only batted three times. Jody Davis was also hitless in three at bats.
Keith Moreland drives in four runs in the first three innings of this game. That gives him 69 RBI on the season. He records his third triple of the year in the third to go with his 15th home run in the first. This was actually the first game of a double header and spoiler alert, he’ll add three more hits and two more RBI in the second game. He started both games after having finally getting two games off the last two games of the series with the Braves.
Game 131, August 28 - Cubs sweep double header with carbon copy 5-2 win (78-53)
- Superhero - Rich Bordi (.243). The Cubs jumped out to a 5-0 lead in this one. When Dick Ruthven ran into trouble in the sixth allowing two hits, a walk and a run without recording an out, Bordi came in. He threw the final four innings and didn’t allow a hit until there were two outs in the ninth inning. He did allow a sacrifice fly in that sixth inning. He picks up his fourth save.
- Hero - Keith Moreland (.106). Keith powers the offense again. He had a two out RBI double in the first (.083) to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. He doubled again in the third, but was out trying to stretch it into a triple (-.009). He then singled with the bases loaded in the fourth (.038) to make it 4-0.
- Sidekick - Ron Cey (.101). Ron had a hit and two walks in four plate appearances. He had an RBI double in the first (.074) following the Moreland double. He added a walk with the bases loaded in the fourth behind the Moreland single.
- Billy Goat - Henry Cotto (-.035). Cotto gets a start in center and has a hit in five at bats. He scored a run.
- Goat - Leon Durham (-.022). Leon had one walk in five plate appearances.
- Kid - Gary Woods (-.007). Gary got a couple of at bats but had nothing to show for them.
Rich Bordi only appeared in two games for the Cubs in August, but he made the most of them. He started one game and finished the other. He had 8 innings of work, allowing 7 hits, and no walks. He did allow two home runs. He had a 3.38 ERA (3 runs allowed) and a .875 WHIP. He had a save. Rich was a very productive pitcher for the Cubs, but he was squeezed out as the team solidified its staff.
Game 132, August 29 - Cubs complete three game sweep of Reds with 8-2 victory (79-53)
- Superhero - Leon Durham (.199). Leon had a big day at the plate, reaching four times in five plate appearances. He walked in the first (.010), had a two run homer in the third (.154), an RBI single in the fourth (.038), and drew a two out walk in the eighth (.001).
- Hero - Rick Sutcliffe (.182). Eight strong innings allowing five hits and two runs. He did walk four but struck out seven.
- Sidekick - Bob Dernier (.087). Finally a game in the positive column for Bob. He had two hits in five at bats. One of those was a home run leading off the third to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. He stole a base and scored three runs.
- Billy Goat - Tom Veryzer (-.052). Getting another start at short stop, Tom got one hit in four at bats but ends up in the bottom spot on a day when the Cubs had 14 hits, six walks and seven runs.
- Goat - Gary Matthews (-.031). Sarge reached base once on a walk in four at bats. He scored once.
- Kid - Ron Cey (-.005). Tough luck here as Ron had two hits and a walk in four plate appearances. He didn’t figure into any of the scoring and made the last out in the first inning with runners on first and second (-.037).
We looked at the performance of the pitchers in August, but they didn’t do the work alone. In August, the Cubs offense collected its second highest OPS of the season (behind May). The Offense had a collective line of .268/.336/.424 in August. They slugged 32 home runs in the month, their highest total of the year. They also scored their highest number of runs (156) and had their highest doubles total (48). They recorded their highest number of hit by pitches (8), most number of reached on error (20) and as a by product, grounded into the most double plays (21). It should be noted that they played more games than any other month at 30, but most of these numbers weren’t close to the next highest total.
- Ryne Sandberg 37
- Gary Matthews 24
- Lee Smith 21
- Rich Bordi 15
- Richie Hebner 14
- Keith Moreland 13
- Thad Bosley 9
- George Frazier 9
- Leon Durham 7
- Dennis Eckersley 7
- Scott Sanderson 4
- Steve Trout 4
- Tim Stoddard 3.5
- Rick Sutcliffe 3
- Warren Brusstar 2.4
- Dickie Noles 2
- Jay Johnston 2
- Henry Cotto 0
- Mel Hall 0
- Dan Rohn -1
- Ron Hassey -1
- Don Schulze -2
- Porfi Altamarino -3
- Gary Woods -4
- Tom Veryzer -5
- Rick Reuschel -6
- Bill Buckner -9
- Chuck Rainey -10
- Bob Dernier -11
- Dick Ruthven -11
- Dave Owen -12
- Ron Cey -26
- Larry Bowa -37
- Jody Davis -39
The top three in the standings remain the same, though Sandberg moves his lead back to 13 over Matthews with a +5 that was one of the best of the homestand by any Cub. Only Keith Moreland (+7) and Steve Trout (+6) were higher. Moreland’s homestand moves him into the top 10 and into the +10 crowd, making six members. Trout and Rick Sutcliffe move into positive territory. Henry Cotto drops down to even. On the down side, Bob Dernier (-9) had the worst homestand and it dropped him into the -10 club (Dick Ruthven is also a new member). That club now numbers seven. Jody Davis had the second worst homestand and it moved him into last place for the season, though both Ron Cey and Larry Bowa were -4 (as was Tom Veryzer and Leon Durham) to stay close to last.
For the team, it was seven wins in nine games on the homestand. They reach a season high 26 games over .500. They also extend the division lead to 5½ games, the largest of the year. That kind of lead with 30 games to play is fairly secure, however next up, the Cubs will have a four city 11 game road trip. The trip will bring them into the second week of September and there will only 19 games remaining after this. If the team can tread water on the trip, they’ll be in complete control of the division. The rival Mets will be the last stop on the trip where the Cubs will play three of their remaining seven games against the Mets. On September 2, the end of the next series, the Cubs will play their final game against the National League West. The city of Chicago is starting to buzz as it looks like at long last the Cubs will return to the postseason.