When last we checked in on the 1984 Cubs, they were winning seven of nine games at home. They pushed their record to 26 games over .500 and their division lead to 5½ games. Both of those marked season highs. With 40 games left in the season, in this week’s look back they’ll embark on an 11-game, four-city trip. Mathematically, it will be a couple of weeks until the Cubs can clinch the division. Practically, if they can maintain or increase their lead while on this trip, the division will be all but locked up. Let’s see if they can do it.
Game 133, August 30 - Cubs off to a good start to trip with 8-3, 10 inning win over Braves (80-53)
- Superhero - Thad Bosley (.392). Thad got a start in right field with Keith Moreland sliding in to play first. He made the most of it with three hits in five at bats. His first hit came in the seventh inning with the Cubs trailing 3-0. He had a single with a runner on first and no outs (.073). He ultimately scored the Cubs second run to make it 3-2. He then homered with one out in the ninth to tie the game (.354). For good measure, he added a single in the Cubs’ five-run 10th (.004).
- Hero - Lee Smith (.143). Smith came in and walked the first batter he faced in the bottom of the ninth, but he escaped without any damage to preserve the tie. He then worked around a double in the bottom of the tenth to preserve his win.
- Sidekick - Gary Matthews (.135). Sarge had two hits and a walk and then reached on an error while trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt in the tenth. The first two batters had singled to start the inning and he bunted to third to advance the runners and all three ended up safe (.140). He singled in the first and doubled in the fourth but was stranded both times.
- Billy Goat - Scott Sanderson (-.095). Scott wasn’t terrible, throwing six innings allowing seven hits and three runs. He walked two and only struck out one. But he came to the plate in the seventh inning trailing 3-0 and the Cubs lifted him for a pinch hitter.
- Goat - Dan Rohn (-.087). In another crazy looking line for someone on the negative side of things, the box score shows Rohn hitless in one at bat with an RBI. He ends up down here as he had a pinch hit sacrifice fly in the seventh with runners on first and third and one out (-.023). He then made the last out for the Cubs in the ninth with a runner on first (-.064). He stayed in by way of flip flop and then was flip flopped out on another a couple innings later.
- Kid - Ron Cey (-.079). Ron actually had a hit, two RBI, and two runs scored in this one. He scored the Cubs first run after reaching on an error in the seventh. His ground out leading off the ninth with the Cubs down 3-2 (-.072) was his biggest negative of the day. He then had a two run double in the tenth to make it 7-3 (.021).
One of the things you usually find for a team that ends up in the postseason is a lot of wins in their last at bat. This Cubs team was no stranger to that. This marked the sixth extra inning win of the season. In addition to that, they had five other walk off wins. They’ll add one more of each in September for a total of 13 games in which they scored the winning run in their last at bat. That isn’t a vital ingredient, but it can be quite a confidence builder for a team.
Game 134, August 31 - Cubs watch Braves walk off 3-2 (80-54)
- Superhero - Steve Trout (.223). Steve was very good once again. He threw seven innings and allowed eight hits, two walks and two runs.
- Hero - Ryne Sandberg (.070). Sandberg had a hit and a walk in his four plate appearances. The hit was a first inning home run (.102).
- Sidekick - Larry Bowa (.035). Larry with the rare appearance on the positive side, drew a lead off walk in the eighth (.068). It was his only time reaching base in three plate appearances. But the Cubs managed only four hits and four walks on the day.
- Billy Goat - Gary Matthews (-.309). Sarge batted with the bases loaded in the eighth after the braves intentionally walked Sandberg with runners on second and third. Matthews struck the ball well, but it ended up being a line drive double play (-.287). Gary did have a first inning walk as well, the only time he reached base in four plate appearances.
- Goat - George Frazier (-.145). George was handed the ball in a 2-2 tie to start the eighth. He allowed a single to Dale Murphy to start the inning. He then got a pop up for the first out. Murphy then stole second and advanced to third on a wild throw. Frazier intentionally walked the next hitter and then left the game. Lee Smith got out of the inning, preserving the tie.
- Kid - Thad Bosley (-.132). Thad got another start in right with Moreland again at first. This time it didn’t go as well. Thad was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice.
On the down side, the Cubs watched the other team walk it off five times. Weirdly, three of them were in August. One of those three was an extra inning game and two other times the Cubs lost in extras. So a total of seven times, the other team won in their last at bat. The Cubs were 9-3 in extra innings despite not having a particularly deep bullpen. The Cubs had a 31-24 record in one run games and 28-17 record in blow outs (5+ runs). August was the Cubs highest winning percentage of the year at .667 (20-10). They went 38-20 combined in July and August.
Game 135, September 1 - Cubs defeat Braves 4-1 (81-54)
- Superhero - Gary Matthews (.326). Gary bounces back from his tough day. He has two hits and two RBI in four at bats. He had a two out RBI single in the third (.108) and an RBI double to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead in the ninth (.215).
- Hero - Dennis Eckersley (.306). Eckersley was strong on the day, giving the Cubs seven innings of six hit, one walk, one run baseball.
- Sidekick - Ryne Sandberg (.122). Sandberg had a hit and a walk in four plate appearances. He also stole a base. Both times he reached base, Matthews drove him in.
- Billy Goat - Ron Cey (-.105). Ron was hitless in four trips to the plate.
- Goat - Leon Durham (-.079). Durham returned to the lineup and drew two walks in four plate appearances. Leon had a double whammy in the sixth, he reached on a fielder’s choice with one out (-.042) and then was caught stealing (-.035).
- Kid - Keith Moreland (-.062). Zonk reached on a hit and a walk in his four plate appearances. He too had a caught stealing (-.058) for the first out in the fourth.
Gary Matthews had his highest OPS of the season September. He’d have a line of .286/.457/.529. He would sport season highs in home runs (5), RBI (20), and walks (22). This came on the heels of a combined July/August line of .317/.410/.454. That lead to a total line of .308/.424/.474 from July 1 until the end of the season. That covered 77 games and 312 plate appearances. Quite a finish from one of the team’s oldest stars.
Game 136, September 2 - Cubs beat Braves 4-2 to take three of four (82-54)
- Superhero - Dick Ruthven (.314). Dick gave the Cubs seven innings. He allowed six hits, three walks and one run. He struck out four.
- Hero - Leon Durham (.171). Leon had two hits in the game in four at bats. The big one was a two run homer in the fourth (.192).
- Sidekick - Gary Matthews (.140). Sarge had a hit and two walks in four plate appearances and was along for the ride on the Durham homer.
- Billy Goat - Ryne Sandberg (-.146). Ryne hit into a double play in the first (-.073) as part of a hitless in four at bats day.
- Goat - Keith Moreland (-.067). Zonk was also hitless in four plate appearances.
- Kid - Larry Bowa (-.062). Bowa and Ron Cey also each went hitless in four plate appearances as the Cubs managed only five hits and three walks but made the most of it.
Dick Ruthven made four starts and five appearances overall for the Cubs in September. He had a 2-1 record, but a 5.73 ERA as he allowed 25 hits and nine walks in just 22 innings of work. He also allowed three home runs. Opposing hitters had a line of .301/.372/.518 in September against him. For the full season, Dick started 22 games for the Cubs and made 23 appearances. He had a 6-10 record and a 5.04 ERA. He allowed 154 hits and 41 walks in 126⅔ innings of work.
Game 137, September 3 - Cubs squeak by Phillies 4-3 in 12 innings for third straight win (83-54)
- Superhero - George Frazier (.411). George threw three innings of relief in this one allowing two hits, one walk and no runs. He picked up a win for his efforts, his seventh.
- Hero - Gary Matthews (.368). Gary had one hit in five at bats. It was a home run with two outs in the fifth (.095). He lands here not for the home run, but his at bat in the 12th. In that one, he batted with a runner on second and two outs. He reached on an error and the winning run scored on the error (.352).
- Sidekick - Lee Smith (.200). Smith threw a perfect 12th for the save, his 29th.
- Billy Goat - Ryne Sandberg (-.308). Ryno was hitless in five at bats on the day, though he did have a walk. But indicative with his penchant for being around the biggest moments that season, he reached on a fielder’s choice in the 12th, stole second and scored the winning run.
- Goat - Bob Dernier (-.219). Bob had one hit, a double, in five at bats and added a sacrifice in the 12th.
- Kid - Keith Moreland (-.145). Moreland was hitless in five at bats.
George Frazier had a rough September after a fabulous August. He threw in 10 games in September, finishing three of them. He pitched a total of 12⅔ innings and allowed 11 hits, 10 runs and five walks. He had an ERA of 7.11. But he actually ended up with a 3-1 record because pitcher wins can be pretty deceptive, particularly for relievers. In all, he pitched 37 games for the Cubs, finishing 17 of them. He had a 6-3 record and three saves. He pitched 63⅔ innings and allowed 53 hits and 26 walks while striking out 58 hitters. He allowed 30 runs, 29 earned for an ERA of 4.10.
Game 138, September 4 - Cubs pound Phillies 7-2 to sweep two game series (84-54)
- Superhero - Scott Sanderson (.262). Scott went the distance allowing 13 hits, one walk and striking out seven. He allowed two runs, but both were unearned.
- Hero - Ron Cey (.220). Ron had two hits and a walk in four plate appearances. The big blow was a two out, two run homer in the first (.157). He added an RBI single in the sixth (.050).
- Sidekick - Gary Matthews (.107). Sarge had a couple of hits and a walk in four plate appearances. He had an RBI single in the first and scored twice. The Cubs tacked five hits, four walks and seven earned runs on future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton.
- Billy Goat - Bob Dernier (-.046). Bob’s woes continue with a hitless in five at bats day. This makes 16 of Bob’s last podium visits that were on the negative side.
- Goat - Jody Davis (-.036). Davis didn’t fare much better with one walk in four plate appearances. This is nine of 11 on the wrong side of the ledger for Davis.
- Kid - Larry Bowa (-.034). Larry was hitless in two at bats before being lifted for a pinch hitter. It’s even worse for Bowa with 22 negative appearances in his last 24 appearances.
For Scott Sanderson September was a strong month. He started five games and went 2-1 with a 1.76 ERA. He threw 30⅔ innings and allowed 28 hits, five walk and eight runs (six earned). He struck out 21 batters. For the season, Scott made 24 starts and had a 3.14 ERA. He threw 140⅔ innings and allowed 140 hits, 24 walks, and only allowed five home runs. He struck out 76 and allowed 54 runs (49 earned).
Game 139, September 5 - Cubs lose to Expos 3-1 to snap four game winning streak (84-55)
- Superhero - Larry Bowa (.075). It’s a horrifying stat, but this is the first Superhero of the year for the Cubs starting shortstop. He tripled in the second with one out and the Cubs trailing 1-0 (.086). He also grounded out in the fourth but then left for a pinch hitter in the seventh.
- Hero - Ryne Sandberg (.061). Ryno singled in the first (.025), reached on an error leading off the third (.048), and doubled in the fifth (.017). He had two hits in four at bats.
- Sidekick - Warren Brusstar (.048). Brusstar came in with one out and the bases loaded with the Cubs already down 3-0 in the fourth. Future Hall of Famer Tim Raines was at the plate. Brusstar got two pop outs to escape the jam.
- Billy Goat - Steve Trout (-.237). Steve pitched 3.1 innings and allowed seven hits, one walk and three runs. But for some nifty work by Brusstar, it could have been even worse.
- Goat - Leon Durham (-.156). Leon was hitless in four at bats.
- Kid - Keith Moreland (-.078). Moreland did have two hits in four plate appearances. He lands here for grounding into a double play with runners on first and second and no outs in the third (-.134).
Steve Trout had another good month in September. He made five starts and though he posted a 1-2 record, he had a 3.90 ERA. He pitched 27⅔ innings allowed 30 hits, just four walks and 12 runs, all earned. He only struck out seven and didn’t allow any home runs. For the full year, he made 32 appearances, 31 starts. He had a 3.41 ERA and a 13-7 record. He threw 190 innings, allowed 205 hits, walked 59 and struck out 81. He allowed seven home runs and 80 runs, 72 earned.
Game 140, September 6 - Cubs rally late to win 4-1 over Expos (85-55)
- Superhero - Bob Dernier (.256). Dernier had just one hit in four at bats, but contributed in a big way to this win. He lead off the eighth inning in a 1-1 game with a triple (.242). He would score the go ahead run. Then in the ninth, he batted with the bases loaded and two outs with the Cubs still leading 2-1. He reached on an error that allowed two runs to score (.095).
- Hero - George Frazier (.189). George worked a perfect seventh with the score tied at 1-1. He retired future Hall of Famer Tim Raines in the inning. He then went back out for the eighth with the Cubs leading 2-1 and threw another perfect inning, retiring future Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Gary Carter.
- Sidekick - Keith Moreland (.107). Zonk had an RBI single in the seventh to tie the score at 1-1 (.166). He then lead off the ninth inning with another single (.018) and ultimately scored. He had two hits in four at bats on the day.
- Billy Goat - Jody Davis (-.100). Davis did have two hits in four at bats. But he lands here largely because he popped out with runners on first and second and no outs in the seventh with the score tied at 1-1 (-.090). He was also caught stealing after his first single of the day (-.072).
- Goat - Dan Rohn (-.099). Dan was also victimized by that seventh inning. He pinch hit in the seventh with two outs and runners on second and third and popped out.
- Kid - Ron Hassey (-.042). That seventh inning largely set the Goat podium for this game. Ron Hassey pinch hit just before Rohn and grounded out with runners on first and second.
For Bob Dernier, September was a slight bounce back month after a dreadful August. But only slight. He had a line of .218/.320/.322. He stole seven bases in nine tries. For the second half, Dernier had a line of .234/.307/.335. He stole 15 bases in 20 attempts and scored 39 runs. All of that was well short of a first half line that saw him hit .316/.398/.385, steal 30 bases in 42 attempts and score 55 runs. Still, his full year totals were pretty solid. He had a line of .278/.356/.362. He scored 94 runs and stole 45 bases. Pretty decent contribution out of the leadoff spot.
Game 141, September 7 - Cubs mauled by Mets 10-0 (85-56)
- Superhero - Bob Dernier (.048). Bob makes his second consecutive Superhero appearance. But the bar was really, really low in this one. He had one walk in four plate appearances. But the Cubs managed just one hit and four walks against a dominant Doc Gooden.
- Hero - Davey Lopes (.000). Davey drew a walk leading off the ninth, so I broke a tie and put him here among several players at .000.
- Sidekick - Tom Veryzer (.000). I broke another tie here. Tom made the last out of the game in a 10-0 game.
- Billy Goat - Dick Ruthven (-.309). It likely didn’t matter given how dominant Gooden was, but Ruthven got shelled. He allowed four hits, three walks, a home run, and six earned runs while recording just eight outs.
- Goat - Ryne Sandberg (-.050). He was hitless in three at bats with two strike outs. He lands here because he struck out with Dernier on second and no outs in the first (-.042).
- Kid - Gary Matthews (-.038). And Matthews lands next because he too struck out after Dernier had walked and stole second (-.034). It was 6-0 by the time these two got to bat again and so almost all of the WPA in this game was recorded in the first three innings.
September baseball can mess with Heroes and Goats, particularly in a game like this. The Cubs used 17 players in this game. Five of them recorded a .000 WPA and that ends up being the second highest score (and of course the third). I broke ties here. Lopes actually had a positive contribution, so he’s the obvious choice for the top spot. In an ordinary game, each out in an inning is a little less negative WPA. So in an ordinary situation, Veryzer would have had the least negative WPA by virtue of making the very last out. So I award him the last spot.
Game 142, September 8 - Cubs bounce back to beat Mets 6-0 (86-56)
- Superhero - Rick Sutcliffe (.422). Rick had one of his best games of the year. He allowed four hits and no walks while striking out 12. The win was his 18th of the season.
- Hero - Gary Matthews (.249). Sarge provided the offense in this one. He had a perfect day at the plate, reaching base four consecutive times before getting the last few innings off. Gary walked in the first (.012), singled in the third (.034), homered in the sixth to make it 2-0 (.123), and had a two out, RBI single in the seventh to make it 3-0 (.080).
- Sidekick - Keith Moreland (.050). Moreland reached base three times in five plate appearances. He had a double, a single, a walk and a run scored in this one.
- Billy Goat - Bob Dernier (-.073). Bob had just one hit in six at bats on a day when the Cubs had 15 hits and four walks. He did score a run.
- Goat - Jody Davis (-.072). It was only marginally better for Davis who hits down in the order so he only batted five times and matched Dernier’s one hit. He also scored a run.
- Kid - Leon Durham (-.029). Bull comes up a bit higher though he also had just one hit in five at bats. But he drove in a run with a two out, RBI double in the seventh.
You’d expect a guy to wear down a bit when he is consistently pitching into the eighth and ninth innings as Sutcliffe was for the Cubs in 1984. But that was not the case. Rick made five starts in September and was 3-0 with a 2.06 ERA. He threw 39⅓ innings and allowed only 26 hits and two walks. That finish and his lofty win total likely won him a Cy Young. For the year, Rick made 35 starts. He threw 244⅔ innings, allowed 234 hits and 85 walks. He allowed 113 runs but only 99 of them were earned. He allowed 16 home runs. He struck out 213 batters. His final record was 20-6.
Game 143, September 9 - Cubs drop two of three to Mets after 5-1 loss (86-57)
- Superhero - Scott Sanderson (.272). Scott did his job relatively well in this one. He threw five scoreless innings allowing only four hits and no walks. He struck out five.
- Hero - Gary Matthews (.040). The Sarge again provided most of the Cubs offense. He had a hit and two walks in four plate appearances. The hit was a home run.
- Sidekick - Jody Davis (.034). Davis had one of the Cubs six hits in the game. They also drew two walks. The hit was a double and the game was still scoreless at the time.
- Billy Goat - George Frazier (-.350). This one game is almost entirely responsible for George’s poor September ERA. After being extremely reliable in late July and into August and early September, George faced four batters. It went like this, triple, double, drop third strike (wild pitch), single. Scoreless when he entered, 2-0 when he left. Warren Brusstar came in and allowed a three run homer and that was that.
- Goat - Leon Durham (-.129). Durham was hitless in four at bats with the biggest negative being a ground out with runners at first and second and two outs in the sixth in a scoreless game.
- Kid - Bob Dernier (-.078). Bob did have a double, but it didn’t come until it was already 5-0.
September was the worst month of the year for Leon Durham. He hit just .227/.293/.420. He had three home runs. He did manage 15 RBI though which was his third highest total. He was another Cub with a poor second half. He hit .308/.394/.527 in the first half with 12 homers and 52 RBI. In the second half, he hit .250/.343/.483 with 11 homers and 44 RBI. Here again, his season totals look pretty good. He hit .279/.369/.505 with 23 homers and 96 RBI. He also added 16 stolen bases in 24 attempts and scored 86 runs.
- Ryne Sandberg 34
- Gary Matthews 32
- Lee Smith 24
- Rich Bordi 15
- Richie Hebner 14
- Thad Bosley 11
- Keith Moreland 10
- George Frazier 9
- Dennis Eckersley 9
- Scott Sanderson 7
- Rick Sutcliffe 6
- Steve Trout 4
- Tim Stoddard 3.5
- Warren Brusstar 3.5
- Leon Durham 2
- Dickie Noles 2
- Jay Johnstone 2
- Dickie Noles 2
- Henry Cotto 0
- Mel Hall 0
- Ron Hassey -2
- Don Schulze -2
- Porfi Altamarino -3
- Gary Woods -4
- Tom Veryzer -4
- Dan Rohn -5
- Rick Reuschel -6
- Bill Buckner -9
- Chuck Rainey -10
- Dick Ruthven -11
- Dave Owen -12
- Bob Dernier -14
- Ron Cey -28
- Larry Bowa -35
- Jody Davis -45
Things get interesting at the top. Ryne Sandberg continues to lead at 34, but a -3 road trip for him coupled with Gary Matthews having a +8 trip moves into the +30 club and within two of the lead. Lee Smith has a +3 trip to hold strong in third place. Davey Lopes is added to the roster and immediately has a +2 trip and moves into the positive side of things.
At the bottom of the standings, Jody Davis has the biggest negative road trip at -6 and moves into a 10 point “lead” at the bottom. Larry Bowa actually had a +2 trip in second to last and Ron Cey had a -2 trip in third to last.
With just 19 games remaining, there is very much a race for the top spot in the season standings. On the team side of things, the Cubs finish the road trip with seven wins in 11 games. Three different times on the trip they pushed the lead to seven games, but after dropping the last game, come back home leading by six. It’s too soon to clinch, but the division is very well in hand.
Next up, the Cubs come back home for nine games. Oddly, they’ll play four teams for those nine games. The homestand features a two game and a one game series and then two three game series. We’ll check back in next week and see how the Cubs do on their march towards their first ever National League East championship.