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Cubs Heroes and Goats, 1984 edition: Games 153-158

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History at last!

Rick Sutcliffe and Leon Durham, September 24, 1984 in Pittsburgh
Al Yellon

Last week we looked at a nine game homestand for the Cubs. They won just four of nine games, including losing four straight to end the homestand. That cost the Cubs any likely chance to clinch the division at home. This week, we’ll look back at the subsequent road trip as the Cubs set out to make history. 39 years Cubs fans had been waiting to get back to the postseason. Many, many Cub fans had never seen the Cubs play a single post season game.

Game 153, September 21 - Cubs shut out by Cardinals 8-0; drop fifth straight (90-63)

  • Superhero - Warren Brusstar (.025). Warren came into this game in the fifth inning with a runner on second and one out in the fifth inning with the Cubs trailing 3-0. He retired the two batters he faced, around a passed by by Jody Davis that let the runner get to third.
  • Hero - Larry Bowa (.012). This game was fairly slim pickings, but Larry did have two hits in three at bats. As a team, the Cubs managed just seven hits and a walk.
  • Sidekick - Keith Moreland (.009). It’s rarely a good sign when one of your starters only gets three plate appearances. Keith had one hit in three at bats.
  • Billy Goat - Scott Sanderson (-.130). Sanderson lasted just 4.1 innings allowing seven hits, two walks and three runs.
  • Goat - Rich Bordi (-.059). Bordi was hit even harder. He recorded only one out while allowing two hits, a walk and four runs. Only three of the runs were earned as there was a Larry Bowa error in the inning. The one out Rich did record was a sacrifice bunt by the opposing pitcher.
  • Kid - Ron Cey (-.058). The Penguin also had one hit in three at bats. But he lands down here because his hit didn’t come until the third at bat at which time it was already 8-0.

Rich Bordi had a rough September. He appeared in six games, starting one and finishing one. He had a 1-1 record, but had a 9.82 ERA. The results were actually slightly worse than that as he threw 7⅓ innings but allowed 14 hits and 11 runs (eight earned). He struck out seven and walked three. That’s good for a 2.318 WHIP. There is some chance these results cost him a playoff spot. For the season Rich pitched in 31 games, starting seven and finishing 10. He threw 83⅓ innings and allowed 78 hits and 20 walks. He allowed 37 runs, 32 earned. Bordi had a 5-2 record and four saves. He recorded a 3.46 ERA and a fine 1.176 WHIP.

Game 154, September 23 - Cubs snap skid with 8-1 win over Cardinals (91-63)

  • Superhero - Gary Matthews (.293). Gary had a big day at the plate with two hits in four at bats before being replaced in left by Henry Cotto. The big blow was a three run double with two outs in the fourth inning (.297). That gave the Cubs a 4-1 lead.
  • Hero - Keith Moreland (.130). It lacked the pizzazz of a two out base clearing double, but Keith had a monster day at the plate. He had four hits in four at bats. They were, a single leading off the second (.039), a two out single with a runner on first in the third (.019), a two out RBI single in the fourth (.062), and a two out RBI double in the sixth (.011). In all, two runs and two RBI to go with the four hits.
  • Sidekick - Steve Trout (.063). Trout went the distance, allowing seven hits, one walk and one run. He also only struck out one.
  • Billy Goat - Ryne Sandberg (-.058). Ryno actually had a hit and a walk in five plate appearances. He scored a run as well. He lands here because he grounded into a double play in the first (-.072).
  • Goat - Ron Cey (-.010). In the Cubs six-run fourth inning, he capped the scoring with a two run double. It was his only hit in five at bats.
  • Kid - Leon Durham (-.006). When the games get lopsided, there can be some tough luck podium visits. This is one of them. Leon had two hits and a walk. He scored twice. Excluding pitcher’s hitting stats, there were only three Cubs with negative WPA on the day.

Henry Cotto played in 20 games in September, starting three of them. He had 18 plate appearances and posted a line of .176/.222/.235. He scored four runs. For the season, he appeared in 105 games, starting 28 of them. He had 160 plate appearances and a line of .274/.325/.308. He scored 24 runs and stole nine bases in 12 attempts.

Game 155, September 23 - Cubs defeat Cardinals 4-2, take two of three (92-63)

  • Superhero - Dennis Eckersley (.208). Eck threw seven innings allowing six hits and two walk. He struck out four and allowed two runs. The win moved his cumulative record on the season to 13-12.
  • Hero - Lee Smith (.158). Smith faced the minimum six batters in two innings of work. He picked up his 33rd save.
  • Sidekick - Bob Dernier (.153). The Deer reached base three times in four plate appearances. He reached on an error in the first and scored on a Gary Matthews home run. He started the fifth with a walk. He lead off the eighth with a double and scored on a Ryne Sandberg single. He lead off all four times he batter.
  • Billy Goat - Leon Durham (-.075). The Bull was kept penned up as he went hitless in four at bats.
  • Goat - Keith Moreland (-.049). Moreland matched that performance with a hitless in four at bats day as well.
  • Kid - Steve Lake (-.037). Lake actually had one hit in his four at bats.

In an oddity, this was the 21st game Steve Lake appeared in for the 1984 Cubs including 13 starts. This was the first time he reached any podium. For the season, Lake appeared in 25 games, starting 15 of them. He had 57 plate appearances and a line of .222/.232/.407. Steve was 27 years old. He had debuted for the Cubs the previous year. He was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1975 in the third round. The Cubs received him in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers on April 1, 1983. They sent a player to be named later who ended up being Rich Buonantony. Lake was the definition of a backup catcher. He played in 11 major league seasons and never had more than 200 plate appearances in a season.

Game 156, September 24 - Cubs defeat Pirates 4-1; win National League East (93-63)

  • Superhero - Rick Sutcliffe (.261). Rick Sutcliffe went the distance. He allowed only two hits and one run. He struck out nine and walked no one. He picked up his 20th win of the season.
  • Hero - Gary Matthews (.134). Matthews had one hit and two walks in four plate appearances. His first inning single gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. They never trailed. He also scored a run in the game.
  • Sidekick - Keith Moreland (.101). Zonk had two hits in four at bats.
  • Billy Goat - Jody Davis (-.099). Jody caught a masterpiece. At the plate he struck out twice in four hitless at bats.
  • Goat - Bob Dernier (-.071). Dernier was kept off the bases all five times he batted.
  • Kid - Leon Durham (-.030). Leon did draw a walk but that was hit for his four plate appearances.

39 years. A whole litany of world events happened between post season appearances for the Cubs. A whole generation of Cubs fans had never seen them play in the post season. Dallas Green was the architect of it. The crown jewel of his activities was his starting pitcher in this game. They traded two young, promising outfielders for him. One of them, Joe Carter, went on to play in over 2,000 major league games, to amass over 9,000 plate appearances. To appear in five All-Star games. He didn’t make the Hall of Fame, but he certainly would make the hall of very, very good. But Rick Sutcliffe lead the Cubs to the postseason in 1984. He doubled down and was one of the key contributors to a team that went to the playoffs in 1989. Gary Matthews, Keith Moreland, Ryne Sandberg, Leon Durham, Dennis Eckersley, etc. etc. etc. Dallas Green plucked this team’s key contributors from all over baseball. The largest number of them were Phillies where he had worked most recently. But he searched high and low and brought together a veteran team that was able to come together and beat history. On this day, the Cubs were champions. It was a long time coming.

Game 157, September 25 - Cubs pounded by Pirates 7-1 (93-64)

  • Superhero - Ron Hassey (.150). Ron got a rare start and had three hits in four at bats. One of them was a home run and drove in the only Cubs run. That was in the fourth inning and at the time gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
  • Hero - Davey Lopes (.017). Lopes got one plate appearance and drew a walk. The Cubs managed only four hits and two walks, so this is actually one of the high points.
  • Sidekick - Ron Meridith (.003). Ron threw 2.2 innings and allowed three hits and one run.
  • Billy Goat - Reggie Patterson (-.357). Reggie made the start. He threw four innings and allowed seven hits, three walks and four runs (all earned). He picked up the loss.
  • Goat - Dave Owen (-.060). Dave was hitless in three at bats with two strike outs.
  • Kid - Thad Bosley (-.046). Thad was hitless in four at bats with two strike outs.

Thad appeared in 17 games in September, just three starts. He did get 32 plate appearances and had a line of .250/.344/.321. On the year he appeared in 55 games, starting 16 of them. He had 112 plate appearances and a line of .296/.375/.418. He was a key contributor off of the bench.

Game 158, September 26 - Cubs beat Pirates 5-2, win two of three (94-64)

  • Superhero - Ron Hassey (.177). The increased playing time after the Cubs clinched was like a fountain of youth for Hassey. He had two more hits and a walk, drove in a run and scored a run.
  • Hero - Ryne Sandberg (.146). Ryno had one hit in three at bats. His fifth inning two out RBI double gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead.
  • Sidekick - Dick Ruthven (.105). Dick’s last start was a good one. He went five innings and allowed just four hits and one run. He struck out one and didn’t walk anyone. This improved his record to 6-10.
  • Billy Goat - Henry Cotto (-.094). Henry was hitless in three at bats.
  • Goat - Ron Cey (-.045). Cey had one hit in three at bats.
  • Kid - Davey Lopes (-.012). Davey got a start and had one walk in four plate appearances.

Davey played in 16 games for the 1984 Cubs, starting three of them. He made 23 plate appearances with a line of .235/.435/.294. He was 39 years old at the time. He played through his age 42 season.

Cumulative Standings

  • Gary Matthews 38
  • Ryne Sandberg 36
  • Lee Smith 23
  • Richie Hebner 14
  • Dennis Eckersley 14
  • Thad Bosley 12
  • Rich Bordi 11
  • Rick Sutcliffe 9
  • Scott Sanderson 7
  • Ron Hassey 7
  • Warren Brusstar 6.5
  • George Frazier 3
  • Tim Stoddard 2.5
  • Dickie Noles 2
  • Jay Johnstone 2
  • Steve Trout 2
  • Davey Lopes 2
  • Don Meridith 1
  • Leon Durham 0
  • Mel Hall 0
  • Steve LAake -1
  • Keith Moreland -1
  • Don Schulze -2
  • Henry Cotto -3
  • Reggie Patterson -3
  • Billy Hatcher -3
  • Porfi Altamarino -3
  • Gary Woods -3
  • Tom Veryzer -4
  • Dan Rohn -4
  • Rick Reuschel -6
  • Bob Dernier -9
  • Bill Buckner -9
  • Chuck Rainey -10
  • Dick Ruthven -10
  • Dave Owen -14
  • Ron Cey -29
  • Larry Bowa -32
  • Jody Davis -46

At the top of the standings, we see a change. After leading for much of the season, Ryne Sandberg falls behind Gary Matthews. Lee Smith holds steady in third place. Dennis Eckersley moves into the top five with his win. Lower on the list we see the Leon Durham has a -5 road trip to drop down to even on the season. Keith Moreland stops his backslide but even with a +2 trip, is still -1 for the season. At the bottom, Jody Davis has a -3 week to clinch last place with three games remaining. The battle for second and third to last is close though with Ron Cey having a -5 trip while Larry Bowa had a +2. Just three points separate them heading into the final series.

The 1984 Cubs were a very good road team. They won four of six on this trip and finished the year with a 45-36 road record (.556 winning percentage). That went a long way towards this team finally reaching the post season. Ironically, the five game losing stretch that started in the previous homestand and ended after the first game of this trip was the longest of the season for the Cubs. Trying to change the course of history, even recent history can be daunting. But ultimately this team got it done.

I will lay much of the credit for the 1984 Cubs at the feet of Dallas Green. He made a number of bold moves in shaping this team. Most important among them was obviously the trade that brought Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs. 1984 was the first stand out season in his ascension to being considered one of the greatest second basemen ever. Right behind that were the mid season trades to bolster what was otherwise a very ordinary pitching staff. Steve Trout and Scott Sanderson were very good starting pitchers. Sanderson had trouble taking the ball every fifth day consistently or going deep into games and Trout struggled with consistency in general. But when they became third and fourth starters they were more than enough. The acquisitions of Dennis Eckersley and Rick Sutcliffe gave the Cubs the ability to win with pitching as well as their potent lineup.

Next week, we’ll cover the final series of the season. With the division clinched and no tie in to home field advantage based upon won loss record, the Cubs were playing out the string. Alas, the games were played and we’ll take a look at them. I’ll also take a look at the MVP and Cy Young award voting and compare the numbers of the top competitors so that we can look back on those ballots with the perspective of 2018 and not the way things were viewed in 1984.