Saturday night’s game was a frustrating one. A Marlins pitcher on 0 days rest throws a perfect top of the first. Yu Darvish hits the first batter he faces and then allows a long, long home run. The Cubs score the next five runs and we are hoping maybe, just maybe the Cubs will cruise to victory over a team that on paper is significantly over matched. Alas, a ball hits off of Darvish the same inning the Cubs take the lead. Darvish never recovers and the Marlins battle back to tie. The Cubs add on a sixth run in the sixth. The bullpen is great, maybe they can hang on? Nope. The Marlins once again fight back with a run in the eighth. Ugh. More extra innings with a depleted bullpen.
Fortunately, some combination of the Cubs bats waking up and the Marlins pitchers finally not making just the right pitch or their defense being in exactly the right place came together and the Cubs produced their biggest inning of the early season. Four runs were plated and the Cubs finally put away the pesky Marlins 10-6.
If you want to be optimistic about the Cubs through three games, you can look at the 19 runs scored to date. That’s over a 1000 run pace. And you can look at their team 2.38 ERA. Or their bullpen ERA of 0.82. If you want to be pessimistic, you can look at how close these three games have been against one of the worst teams in the league on paper. A funny thing happens in April though. Teams come out fired up, believing that maybe they can be the team that comes together to defy the odds. They haven’t started to experience injuries on any significant level to test their depth. They haven’t lost a dozen (or dozens) of close games yet because when the game is on the line they always seem to be one or two plays short.
This is an excellent Cubs team. If they can stay relatively healthy they will win a ton of games for the fourth consecutive season. How good can they be? That question will remain to be answered. Hopefully we’ll enjoy the journey towards the answer to that question over the next several months.
With that, we turn our attention to yesterday’s game as we look at what WPA had to say about Heroes and Goats. As always the Heroes and Goats 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 3, March 31 - Cubs outlast Marlins 10-6 in 10 innings (2-1)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Ben Zobrist (.222). Getting the start for the second straight day, this time at second base, Ben reached base three times in five plate appearances. He had a couple of walks before the game went to extras. Then he came up with runners on first and second and no outs in the tenth and singled in the go ahead run (.199).
- Hero - Kyle Schwarber (.214). Schwarber was in the game long enough to pick up two hits in four at bats. The first of those two hits was a long two run homer (.165). Later he added a double (.094) after which he scored the Cubs sixth run. It was the kind of hit that earlier in the game or with a bigger lead he might have had a triple.
- Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo (.174). Anthony talked about getting out to a fast start this year. That hasn’t happened yet. With just one hit in six at bats yesterday, his season line is down to .118/.211/.294. However, his one hit yesterday came with the bases loaded and two outs (.306). With the help of a miscue in right field, that hit cleared the bases and gave the Cubs a 5-2 lead.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Yu Darvish (-.424). So I made a comment a few days ago about the starting pitcher usually ending up on the same side of the ledger as the game result. For the third straight day that wasn’t true. As I talked about in the open, the Marlins jumped on Yu for two runs in the first inning. They tacked on three more in the fifth. In all, Darvish pitched 4.1 innings, allowed five hits, two walks and five earned runs. He did strike out four. Not the debut he was looking for.
- Goat - Ian Happ (-.141). It was a tough day at the plate for Ian. He had just one walk to show for five plate appearances on the day. The one walk did play a key part in the Cubs fifth inning rally during which Happ scored a run. Ian batted in both the sixth and eighth innings with runners on first and third and two outs. He grounded out the first time and struck out the second.
- Kid - Tommy La Stella (-.073). Since he came to the Cubs, La Stella has been a pretty reliable player off the bench. Saturday night was one of the failures. He was sent up to pinch hit in the sixth inning with the Cubs having just taken a 6-5 lead. There were runners on first and third and only one out. He popped up and when Ian Happ was also retired, the Cubs squandered a chance to try and put the game away and give their bullpen some breathing room.
WPA Play of the Game - With Pedro Strop on the mound in the eighth inning, the Marlins had runners on first and second and two outs trailing 6-5. The batter was Bryan Holaday. He delivered a single up the middle to tie the game at 6-6 (.326).
*Cubs highest WPA of the day was the Anthony Rizzo two out, bases loaded single in the fifth inning. The play resulted in three runs to give the Cubs a short lived 5-2 lead (.306).
- Superhero - Steve Cishek, Eddie Butler, Ben Zobrist - 3
It could take a little while for the leaders to separate themselves from the pack.
Up Next: The Cubs conclude their four game set against the Marlins with an afternoon game. Jose Quintana will take the ball for the Cubs. His opponent will be Dillon Peters. Neither of these two starters has ever faced the other team. Peters is a left handed pitcher so Albert Almora should get another start. Peters made six starts for the Marlins last year with a 1-2 record and a 5.17 ERA. Hopefully, with a pretty sizable edge in the pitching matchup, the Cubs can take care of business and get out of town with three wins to start the season.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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