When Sean Rodriguez hit a second inning three-run homer, if you’ve followed the Cubs for a long time, I imagine a part of you cried out in despair. All of the years of being a Cubs fan, particularly a fan in the long, tortured years of futility, conditioned us to see three run deficits as hopeless obstacles. That part of you is probably already frustrated with the “slow” start to the Cubs season. There are teams in virtually every division that have jumped out to a fantastic start, including the visiting Pirates. Just two years ago, the Cubs were one of those teams that jumped out to that start.
This Cubs team, much like the 2017 team had early on, this team appears to have a magnet keeping it right around the .500 mark. However, this team isn’t one of those teams from Cubs past. This team roared right back from that 3-0 deficit. In fact, the Cubs didn’t make a single out before taking a 4-3 lead following that 3-0 deficit. Though I’m sure it has happened before, that’s the fastest I can ever remember a three run deficit being wiped out and turned into a lead.
The bats came alive in the late innings and battered the Pirate bullpen to win this one in blowout fashion, but this was not a blowout type of game. No one wants to hear excuses. But this team is also not the 2017 team. This team isn’t going to hover at .500 well into July. The starting pitching should be excellent and it has been inconsistent so far. The team’s de facto captain has made a meaningful production in only a game or two and is currently healing up on the disabled list. The best is yet to come for this team, it is still very early.
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 11, April 11 - Cubs blitz Pirates 13-5 (6-5)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Javier Baez (.264). A day after being the subject of much debate, Javy had a huge day at the plate. He was at the plate in the bottom of the second with the bases loaded when the first Cubs run scored on a wild pitch. He followed that up with a three run homer to give the Cubs the lead. He added another homer late in the game for his fourth in two days. Between that, he had an unbelievable trip around the bases that included reaching on a dropped third strike, advancing on a grounder, stealing third and then dashing home on another grounder. Fun with early season statistics: Javy is now second in the National League in slugging percentage and in the top 10 for position player bWAR.
- Hero - Kris Bryant (.116). I love to look at early season statistics. Of course you have to take them with a grain of salt. But it is always fun to wonder... is Kris Bryant getting better? He’s already won an MVP and is considered one of the game’s best players. So far in 2018 he has more extra base hits and more walks than strike outs. We know that Javy will settle back down to mortal statistics. Do we “know” that Kris will? He had a single and two RBI doubles last night in five at bats.
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.112). Ben had two singles, two RBI, and a run scored in five at bats. He appears to have found the fountain of youth. I hope the fountain’s effects don’t have a limited effectiveness. Ben’s bat has always added a different dimension when he’s locked in and helps to balance the lineup. Today’s top three performers are the three guys who have most consistently carried the offense in the early going.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jon Lester (-.143). Aside from the third inning, Jon wasn’t that bad. But you can’t absolve a guy for his worst inning. He threw five innings allowing seven hits, three walks and four runs while striking out three. Not the kind of start that gives your team great chances of winning. Alas, they won anyway.
- Goat - Jason Heyward (-.095). Jason had an RBI single in the seventh inning. Many days that would get him onto one of the positive podiums. But he’d already been retired the first three times when the game was close and the single made it 9-4. He had one hit in five tries on the day.
- Kid - Eddie Butler (.002). There are two ways to look at this podium appearance. On the one hand, if a reliever allows one run in two innings, he’s usually going to be on one of the negative podiums. On the other hand, Eddie is like the guy who was out for a walk in the area where a crime occurred and ends up being questioned. He was sent into the game to throw strikes with a 13-4 lead and he did that well. Unfortunately for him, one of those strikes ended up in the bleachers. (Anyone else feel like the ball is carrying awfully well for April games?)
WPA Play of the Game - In the top of the second inning, with one out the Pirates had a single and a walk and then Sean Rodriguez stepped to the plate. Sean launched a home run to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead. (.222)
*Cubs Play of the Game - Ben Zobrist lead off the bottom of the second with a bunt single (does it seem like awesomeness always follows a Zobrist bunt single?), Addison Russell followed with a double and Victor Caratini was hit by a pitch to load the bases (way to totally fill the Anthony Rizzo role!). That brought Javier Baez to the plate. After hitting two home runs on Tuesday, was there any question he’d be looking to give the Cubs a lead with a grand slam? Alas, Steven Brault had other plans. He threw a wild pitch to make the score 3-1. But wait, Javy made everyone roll their eyes by swinging at a pitch out of the zone on 3-0. What happened next was the Play of the Game. Javier Baez hit a three run homer to give the Cubs a 4-3 lead (.158).
- Superhero - Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist 5
- Hero - Tommy La Stella 4
Up Next: The Pirates and Cubs wrap up this three game set with an afternoon game. The Cubs have Kyle Hendricks on the mound. Kyle will be looking to bounce back from a tough start in Milwaukee last week in which he allowed nine hits and four runs in only five innings of work. He started three games last year against the Pirates with mixed results. He had a 1-1 record, throwing 17⅔ innings, allowing 15 hits, four walks, and five runs while striking out eight.
His opponent will be Trevor Williams. Trevor is off to a good start to his 2018 season. He has a 2-0 record in two starts. He’s thrown 11⅓ innings allowing 10 hits, six walks and two runs while striking out five. He walked five in one start in Detroit, so there is at least some chance control can be an issue. He hasn’t gone deep into either start, so the Cubs should also be able to see more of a Pirates bullpen that allowed nine runs in just three innings of work yesterday. Last year, he started three games against the Cubs. He had an 0-2 record and a 5.27 ERA. He threw 13⅔ innings, allowed 16 hits, seven walks and eight runs while striking out 10.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Albert Almora Jr.
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)