Once again the Cubs played in crummy early season weather. Of course, the Cardinals did too. The Cardinals found ways to execute more often than the Cubs did. Not a lot more to this one than that. The Cubs lost 5-3 and dropped to 7-8.
Once again the Cubs played shorthanded. Anthony Rizzo was back and hopefully his bat will get going soon. The Cubs miss it plenty. Ben Zobrist was scratched from the lineup last night. In the previous series Albert Almora Jr. was limited. The Cubs in the early going have health issues that you expect out of a team that is quite a bit older (though in fairness Zobrist really is that old).
Injuries and cold weather are excuses. The Cubs don’t need excuses. This team is better than this and I have little doubt will be much better than this. Right now, they are about where they should be. One day they execute fantastically and the next they execute very little or not at all in key moments.
This team is going to have to be better and they are going to have to be more consistent. Particularly the starting rotation that was lauded as possibly the best Joe Maddon has ever worked with has a long way to go. Through 15 starts (admittedly less than 10 percent of the season) that rotation is 2-6 with a 5.31 ERA. In 76⅓ innings, they’ve allowed 81 hits, 46 runs, 10 home runs, 45 walks and 68 strikeouts. Cubs fans were flustered with John Lackey most of last year and those look a little like this except he allowed a bunch of unearned runs so his ERA looked a fair bit better than that.
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 15, April 17 - Cubs drop series opener to Cardinals 5-3 (7-8)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Javier Baez (.137). Javy remains scorching hot. He had three hits in four at bats and drove in two runs. The one time he was retired was on a fly ball that likely would have left the park on another day. He did have a double and a two-run homer among his hits and was one of the few reasons that this game remained in question until the very end.
- Hero - Steve Cishek (.104). When Joe finally had enough of Tyler Chatwood in the fifth, he summoned Cishek to get out of the jam that Tyler had left behind. He then worked another inning, creating a jam of his own by allowing two seeing eye singles and a walk before recovering with two strike outs to get out of the inning.
- Sidekick - Carl Edwards Jr. (.058). With this, all 26 players to play for the team so far have made an appearance as either a Hero or a Goat. Carl was on his game yesterday, or at least enough on his game to induce swings and misses when he was out of the zone. The literal definition of effectively wild. He struck out all three batters he faced.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Kris Bryant (-.157). Kris has been one of the most consistent Cubs bats. But on Tuesday night he reached base just one time in five plate appearances and that was by way of a walk. He struck out twice. He also grounded out to end the fourth with runners on first and second (-.058) while the Cubs were down 2-1.
- Goat - Pedro Strop (-.128). If you watched this game through the first five innings, you probably had a sense that this game would come down to the more effective bullpen. That ended up being the Cardinals pen, largely due to the eighth inning. He retired just two batters while allowing three hits, a walk, a home run and was charged with the three decisive runs.
- Kid - Kyle Schwarber (-.110). He reached base twice in five plate appearances, both times by way of a walk. He also struck out twice including the one that ended the game (-.047) and a strike out with the bases loaded to end the third (-.088).
WPA Play of the Game - Tyler Chatwood was largely untouchable in the first two innings, recording five strike outs but also walking three. He started the third with two more walks and that’s when it finally bit him. Matt Carpenter doubled to right scoring the first run of the game (.142).
Cubs WPA Play of the Game - In the bottom of the fourth with Addison Russell on second and one out Jason Heyward grounded one through the hole between first and second to get the Cubs on the board. (.098)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 9
- Hero - Steve Cishek 5
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist and Tommy La Stella 4
Baez has now had six consecutive appearances that were on the Hero side. His last three and four of the last five were as the Superhero. Javy’s contributions have often failed to move the needle on WPA and Heroes and Goats, but these last two weeks he’s been sizzling.
Up Next: As you surely know by now, Wednesday’s game was postponed and rescheduled for Thursday. When the teams take the mound tomorrow, Cubs will send Jon Lester to the mound. Jon has started three times throwing a total of 14⅓ innings while allowing 17 hits, seven walks, and eight runs (seven earned) while striking out 11. Last year he started five games against the Cardinals with a 2-1 record, 30.2 innings pitched, 27 hits allowed, 11 walks, and 11 runs (10 earned) while striking out 34.
Luke Weaver will be the opposition. He’s performed very well in the early going with a 2-0 record a 2.08 ERA. In 17⅓ innings of work he’s allowed only 12 hits, five walks and four runs while striking out 17. The last of those starts may have been the worst and it was against the Reds. The other two starts were against the Diamondbacks and the Mets who have both played well in the early going. He had just one start against the Cubs last year and they knocked him around pretty good. He threw just three innings and allowed seven hits, two walks and eight runs while striking out three.
The Cubs will be trying to equal the start of the 1930 Cubs. That was the last time the Cubs started out the season by being 1-1 after two games, then 2-2, then 3-3, then 4-4, then 5-5, then 6-6, then 7-7 and finally 8-8. That team did it eight times. This one has already done it seven. Let’s hope they can match that accomplishment.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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Carl Edwards Jr.
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)