Trevor Bauer versus Jon Lester looked like a great matchup on paper. For four innings it was a scoreless duel. In the fifth inning, the teams traded runs. Then things unraveled for Lester in the sixth. The Indians have allowed the third least runs per game in baseball. The Cubs have scored the second most runs per game in baseball. In two games, we saw both teams exert their will on a game once.
Here, the Cubs were unable to escape three early season trends. First and foremost, the team has yet to put together its first three game winning streak. Second, the Cubs are now 0-7 when they fail to score three runs. When this game reached the fifth at 0-0, I started getting pessimistic about this one. This team simply hasn’t started pitching well enough yet to win that type of game. The Cubs have had two shutouts and once held an opponent to one (and lost). But the most recent of those was two and a half weeks ago.
The final trend the Cubs haven’t been able to escape yet is that Jon Lester has been alternating good and bad starts. The good news about that was that last night wasn’t a terrible start. Four hits and two walks in seven innings is not bad. But three of the four hits left the park. Even three runs in seven innings isn’t bad, but three home runs is never a good thing.
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 21, April 25 - Cubs bats shut down by Indians pitching in 4-1 loss to split series (11-10)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Anthony Rizzo (.070). It is one of the more shocking things in this year’s version of Heroes and Goats that Anthony is just now receiving his first Superhero of the year. He has been at or near the top of the leader board for the entirety of this column. He finally got there last night. He reached twice in four plate appearances. Once was the obligatory hit by pitch. The other was an RBI single in the fifth inning which drove in the Cubs only run.
- Hero - Pedro Strop (.002). Having someone being dubbed a hero with a .002 WPA is already a bad thing. When that same person faced three batters and allowed two hits, it is downright sad. Pedro ended the eighth inning without any further runs scoring after Mike Montgomery allowed the fourth Indians run.
- Sidekick - Albert Almora Jr. (.001). Albert reached twice in five plate appearances. He had a one out single in the third and a walk in the fifth. The Cubs only mustered five hits and three walks.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jason Heyward (-.123). Jason Heyward absolutely demolished a Trevor Bauer pitch in the sixth inning. Unfortunately, he turned on that pitch so hard that it landed several feet foul down the right field line. Instead of a two-run homer, Jason eventually struck out. Making the third out of the inning twice with a runner on base was enough to land him here.
- Goat - Tommy La Stella (-.087). Tommy only got three at bats and didn’t do anything with them. All three of them were leading off innings and that kept his WPA from dropping too severely.
- Kid - Addison Russell (-.079). Kyle Schwarber had the same WPA for the night, but I broke the tie. Both men came to the plate four times. Schwarber did draw a walk and only struck out once. Russell didn’t reach base and struck out twice. A sad exercise of my judgment.
WPA Play of the Game - In the sixth inning with the score tied 1-1, Francisco Lindor launched a home run down the right field line to give the Indians a 2-1 lead. (.157)
*Cubs Play of the Game - In the fifth inning, with one out Ian Happ drew a walk and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Albert Almora also walked. Following a Javier Baez strike out, Anthony Rizzo singled to center to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead (.142).
- Superhero - Javier Baez 14
- Hero - Kyle Schwarber 6
- Sidekick - Steve Cishek 5
Up Next: The Cubs return home for a seven-game homestand beginning with a four-game set against the Brewers. Hopefully home will be more hospitable this time around than the last. You may recall that four different games were postponed on that homestand. Two were played the next day and the other two will be made up later in the year. The team also lost four of seven, so it was not a good start to the home schedule. The Cubs have played 14 road games and just seven home games. Every team in baseball has played more home gamess than the Cubs have. Only two teams have less home wins than the Cubs do (White Sox and Royals) though a few have as many.
The Brewers come in on an eight-game winning streak they compiled against the Reds, Marlins and Royals. Not exactly the cream of the crop and all but the last two were home games. But the Cubs struggled with the Marlins to open the season, so credit where it is due for the Brewers taking care of business.
Kyle Hendricks is the Cubs starting pitcher tonight. He’s generally been the Cubs most consistent starter. He hasn’t really had a stand out start yet, but he hasn’t pitched too badly in any game yet. Unfortunately, his worst start was against the Brewers back on April 6. In that game he allowed nine hits, one walk and four runs with only one strike out in only five innings of work. In his last five starts dating back to last April against the Brewers, he is 0-1 with a 4.33 ERA in 27 innings of work. He’s allowed 31 hits in 27 innings and five home runs, so the Brewers have a pretty good approach against him.
The Cubs bats will look to build on their early season success against Chase Anderson. Chase also faced the Cubs when the two teams met in April. He threw the April 8 game and pitched very well allowing four hits, two walks and two runs while striking out two. He did lose that game though. In his last five starts against the Cubs also dating back to last April, he has a 2-3 record and a 4.44 ERA. He has allowed 26 hits and five home runs in 26.1 innings of work. This one could be a high scoring game. Those have been the ones that have gone best for the Cubs so far.
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