This game was one of those games that feels like at least two or three games in one. The first seven and a half innings were a well pitched 1-1 tie. Each team had a solo home run and the game didn’t feel all together different from the 17 inning game last week in Miami. I definitely wondered if this one might go to some extra baseball for sure. I suspect Joe Maddon was feeling that way too because he had Steve Cishek come in and retire the final two batters of the seventh inning and then go back out for the eighth.
Cishek did strike out the first batter in the eighth, but after a hit batter and a double Pedro Strop was summoned. Lorenzo Cain hit a sacrifice fly off of Strop and there was a crushing feeling that all of the golden scoring opportunities that the Cubs couldn’t cash in on were going to cost them yet another early season game. Alas, consequences ripple outwards. Brewers closer Corey Knebel needed work on Thursday and pitched in a Cubs blowout. Every team across baseball does that and surely the Cubs too would have been doing that themselves soon if Brandon Morrow didn’t get some work. But Knebel was hurt in that appearance and that lead to Jacob Barnes being summoned for the save opportunity.
Barnes deserved a better fate than he got. It will be an interesting psych experiment to see if he shakes this off and emerges as a temporary closer. He faced eight batters. Surely as a Brewer fan you wouldn’t be happy with the Jason Heyward walk and the Ian Happ single was one that would be a hit on any day. The other six batters he faced consisted of a sacrifice bunt a pop out and five ground balls that each could have and probably should have resulted in at least four ground outs. But the Cubs caught a few breaks and won the game.
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 8, April 7 - Cubs rally late to beat Brewers 5-2 (4-4)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kris Bryant (.336). One of the few Cubs hitters whose WPA fate did not change materially during the ninth inning rally in which the Cubs sent 10 men to the plate. Kris was intentionally walked during the ninth inning. That capped a day in which he reached base successfully all five times. He had three hits including a one out triple in the eighth inning of a 1-1 tie (.165) and a sixth inning solo home run to tie the game at 1-1 (.154). Kris is off to a scorching start at the plate (.364/.500/.697).
- Hero - Ben Zobrist (.252). Ben pinch hit in the ninth inning with the bases loaded, one out and the Cubs trailing 2-1. Ben was credited with a single on a ground ball to first to tie the game at 2-2 (.252).
- Sidekick - Victor Caratini (.226). Victor had two hits in four at bats, getting another start for Anthony Rizzo at first base. Victor was another of those ground ball singles in the ninth. He was the first base runner of the inning when he had an infield single and then advanced to second on a wild throw (.136). I’m going to safely assume that Victor Caratini and infield single will not be words I often type.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Willson Contreras (-.175). Other than Thursday night’s game, this hasn’t been the start to the 2018 season that Willson was hoping for. Another hitless game in four at bats. He did draw a two out walk in the ninth inning, but it was after all of the damage was done. Willson’s biggest negative was a fly out to left to end the eighth stranding Bryant (-.091).
- Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.155). Kyle was subbed out before all of the insanity that was the ninth inning. He had just one walk in four plate appearances. He followed the Kris Bryant triple in the eighth with a soft line drive to short (-.137). I briefly wondered if that ball would have been a more difficult play if the infield wasn’t in trying to cut down a run at the plate on a grounder. As it was, the ball was hit right into the glove of the Brewers short stop.
- Kid - Steve Cishek (-.114). As noted in the open, Cishek pitched in parts of two innings. He was his usual lights out self that he’s been so far in 2018 in the seventh but then got into trouble in the eighth. Even with the rough eighth, over five appearances he has thrown 5.1 innings, allowed only two hits, two walks and one run. His ERA stands at 1.69 and he’s struck out five batters though he’s also hit one. Relievers who consistently allow one or less base runner per inning and strike out one or more batter per inning are extremely valuable.
WPA Play of the Game - After Friday’s serene day for WPA, the ninth inning alone produced two events over .200 and two more over .100. In all this game had 11 events over .100. The Ben Zobrist infield single with the bases loaded produced a WPA of .252.
*Brewers Play of the Game - Dan Jennings induced a soft liner to short from Kyle Schwarber in the eighth inning following a Kris Bryant triple (.137).
- Superhero - Kris Bryant 6
- Hero - Ben Zobrist 4
- Sidekick - Steve Cishek, Eddie Butler, Tyler Chatwood, Tommy La Stella 3
Up Next: The Cubs and Brewers finish up their four game series with an afternoon game. For the Cubs, there is little question that they’ve not played great baseball by and large on this nine game road trip to start the season. And yet, if they can manage a win this afternoon they’ll come home with a 5-4 record, 11 percent of their road schedule completed and 100 percent of their home schedule remaining.
The Cubs will have Jose Quintana on the mound. Jose will be looking to improve upon his last start in which he threw four hitless innings and then allowed five runs in the fifth. Jose faced the Brewers twice last year at Miller Park and the last one in September was a beauty. He threw nine shut out innings allowing only three hits, one walk and striking out 10. The other was a loss in July shortly after coming to the Cubs. He threw six innings and allowed four hits and three walks. He struck out six and allowed two runs.
Chase Anderson will be the opposition. Chase has thrown 10 innings over his two starts this season and allowed nine hits, three walks, striking out 11 and allowing four runs. He started four games against the Cubs in 2017 with a 2-2 record. He threw 20⅓ innings, allowed 22 hits, six walks, striking out 20 and allowing 12 runs (11 earned). Expect to see plenty more of the Brewers bullpen before this game is over.
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