Two teams who’ve had some troubles hitting lately showed up at Wrigley last night with the wind howling out. What followed was a pitching duel highlighted by some fantastic defensive plays at times. Strangely some of the guys making fantastic plays were also making terrible plays at times and so this was a tense back and forth game throughout. I also found it unusual that in the rainy, cold weather the Cubs have played in throughout April the ball found the seats several times. But on this day with the wind howling out, not one ball left the ballpark.
For the fifth straight day, the Cubs have won a low scoring game. They’ve now scored 12 runs in five games. They’ve won all five games because they’ve allowed just four runs in that stretch. The dominant pitching staff has arrived. Jon Lester did allow two runs yesterday and he did fail to go six innings. But in both instances the defense was more to blame for that than Jon was. Jon threw 19 pitches in the fifth inning after what should have been the third out. He allowed two unearned runs and allowed two hits and a walk after what would have been the third out.
One of the by products of playing five straight close games is that Carl Edwards and Brandon Morrow were both unavailable in the ninth inning yesterday. Joe Maddon rightfully believes those two horses will be the ones he wants to rely on to close out tight games all of the way into October and hopefully November. So he doesn’t want to overuse them. And with that, Luke Farrell was handed a spot in the sixth inning that ordinarily Steve Cishek has been handed. Pedro Strop handled Edwards’ normal duties. Cishek handled Morrow’s duties for the second time on the homestand. Given the tight game, Cishek picked up his first save as a Cub in this one. A tip of the cap to the front office that this team is deep enough to basically have a second line bullpen.
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 26, April 30 - Cubs win fifth straight with 3-2 win over Rockies (16-10)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Steve Cishek (.176). Steve came into this one with one out and a runner on first. He induced a grounder back to himself and then made a daredevil play at second base that had to be reviewed for the first out. He then walked Charlie Blackmon. He bounced back to strike out Nolan Arenado with the tying run on second, and the go ahead run on first to end the game and pick up his first save as a Cub.
- Hero - Luke Farrell (.163). Luke came into this one with runners on first and second and two outs after Jon Lester was pulled. Lester not only had thrown an extra 19 pitches after the fifth was extended by an error, but the inning wasn’t over in the sixth because of another error. If either error doesn’t happen, Jon finishes at least six innings. Luke got Ian Desmond to ground out to end the sixth and then pitched a perfect seventh facing Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. Just a trio of guys who have been to All-Star games.
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop (.123). Pedro threw the ho hum eighth inning between Farrell who got the win and the ninth when Brian Duensing and Steve Cishek closed out the save. Pedro did allow one single, but it was erased on a nifty double play started by Anthony Rizzo.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Javier Baez (-.168). I don’t know if Javy gets tired, but he’s gotten a little out of whack the last few days. I suspect we’ll see him get a day off soon. He was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice. Javy finishes April with a line of .280/.333/.630. He finishes April with the ninth most WAR among NL position players, the most RBI (despite a few less games than many players), the most triples, and the fourth highest slugging percentage (is that really Christian Villanueva leading the league in both slugging and OPS? how crazy is that? Good for him, he was always going to be blocked here.)
- Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.056). Rizzo is not going to be sad to see April come to an end. His defense was solid throughout and he’s starting to hit balls with a lot of authority, but nothing seems to be finding a hole. He did have an RBI in his hitless in four at bats night.
- Kid - Willson Contreras (-.028). Willson had one walk in three plate appearances. He also struck out once.
WPA Play of the Game - Pedro Strop was called on to pitch the eighth inning in a 3-2 game. He was to face the Rockies 5-6-7 hitters. Chris Ianenetta started that stretch with a single that ate up Addison Russell. Gerardo Parra squared one up pretty good, but Anthony Rizzo snared the high bounce just over first base, stepped on first and threw to Russell who tagged out Iannetta to complete the double play. (.182)
*Rockies Play of the Game - With two outs and runners on first and second, Nolan Arenado doubled to deep left to give the Rockies a 2-1 lead. (.155) (exactly the same number of outs and positioning of runners when he struck out to end the game)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 12
- Hero - Kyle Schwarber and Tyler Chatwood 6
Up Next: After a beautiful finish to the month of April and a 16-10 record through the first month plus of baseball, the Cubs start May with game two of a three game set with the Rockies. The Cubs are 5-0 to start this seven game homestand. The Cubs will be looking to continue a Rockies tailspin that has seen them drop three straight and six of 10.
This pitching match up will be a rematch of the one on April 20 between these two teams. The Cubs won that one, so hopefully history will repeat. Kyle Hendricks is the Cubs starter. Last time he faced the Rockies he picked up his first win over them. He threw five innings allowing five hits, no walks and three runs while striking out six. Not only is that line a moral victory in Colorado, it was literally good enough for the actual victory. Last time out Kyle was superb against the Brewers throwing seven innings, allowing only four hits, no walks and five strike outs. Those were his last two starts and he didn’t walk anyone in either game. He hasn’t allowed an unintentional walk since April 6.
Jon Gray is the opposition. He was knocked around in that April 20 game. He threw five innings allowing eight hits, three walks and seven runs (six earned) while only recording one strike out. He took the loss in that one. That was his first career start against the Cubs. He’s 2-4 on the year with a 5.79 ERA. Last time out, he was quite good in a start against the Padres in Denver. He pitched six innings allowing three hits and a walk while striking out 11. He didn’t allow any runs. The three starts before that (including the Cubs start) saw him throw 15⅔ innings allowing, 26 hits, five walks and 19 runs ( 18 earned) while striking out 17. It’ll be interesting to see which Jon Gray shows up. Certainly the Cubs appear to have the edge again on paper.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Albert Almora Jr.
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)