The Cubs finished April at 16-10, six games above the .500 mark. The Cubs started May losing five straight games. Now they’ve won five straight and at 21-15 they are right back to six games over .500. Crazy stock market analysts can tell you how the stock market does during various arbitrary points of time. Well, the Cubs were 1-3 including losses to the lowly Marlins and Reds from April 1-6 and 0-5 including a series sweep at the hands of the Cardinals from May 1-6. I don’t much believe in arbitrary stretches being predictive, but hey how about a bunch of rain outs June 1-6 in New York against the Mets and home against the Phillies?
Seriously, this team again looks to be firing on all cylinders as it has most of the time since that crazy comeback against the Braves on April 14. Including that game, the Cubs are 15-8 since the start of that game. Yes, recently there has been well below stellar competition, but there were some good teams in there including division rival Brewers and Cardinals. I’m enjoying watching them stomp that lesser competition while eagerly awaiting them stepping up in class come Monday against the surprisingly strong Braves.
I’d certainly love to have five starters pitching lights out every time through the rotation that the Cubs could hang their collective hats on. But instead, the Cubs have a dynamic offense. The team is averaging 5.47 runs per game, third best in the majors and just a tick below the Braves for tops in the National League (5.50). At the same time, the Cubs have more than four months to get those five starters on top of their game. Obviously for the post season, you both want to be able to feast on any pitcher not on their game and match any dominant pitching performance with one of their own.
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 36, May 12 - Cubs jump out to 5-0 lead, hold on for 8-4 win for fifth straight (21-15)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Anthony Rizzo (.134). Rizzo has been the dominant force throughout the history of Heroes and Goats. He’s won all but one year that this series has run. In the early going of this year, he consistently found himself at the bottom of the standings. But he’s been scorching hot lately (.342/.381/.789 in May) and he provided the early offense yesterday. His three-run homer looked until the late stages of the game like it would be all of the offense the Cubs would need.
- Hero - Jon Lester (.130). I get the feeling Jon is the kind of guy who gets appreciated more from afar than up close. He threw 5.2 innings yesterday allowing four hits, three walks, one run and five strikeouts. I think a lot of us think of him as always having to work his way out of jams and generally struggling. And he’s 3-1 with a 2.66 ERA in eight starts and 44 innings. He’s walking 4.1 batters per nine innings which would be his highest number since his rookie season. But, his hits per nine is below his career average at 7.8. He’s pitched in generally lousy conditions, it’s possible that when the weather turns he’s ready to get hot himself.
- Sidekick - Javier Baez (.094). While Rizzo was struggling to start the season, Javy was carrying the load. He’s often been the whipping boy of Heroes and Goats, but not this year. Not only is Javy on a collision course with the All-Star game, he’s leading the Cubs in hits, triples, home runs, RBI, Runs, Stolen Bases and breathtaking plays. With all of that has come pretty much a wire to wire lead in Heroes and Goats.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Mike Montgomery (-.068). Mike faced three batters. He had a strike out to end the eighth inning and then went back out for the ninth. He allowed a single and then Kris Bryant dropped a fly ball in right field. On a day when almost everything went right for the Cubs, that was plenty to land Montgomery here.
- Goat - Albert Almora Jr. (-.033). Albert had just one walk in four plate appearances.
- Kid - Carl Edwards Jr. (-.012). Usually, when things don’t go well for Carl it is due to him walking a ton of batters. That didn’t happen Saturday. But he definitely didn’t have his command and he got into trouble. He was tagged with three hits and three runs while only recording two outs. Carl’s ERA jumps from 0.53 to 2.04. The home run is the first regular season home run he has allowed since last August 16. This is the first time he’s allowed three hits in an appearance since last September 5.
WPA Play of the Game - Anthony Rizzo came to the plate in the first inning with runners on first and third and no outs. He took one out of the park for a 3-0 Cubs lead (.135). This homestand has now seen Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo all record their first WPA Play of the game and Bryant actually record his second. The offense has jumped out early in all but one game on this homestand.
*White Sox Play of the Game - Trayce Thompson batted with a runner on first and no outs in the ninth inning. He reached base on a Kris Bryant dropped fly ball (.053).
- Superhero - Javier Baez 13
- Hero - Kyle Hendricks and Pedro Strop 8
Up Next: The two teams finish their three game set with another afternoon game this Mother’s Day. This one looks like it will only be cold and not wet. Kyle Hendricks gets the start for the Cubs. He’s 3-2 with a 3.02 ERA on the season. Last time out, he gave the beleaguered Cubs bullpen a much needed rest and helped set the tone for this very successful homestand with eight innings of six hit, no walk, two run baseball. He only struck out three, but that probably helped him to be efficient and work deep on a day where it was needed after a tough weekend for the bullpen, the first such period for the Cubs this year that was not only due to a lot of work but poor performance. Kyle had a little bit of a rough outing the last time he faced the White Sox as he allowed eight hits in just 4.1 innings. He didn’t walk anybody and struck out five, so a bit of a mixed bag. In four lifetime starts against the Sox he is 0-1 with a 3.98 ERA. These aren’t those White Sox.
Lucas Giolito is on the mound for the White Sox. The talented young pitcher has never faced the Cubs as a starter. On the year, he’s 1-4 with a 7.25 ERA. You just don’t see a lot of 7.25 ERAs in May. He’s thrown 36 innings, so for this time of the year that’s a really solid 7.25 ERA. Last time out against the Pirates he threw four innings allowing seven hits, two walks and four runs. He hasn’t really been quite as bad as his numbers would indicate. He had an April start where the Astros tagged nine runs on him in two innings. Why would you let your 23-year-old pitcher allow seven hits, five walks and nine runs in two innings? Is that some kind of character builder? Very much like the rest of the White Sox, Giolito’s best outings have been against the Royals. There is every reason to believe that the Cubs will finish this sweep in dominating fashion.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
David Bote (first career two hit game)
Other (Please leave suggestions in comments below)