The Cubs and Braves have now played four games this year. In all four, I felt like the Braves outplayed the Cubs. The Cubs have now stolen two wins from the Braves. Such is the nature of baseball and every team sees games on either side of the ledger, but the Braves have the best record in the National League and have two crazy losses to the Cubs. Back on April 14, playing a game in some of the worst conditions I’ve ever seen a baseball game played in, the Cubs stormed back from a massive deficit to win. Last night, the Braves lost not one but two baserunners on close plays. In both instances, I felt the runner was safe.
I wondered why Addison Russell didn’t get a chance to bat in the ninth inning of Monday’s loss. He played last night and appeared healthy. I can understand Ian Happ being used as a pinch hitter. Despite his struggles, his line of .232/.303/.424 is actually an OPS+ of 93. Not great, but a touch better than Russell. He also had four hits in seven pinch hit at bats already in the season. But David Bote was also used as a pinch hitter and that was just his seventh major league game and 20th plate appearance. Who knows how Monday’s game would have went, but that was one big hit by Addison Russell last night and it didn’t miss by a whole lot from leaving the park.
The other big story last night was the return of Yu Darvish. Yu threw four decent innings allowing three hits, and two walks allowing one run. He struck out five. When you weight the performance based on opposition, that’s actually a very good performance. Yu apparently left with leg cramping, possibly from residual dehydration from having been sick. Because you know he was actually sick, despite inferences that the Cubs put him on the DL to avoid home starts. I hope to live long enough to one day see baseball fans widely acknowledge that the really good teams make decisions with an eye on October and not just living in the moment. The Cubs need Yu Darvish to be able to make some really strong starts in October more than they need him to make a start in May.
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 39, May 15 - Cubs rally in the ninth to steal victory from the Braves (22-17)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Addison Russell (.288). It’s not often that having just one hit in four at bats will land you this high, but when it is a one-out game-tying double in the ninth inning (.330), that’s often going to be good enough. This is Addison’s first Superhero appearance of the year.
- Hero - Ben Zobrist (.265). If Addison was Batman, then Ben was Robin last night. He reached base twice in five plate appearances. But it was his clutch two out single in the ninth inning that put the Cubs ahead and landed him here.
- Sidekick - Brandon Morrow (.204). Saves don’t always land the closer here. But when they are one-run saves, they often do. If there was a variable for quality of opposition, Morrow would have been the Superhero for his 1-2-3 ninth inning.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Carl Edwards Jr. (-.227). Ouch. The first home run of the season for Ronald Acuna Jr. in the eighth inning appeared to spell doom for the Cubs. Instead, the Cubs rallied and relief pitcher wins and losses are so meaningful, Carl is the winning pitcher.
- Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.180). Kyle had one of the worst nights at the plate that I’ve seen from him in some time. He was hitless in four at bats with three strikeouts.
- Kid - Javier Baez (-.170). And he wasn’t the only one. Javy had the same line. He swung at some pitches way out of the zone. The good news is that this is the first time I’ve noticed that happening in any quantity in weeks.
WPA Play of the Game - How crazy was that comeback by WPA standards? The Cubs notched two of the top six plays by WPA of their season in the inning. Addison Russell’s one-out RBI double to tie the game at 2-2 (.330) and Ben Zobrist’s two-out RBI single (.333).
*Braves Play of the Game - The Ronald Acuna home-run was the eighth biggest WPA event of the season for the Cubs. (.316). Nothing like late inning drama.
- Superhero - Javier Baez 12
- Hero - Pedro Strop and Steve Cishek 8
Up Next: The two teams continue their three game series in Atlanta tonight. Tyler Chatwood will be on the mound for the Cubs. He is 3-3 with a 3.35 ERA this year. Last time out he threw five innings against the White Sox. He allowed three hits, five walks and two runs while striking out six. He hasn’t started a game against the Braves since 2016. The Braves lineup will have a bit of a different look than that one in which Tyler threw five innings and allowed only one hit and no runs. He walked eight and struck out six.
Brandon McCarthy will start for the Braves. He is 4-2 with a 5.58 ERA. It is a luxury to pitch for the highest scoring team in the league. Last time out he was knocked around by the Marlins. They had 11 hits, two walks and six runs against him in five innings of work. The start before that against the Giants, he lasted just 3.1 innings allowing 12 hits, one walk and eight runs. He lost both games. May has not been kind to Brandon at all. Let’s hope the Cubs can keep that going. Last year he pitched twice against the Cubs. Both times he was the winning pitcher. He threw a total of 12 scoreless innings against the Cubs allowing six hits and four walks while striking out 10.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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