Today, I felt like this picture was telling. It doesn’t show up as great as I’d like, but it is a picture of Jon Lester warming up before the game with the ivy behind him. But to me the picture is one man alone. Not surrounded by his teammates. Because on this night Jon was largely all alone. To be fair, Kyle Schwarber made a nice throw into a Javier Baez tag for an out in the first. I’m shocked that baseball reference shows him with just four outfield assists, it feels like at least twice that number. Willson Contreras also threw out a runner stealing. So there were some contributions.
Alas, Jon held the Indians to a lone run. That lone run made them a winner as the Cubs bats mustered nothing. I didn’t want to make any predictions in the On the Horizon article the other day because I feared a scenario like this. I’ll give Bauer the edge against Chatwood every day. In fairness, I thought that would be something like a 4-2 loss. But I’m loudly and proudly still on the Jon Lester bandwagon. So I felt he’d have a strong outing against a rather mediocre Indians lineup. That he did. But once again, the Cubs bats struggle against a pitcher they’ve never faced before. It is made all the more frustrating since some of them, like the one last night, don’t really have a pedigree. To be sure, I’m well aware that occasionally one of those no pedigree guys comes out of nowhere and then goes on to have one or more really great seasons. Sometimes the blind squirrel finds a nut though and it is painful to watch if that ends up being the case.
Bigger than the problem with guys they are seeing for the first time is the way the Cubs ability to hit with runners in scoring position disappears for days at a time. The Cubs had runners on first and third with no outs in the seventh inning. The Indians summoned Andrew Miller. I tip my cap, he’s been one of the better relievers in the game for a while now. Injuries have slowed him this season, but the numbers still look good if not great. Miller is one of the best when he’s on though, so I get that this isn’t an ordinary first and third, no outs against some tiring second tier starter in the fifth inning of a game. This was a fresh, very good reliever. Still, they needed to get a run out of that situation. They failed. I’m sure Al’s recap and the comments section will have hundreds of comments about that inning, so I’ll leave it there. The whole game was super disappointing.
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 46, May 23 - Cubs bats stymied in 3-0 loss to Indians (25-21)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jon Lester (.261). Jon threw seven innings of six hit, one walk, one run baseball. He struck out four. The loss drops Jon to 4-2, but his ERA is now down to 2.37. It’s early, but if you were betting on Lester to decline, you are presently losing that bet.
- Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.070). Anthony was on base twice yesterday. He had the team’s first hit in the seventh and earlier drew a walk.
- Sidekick - Willson Contreras (.068). Willson also had a hit and a walk on the day. The Cubs managed just three hits and four walks, Rizzo and Contreras had two of each between them.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Javier Baez (-.297). I have to say it once, Javy, you are one of the major league leaders in RBI. You’ve traditionally excelled against left handed pitching. You are batting with runners on first and third and no outs. You went with bunt? Baez was hitless in four at bats.
- Goat - Addison Russell (-.174). Addison only got three at bats in this game. But here he is. He followed Javy’s strange bunt by striking out. Poof, there went the only meaningful scoring chance in the game.
- Kid - Kris Bryant (-.113). Kris was hitless in four at bats. He lands here for his fly out in the eighth inning with a runner on first and two outs (-.070)
WPA Play of the Game: This one was just mentioned. Javier Baez batted against Andrew Miller in the seventh inning with runners on first and third and no outs. Be bunted it back to Miller, Rizzo was thrown out at home. (-.180). How fitting, because I felt like the Cubs chances in this game took a full 180.
*Cubs Play of the Game: Anthony Rizzo’s double leading off the seventh inning. (.130)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 10
- Hero - Pedro Strop 9
- Sidekick - Steve Cishek and Tommy La Stella 8
Up Next: The Cubs are off today. Tomorrow they open a three-game set with the visiting San Francisco Giants. The Cubs will have to sweep the series to avoid a losing homestand. The Giants have been riding a roller coaster recently. They just started their road trip being swept in a two-game series in Houston by the defending champion Astros. They won the two before that, lost three before that and won three before that. An up and down split of their last 10. Let’s hope that their losing streak extends further.
Kyle Hendricks will get the start for the Cubs in game one. Kyle is 3-3 with a 3.40 in 55⅔ innings this year. He’s coming off of a disappointing start in Cincinnati. He threw five innings in that one, allowed six hits, two walks and four runs (three earned). He struck out six at least. Kyle faced the Giants twice in 2017, pitching well in both. He won one of the two starts, but threw a total of 11⅔ innings, allowed 10 hits, three walks, and three runs. He struck out 10.
Derek Holland is the opposition. Holland is 2-5 with a 4.94 ERA on the season. He hasn’t started a game against the Cubs since 2013. Ben Zobrist is the only Cub with meaningful numbers against Holland, so expect to see him back in the lineup tomorrow. Holland has been brutal on left handed hitters (ops .372) but has been vulnerable to right handed hitters (ops .859). I would expect Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward to get the afternoon off.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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