For one day at least, the Cubs showed no ill effects of having played a Sunday night game in Chicago followed by an early afternoon game in Pittsburgh. Hopefully the guys were then able to go and relax in the evening yesterday and sleep in this morning ahead of two night games the next two nights in Pittsburgh.
Yesterday in this space, I spiked the ball on being dead-on in the Giants series that the Cubs would win two and lose one that went all of the way down to the end. It was correctly pointed out that I was wrong yesterday. And what a fun way to be wrong. To be clear, I’m one of the few who has always been interested in seeing Mike Montgomery get a longer look as a starter. And even with that position, I recognized that Mike just hasn’t been all that sharp this year and that he hadn’t been properly stretched out to get deep into the game. Man was he fantastic yesterday. I wasn’t wrong about Chad Kuhl, he put together a very good start against the Cubs, but I totally under estimated what Montgomery would do yesterday. Those are the kinds of wrong that I don’t mind being every single day.
So here we are again at six games over the .500 mark. Tonight the Cubs will try for the fourth time to break through that “barrier” and set a new best mark of the season. At six over, the Cubs are on pace to win 91 games. I’ve long projected them to win 97 games. That passes the eye test as I think most of us believe that they’ve played mediocre baseball by their own standards. This is truly the best time to be a Cub fan in at least 110 years as it is somehow disappointing that they are only on a 91 win pace. The Brewers, meanwhile, continue on a 103 win pace. It will be shocking to me at this point if both teams aren’t in the playoffs. But you’ll excuse me with over 100 games to go if I don’t concede the division. Instead, I tip my cap to the Brewers and the amazing record they are piling up right now.
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 50, May 28 - Cubs ambush Pirates in 7-0 win (28-22)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Mike Montgomery (.348). Mike was fantastic. Joe allowed him to face exactly 18 batters. He allowed just two hits and no walks while striking out five. It was one game, but he clearly made his case for at least one more start and with questions around the health of Yu Darvish and the control of Tyler Chatwood, maybe more.
- Hero - Addison Russell (.217). For a guy on his off day, Addison had a nifty day. He had a pinch hit two run homer in the seventh to finally give the Cubs some breathing room. He then added a single in the ninth.
- Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo (.111). Very quietly, Anthony Rizzo has been one of the National League leaders in RBI in May. I’ll keep pointing out that his very good month is buried under the very bad April he had, at least until his numbers are right back in line with where you expect them. He had three more hits yesterday including a second inning homer that represented all of the scoring in the first six innings of this game.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Ben Zobrist (-.100). Ben was hitless in four at bats on the day.
- Goat - Kris Bryant (-.071). Kris had one hit in five at bats. It didn’t come until the ninth inning when the Cubs were already up 5-0.
- Kid - Javier Baez (.059). Javy was hitless in his first three at bats, striking out twice while the game was close. Then he added two hits and a run late in the game. So it looks great in the box score, but not so much by WPA standards.
WPA Play of the Game - Albert Almora Jr. had a one-out single in the seventh inning and the Cubs leading 1-0. With two outs, Addison Russell was sent in to pinch hit. He responded with a two-run homer to give the Cubs some breathing room. (.222)
*Pirates Play of the Game - Sean Rodriguez singled leading off the sixth inning (.063).
- Superhero - Javier Baez and Pedro Strop 10
- Sidekick - Steve Cishek, Tommy La Stella, and Kyle Schwarber 8
Up Next: Game two of a three game set is tonight. The Cubs will send Jon Lester to the mound. Jon was good in his last start despite taking the loss. He threw seven innings, allowed six hits, one walk and one run while striking out four. There has been much less buzz than you’d expect about it, but Jon has put together a fantastic run of starts. Over his last seven starts he has thrown 42⅔ innings, allowing only 29 hits, 15 walks, and 11 runs (8 earned) while striking out 37. That’s good for a 1.69 ERA. He has a 3-2 record in there because there are two starts with two runs allowed that were no decisions and the loss last time with only one run allowed. If the Cubs offense were more consistent, Jon could already have at least three or four more wins this season. You may recall that Jon was knocked around a couple of times by the Pirates last year including his worst start of the year on July 9.
The Pirates will counter with Nick Kingham. Nick is 2-1 with a 3.44 ERA over his first three major league starts. This, of course, means the Cubs have never seen him. Let’s hope this isn’t one of those games where they can’t hit the guy they’ve never seen before. Kingham’s major league debut was a strong one in which he pitched seven innings of shut out ball against the Cardinals. The Brewers knocked him around for four runs in 5.1 innings the next time out, though he got the win anyway. Last time he got beat by the Padres. They pushed three runs across against him in six innings. So far, he’s holding opposing hitters to a .179 batting average and he’s struck out 21 while only walking two. That’s a great recipe for success. This could be a tough one. Hopefully Lester stays hot.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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