Cue the Meatloaf. Two out of three ain’t bad. If you’ve watched a lot of baseball, you know that it is hard to sweep a team. Especially a team that is over .500. Oh, it happens plenty during the course of the season. After all, if memory serves, I seem to remember the Cubs sweeping a four game series from one of the best teams in baseball to this point and holding that team to a total of two runs in four games. So it can happen. It probably should have happened last night.
Kyle Hendricks did not pitch great, but two runs in five innings isn’t exactly putting your team behind the eight ball. I wasn’t watching the game, did anyone talk about Kyle allowing a hit to start five consecutive innings? I’d have to imagine that isn’t a rare enough occurrence that no one has ever done it, but I’d bet Kyle hasn’t done it before. All the more weird given that he only allowed seven hits. Five of those were the first batters in each of the five innings. Nothing like working uphill pretty much all day long.
The Cubs did muster seven hits and four walks against Pirates starter Joe Musgrove and even two more against Pirates closer Felipe Vasquez, but only managed to push one across the plate. After scoring a run two batters into the game and then loading the bases with one out in the first, letting Musgrove off the hook ended up being huge. And so, two out of three it is. That ain’t bad and yet feels unsatisfying. That’s pretty much the story of the 2018 Cubs. They are piling up wins at a slow and steady rate, but so far they’ve not been able to put together an extended run the way the Brewers have been.
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 52, May 30 - Cubs bats go silent after early run, lose 2-1 to Pirates (29-23)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jason Heyward (.268). Jason had three hits and a walk in his four plate appearances. He’ll be sad to see Pittsburgh go as he had back to back three hit games. Two of the three singles were to left. That should be a good sign. A .256/.336/.384 line isn’t great, but it’s a 92 OPS+ (about 8% less than league average). His full season OPS+ the last two years were 68 and 84. So progress is being made.
- Hero - Javier Baez (.067). Javy had two hits, including an RBI single in the first inning, in five at bats. If Javy goes without a walk tonight in New York, he’ll have completed the month of May without a single walk as a basically every day player. He’s in fact closing in on two months without a walk. Oh and he’s tied for the third most RBI in baseball and tied for the NL lead.
- Sidekick - Justin Wilson (.051). Justin threw 1.1 innings and allowed a hit and a walk. He has a 2.82 ERA in 22.1 innings over 23 appearances. He’s struck out 26 batters but also walked 18. In May he’s been even better. 13 games, 12.2 innings, 0.71 ERA, 13 strike outs and seven walks. He’s still not throwing in a lot of leverage situations, but maybe he will be soon.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Kris Bryant (-.202). Kris had just one walk in five plate appearances. He lands here for grounding out to end the game with runners on first and second.
- Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.157). Kyle was hitless in four at bats on the day. He was the first of two strike outs with the bases loaded in the first inning.
- Kid - Addison Russell (-.139). Addison was the second. That erases much of the otherwise good two for four day for Russell.
WPA Play of the Game - Kris Bryant came to the plate with runners on first and second and two outs. Kris is a .263/.364/.526 hitter in his career with runners on first and second and two outs. But, add to that his numbers in late/close situations .223/.360/.388 or his numbers in high leverage situations .255/.369/.427. The bottom line, Kris is just not great in the biggest situations. It is the one real hole in his game. He didn’t come through this time either. He grounded out to end the game. (-.141)
*Cubs Play of the Game - Jason Heyward lead off the ninth inning with a single off Pirates closer Felipe Vasquez. That was just the second hit Vasquez has allowed to a lefty this season. (.115)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 12
- Hero - Pedro Strop 10
- Sidekick - Steve Cishek and Tommy La Stella 8
There is a high probability Javier Baez continues to lead the way through two months of the season.
Up Next: On to New York for the Cubs where a four game set with the Mets awaits. The Mets have lost seven of 10 and are just one game over .500 after getting off to a strong start in 2018. They just played eight consecutive games against the Brewers and Braves and actually split the four game set with the Braves. That’s about as well as most teams could hope to do over that eight game stretch. The Mets have been decimated by injuries, particularly among their starting pitchers. There is at least a chance the Cubs are catching them at exactly the right time. In any event, I imagine there are people in the Mets front office who’d like to punch somebody for scheduling them an eight game road trip to Milwaukee and Atlanta followed by a third straight four game set with the Cubs in New York. The Mets haven’t had a day off in over a week.
Jose Quintana gets the first start of the series for the Cubs. He wasn’t good last time out. He lasted just 4.1 innings against the Giants allowing five hits, two walks and four runs. In general, Jose has pitched well against the National League Central and poorly against everyone else. He did have a strong start against the Marlins and I’m hoping he’ll be able to do the same against the Mets. He faced them last September and threw seven innings of six hit, one walk, two run ball while striking out seven and picked up the win. He also faced them in 2016 while with the White Sox and was a hard luck loser in a game in New York. He threw seven innings, allowing six hits, two walks and one run while striking out seven. Two very similar lines. Let’s hope for more of the same.
Seth Lugo is the opposition. He is 1-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 32.2 innings as a reliever so far in 2018. He faced the Cubs last September in Chicago and didn’t fare well. He lasted just three innings, allowing nine hits, one walk and eight runs (seven earned) while striking out four. This will be his first start of the season. He’s had two three inning appearances so far in 2018, the most recent was May 15. So he’s not at all stretched out to start. Don’t expect to see him too deep in this one. Seth has been a reverse split right handed pitcher so far in 2018. Expect to see all of Almora/Baez/Russell in the lineup.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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