I feel like the picture for this article is misleading. I searched for a Tommy La Stella image from last night’s game. This is a picture of Albert Almora Jr. instead. But Albert was scoring on Tommy’s ninth inning single. Before that RBI single, I was sarcastically wondering if the Cubs offense remembered how to score without the aid of a home run. There are times when that concern is a small one. When your team gets into a groove and is hitting three and four home runs a game over a stretch, that’s a small concern. When your team has tied for the fourth least amount of home runs, that’s a bit more of a concern.
The Cubs had that crazy stretch of mediocrity to start the season. The team stopped at 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, etc. all of the way up to 9-9 before they finally won three out of four to get to 11-9. They lost the next day but then won three (and eventually five straight). So it was that in game number 24 they finally had their first three game streak of any kind, and all the better it was the positive kind. Five games later, they now have their first three game losing streak. The 2017 Cubs played 97 games before they reached five games over .500 for the first time. They were never below two games under .500 so they played 97 games essentially at .500. There was talk in the offseason about waiting to turn it on and how tired the team was come playoff time because of the amount of energy expended in August and September to win the division. The positive news was that it only took this team 25 games to get to five over and 26 to get to six over.
The grind of the season hasn’t really set in yet. Not across all of baseball. I suspect it has for some teams. The Dodgers already have a small army of players on the disabled list. I suppose for them things feel like a grind already. You don’t really know which teams are for real and which ones are pretenders until summer really kicks in. Until teams are playing 19 games in 20 days. Until your sixth and seventh starters are starting games against division rivals. Until your eighth and ninth relievers are suddenly pitching in a tie game in the eighth inning because they are the only ones not gassed. All of that said, on May 5 all of the National League Central teams other than the Cincinnati Reds believe that they are going to be in the race for the long haul. You’d certainly like to rip off 15 of 20 at some point sooner than later and make sure those teams know that they are going to have to win 95 to win this division. At no point yet this season have the Cubs looked like a team that sustain that kind of stretch. I believe they’ll get there. But 2016 spoiled us by doing that right out of the gate.
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 29, May 4 - Cubs allow three unearned runs early, rally comes up short in 3-2 loss to Cardinals (16-13)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Tommy La Stella (.094). Tommy had a pinch-hit RBI single in the ninth inning. Tommy has had 17 plate appearances as a pinch hitter and has a line of .400/.471/.533. He also had an at bat in there that was ruled an error that should have been a double. Tommy is one of the powerful weapons in Joe’s tool box.
- Hero - Ian Happ (.086). I thought Ian would start yesterday’s game with a pitcher who has been dominant against right handed hitters. Alas, Joe felt otherwise and to his credit Almora had a two hit game and so did Javier Baez. Ian had a pinch hit double with Baez on first and one out in the fifth. Unfortunately the Cubs stranded both runners.
- Sidekick - Steve Cishek (.037). Joe had to go to the pen early with Jose Quintana struggling and Steve gave him two innings allowing only one hit and one walk to keep the game close.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Ben Zobrist (-.172). Ben did have a hit and even an RBI in his five plate appearances. The hit lead off the game (.036) and the RBI was the second out of the ninth inning (-.096). He also struck out following the Happ double in the fifth (-.077).
- Goat - Jose Quintana (-.155). Defense matters. Javier Baez’s error in the second inning resulted in three unearned runs in the second inning. The Cubs haven’t been hitting a ton lately and they’ve now made the third most errors of any team in baseball and are tied for the lowest fielding percentage in baseball. I know those stats don’t tell the whole story of defense, but they certainly don’t suggest the team is great defensively either.
- Kid - Kris Bryant (-.125). Kris also had just one hit in five at bats. The big one for him here is the ground out to end the game (-.078). He also followed Zobrist’s strike out in the fifth (-.058). That negated the positive that was a lead off double in the eighth (.054).
WPA Play of the Game - This game unraveled in a hurry. Dexter Fowler reached on a Baez error to start the second inning. Jed Gyorko followed with a single and two outs later Tommy Pham took a 2-0 pitch out to left for a three run homer. (.262)
*Cubs Play of the Game - Tommy La Stella pinch hit with runners on first and second and one out in the ninth inning. He singled in the Cubs first run of the game. (.094)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 13
- Hero - Kyle Schwarber, Tyler Chatwood, Steve Cishek, and Tommy La Stella 6
Up Next: The Cardinals have started their homestand by winning three straight games over Chicago teams by a 3-2 score. That’s a pretty odd occurrence. They’ve moved into first place in the division with that winning streak.
The Cubs will send Tyler Chatwood to the mound. Tyler was fantastic the last time out. He threw seven inning allowing two hits, three walks and no runs while striking out four against the Brewers. On the season he is 2-3 with a 2.83 ERA that leads the Cubs starters. He faced the Cardinals back on April 17. He threw 4⅔ innings and allowed only one hit. Yet he lost the game because he allowed seven walks. He did strike out seven. Tyler is going to have to be a little more in control against these Cardinals who aren’t afraid to let you walk away a game.
Luke Weaver will be the opposition today. Luke is 2-2 with a 5.17 ERA so far. He faced the Cubs back on April 19 and the Cubs hit him well that day. He threw four innings allowing nine hits, one walk and six runs. He did strike out three. They hit him even better than that last September when they scored eight runs on him in three innings in a start in St. Louis. Weaver has been hit just slightly better by lefties than righties. He allows more walks against lefties and both of his home runs were against righties. Those numbers are in line with his career numbers. So I’d expect much of yesterday’s lineup with Russell back in the lineup and Almora taking a seat. This could be a high scoring affair.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Tommy La Stella
Albert Almora Jr.
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)