The Cubs continued their most recent surge last night with a 5-1 win. That’s now five of seven for the Cubs after their disappointing series against the Indians. They’ve also won eight of 13 in a larger stretch. I know everyone is anxiously awaiting a really, really dominant stretch, but they are playing some good baseball. I too suspect the best is yet to come, but don’t fail to recognize things starting to fall into place.
One of the best ways to continue momentum is to get a strong performance out of your starting pitcher. Seth Lugo performed admirably for the Mets in his first start of the year holding the Cubs scoreless through his four innings. And that could have been a momentum killer for the Cubs, but Jose Quintana was matching him scoreless frame for scoreless frame. Jose is stretched out as a starter and so he lasted two more innings and that was essentially the difference in the game. The Cubs scored two runs in the fifth and then one more in the sixth and scored five runs against five Mets relievers to put the game away.
One of the reasons I’m always optimistic about these Cubs is the amount of depth the organization has put together. The Mets do not have that same depth and they are getting crushed right now by injuries. That Lugo start was impressive, but he’s been one of the more effective relievers out of the Mets pen and now he threw four innings in a start. Last I saw, the Mets hadn’t even identified a starter yet for Sunday’s game either. Mike Montgomery filled in admirably this most recent time that Yu Darvish missed a start and earlier when he missed a start Jen-Ho Tseng didn’t pitch great, but the team rallied and won anyway. The Cubs have at least two or three guys who could be starting on the bench every night. They started the season with two starters in their bullpen. They also have a handful of relievers who have provided contributions bouncing back and forth between Iowa and Chicago.
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 53, May 31 - Cubs ride strong pitching performance to 5-1 win (30-23)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jose Quintana (.324). Jose threw six scoreless innings allowing three hits and two walks while striking out six. Exactly the start the Cubs needed.
- Hero - Ben Zobrist (.281). Ben had three hits in five at bats on the day. His two run homer in the sixth was one of the biggest blows in the game. He added a double in the seventh to help score another run.
- Sidekick - Kyle Schwarber (.138). Kyle had a walk and a single in three plate appearances. The single drove in a run in the sixth. He scored on the Zobrist homer in the fifth.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Ian Happ (-.089). He was hitless in four at bats on the day.
- Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.077). He had one hit in five at bats.
- Kid - Willson Contreras (-044). He had a walk and a sacrifice fly in his five plate appearances. The Cubs were just 2-8 with runners in scoring position. But they drove in five runs in those situations.
WPA Play of the Game - With two outs and a runner on second, Ben Zobrist hit the first pitch well out of the park (foul). In a 0-0 game and with the Cubs season long woes with men in scoring position, this was disheartening. Then a couple of pitches later he hit what looked to be a fairly lazy flyball. Until it landed in the bullpen for a two run homer. (.255)
*Mets Play of the Game - Brandon Nimmo batted with one out and a runner on first. He doubled putting runners on second and third. (.097)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 12
- Hero - Pedro Strop 10
- Sidekick - Tommy La Stella and Steve Cishek 8
Up Next: Game two of the four-game set with the Mets. Tyler Chatwood gets the call for the Cubs. He’ll be looking to bounce back from two bad starts in a row. Chatwood has battled his control all year and it has ballooned in his last two starts with 11 walks and just four strike outs in 5.1 innings of work. The numbers for Chatwood against the Mets last year are actually even worse. He made two starts against them in 2017 and threw a total of 5⅔ innings, allowing nine hits, four walks and 12 runs while striking out only two. Included in there was a .1 inning start in which he allowed a hit, three walks and four runs. Even including two very good starts in 2016, Tyler has a 5.96 ERA in 25⅔ innings of work over his last five starts against the Mets dating back to 2013.
Zack Wheeler is on the mound for the Mets. He’s 2-4 with a 5.40 ERA in 50 innings of work. He is coming off of a no decision in six innings of work. He allowed six hits, two walks and four runs while striking out six. He hasn’t won a game since April 29. Let’s hope the Cubs can keep that going. Last year he faced the Cubs in a game in June and the Cubs pounded him. He lasted just 1⅔ innings and allowed six hits, three walks and eight runs while striking out three. Zack has been hit a bit harder by lefties so far this season, but not a huge difference. Jason Heyward has a 1.171 OPS in 22 plate appearances against him including two home runs. Anthony Rizzo and Ian Happ have also both homered against Wheeler in smaller samples.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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