So it turns out, you can’t win them all. The Cubs four-game winning streak came to an end. The Cubs fail to move into first place. I didn’t see the game on Sunday and it sounds like I didn’t miss a whole lot. I did spend a little bit of time on Sunday night and I saw Cubs nation is angry about Sunday’s game. It will never cease to amaze me that there is so much angst after every loss. Cubs fans went from lovable losers, known for making excuses for their teams and constantly embracing an optimistic wait ‘til next year approach, to fretting over every loss.
This team is very good. Even with yesterday’s loss, they are on pace to win 97 games (have I mentioned lately that I predicted that they’d win 97 games?). And yet, there is angst, ire and calls for Joe Maddon to stop coddling Kyle Hendricks and turn him loose. Never mind the 7⅔-inning start or the eight-inning one. Never mind that the Cubs offense was anemic yesterday and Joe decided to reach for a pinch hitter with the tying run on second and no outs in a 1-0 game. Certainly ignore that the pinch hitter is arguably the best pinch hitter in baseball this season.
Recency is an awful foe. Tommy La Stella grounded into a double play and the Cubs bullpen fails. Those have been two pretty uncommon occurrences this season. But they both happened in the same game. So a bunch of people quit on Joe once again. Joe was oddly trying to win the game there. People last year were angry about a lack of urgency. But Joe sent his best pinch hitter up there in the fifth inning. If Tommy has his usual line drive single and the Cubs get a run or two out of that inning and then four relievers combine to shut down the Pirates for four innings, do we talk about this at all? Brian Duensing has also been great. He was not great yesterday. It happens. If it helps you enjoy your Cubs experience, by all means stay angry up until the first pitch tonight. And be twice as angry if the Brewers actually score more than a couple of runs on this trip to Wrigley Field. Me? I’m just going to turn the page.
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 62, June 10 - Cubs’ bats stifled in 7-1 loss (37-25)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kyle Hendricks (.152). What a pleasant site to see Kyle back up here. Most of us like to remember Kyle the runner-up for the Cy Young Award a couple of years ago. But this is the first time Kyle has been up top in three starts dating back to May 25. Kyle’s had flashes, but can’t quite seem to get on a real roll yet. Kyle is one of those pitchers though who seems to get better as the season wears on. July, August and September are Kyle’s three best months by ERA. So most likely, the best is yet to come.
- Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.082). Anthony had a hit and a walk in his four plate appearances. He also drove in a run on a ground out in the sixth. Anthony is tied for 10th in the major leagues in RBI. The Cubs have two players in the top 10 (12 because of ties) in the majors in RBI. They aren’t the only team with two, but I bet you’d be surprised to learn the other is the Reds.
- Sidekick - Chris Gimenez (.046). One of the more unusual box scores you’ll see leading to an appearance on the Hero podiums. Chris was hitless in three at bats. He reached on a fielder’s choice/error in the fifth inning. (.081)
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Brian Duensing (-.188). Ouch. Brian faced five batters. They went like this: double, ground out, walk, single, walk. All four runners ended up scoring. That’ll bruise an ERA. Right after I pointed out that all of the core relievers had an ERA under 3, Brian has this outing and his ERA jumps from 2.29 to 4.05. It was actually 1.93 before the homestand.
- Goat - Tommy La Stella (-.133). With yesterday’s disastrous pinch hit appearance, Tommy is now down to .375/.459/.438 as a pinch hitter. I’ve really gotten to where I’m shocked if Tommy doesn’t get on base.
- Kid - Ian Happ (-.133). He drew one walk in his four plate appearances. He also grounded into a double play yesterday (-.100).
WPA Play of the Game: Have we talked about Tommy La Stella’s at bat yet? It was the key play of the game. Tommy grounds into a 4-6-3 and the Cubs chances of winning dropped by (.133).
*Cubs Play of the Game: That fifth inning was an important one. Chris Gimenez reached on a fielder’s choice/error after an Addison Russell single to lead off the fifth with the Cubs trailing 1-0. (.081).
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 13
- Hero - Kyle Schwarber 12
- Sidekick - Steve Cishek 9
Up Next: The Cubs start a series that will be hyped as a clash for the National League Central lead. In reality, it’s just three more games in June. But it should be fun to see how the Brewers hold up after getting stomped the last time they were in town. The Brewers fans very much have a little brother complex and so they’ll be dialed up to about 12. The Brewers have been fantastic so far this season, but they’ve cooled off of late having lost six of 10. Most recently they won two out of three in Philadelphia. They just completed an eight game, three city road trip. They did get an off day before the Phillies series and one a few days earlier, so they shouldn’t be worn out despite just getting back from a trip.
They’ll surely be excited to see Jose Quintana on the hill for the Cubs. In his last three starts against the Brewers dating back to last September, he’s thrown 22 innings, allowing eight hits, four walks and no runs. He’s struck out 23 in those three games. Last time out Jose faced the Phillies and got a no decision. He threw 5⅔ innings, allowing three hits, two walks, and two runs. He struck out 10. On the season, he is 6-4 with a 4.20, but he’s trending in the right direction with a 3-3 record and a 3.11 ERA over his last seven starts.
Junior Guerra gets the Brewers start. He’s having a nice looking season despite a 3-4 record on a 39-26 team. He has a 2.83 ERA over 60.1 innings on the year. He’s trending a little bit in the wrong direction as he is just 1-3 with a 3.99 ERA over his last seven starts. One example of the kind of support Guerra has gotten this year was his start against the Cubs on April 28. He threw six innings allowing only three hits, two walks and one run. Not only didn’t he collect a win, he collected a loss. His opponent? Jose Quintana of course. You might recall that the Cubs have shutout the Brewers five times already this season. The Cubs have shutout the Brewers out six times in the last ten games dating back to last September. Q started half of those shutouts.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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