Most close games have that moment. On Sunday, it was Tommy La Stella pinch hitting for Kyle Hendricks in the bottom of the fifth inning. That moment is the point where the discussion for the cycle until the next game (and sometimes beyond) is determined. That point last night was in the eighth inning with Albert Almora Jr. at the plate. He lifted a deep fly ball into the gap. I thought for a moment the ball might get out of the park. Ben Zobrist thought for a moment that it might hit off the wall left of center and was about half way to second when he realized it would be caught.
Jason Heyward was standing in the on deck circle. Jason Heyward is smoking hot at the plate. He’d already had a hit in the game to continue his recent torrid stretch. But Josh Hader was on the mound. Josh Hader, who is seven feet tall and destroys lefties by the hundreds. Surely Jason Heyward would be no match for a guy who can shoot lightning bolts from his eyes (I mean, that K rate has to have some explanation right?).
Ben Zobrist went back to first and tagged up. 37-year-old Ben Zobrist who doesn’t run anywhere near as well as he once did. What a horrible mistake. Ben was thrown out by maybe five feet. Except he wasn’t. The throw bounced out of the glove and Ben slid in safely. Jason Heyward followed with a single. The Cubs slew the mighty beast of Hader with a little help from an inability to handle the throw in from the outfield and a bloop single to right. The narrative is likely to be that the Cubs hung in there against tough pitching and gutted out a win by doing the little things well. There is always a lot of angst and frustration when a play like Ben’s ends up with a relatively easy out on the bases. This is why the Cubs push the edges in those situations. Even in the best of situations for the defense, everything has to go right to get one of those outs. This time, everything didn’t go right for the Brewers.
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 63, June 11 - Cubs score five in the 11th to beat Brewers 7-2 (38-25)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Randy Rosario (.291). He was brought into a tie game in the ninth inning. He pitched two innings, faced six batters and retired them all. He struck out one. In his first eight games as a Cub, he’s 3-0 with an 0.71 ERA having allowed one run in 12⅔ innings of work. This is also his second Superhero and those are his only two podium appearances. He won’t continue to have a .156 BABIP or a 90.9% LOB rate. But interestingly, he had very similar numbers in Triple-A this year (.189 and 87.5%). Clearly, the scouts haven’t caught up to whatever changes he’s made since coming to the Cubs.
- Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.192). Anthony’s teammates totally tried to over shadow his heroics. Earlier in the game Anthony launched one into the upper decks in right field, but a few feet foul. In the eleventh inning, the ball went a little further and stayed fair to break a 2-2 tie. He had just the one walk and one hit for his five plate appearances. But the homer was huge at the time. I know RBI aren’t a great stat, but it is fun after a horrible April to see Anthony Rizzo in the top five in the National League in RBI.
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.142). Ben came into the game late but had a huge impact on the game. He had a hit, a walk, two runs scored and an RBI in the short time he was in the game. That allowed him to nudge out a three hit, three RBI day from Jason Heyward for this spot.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.189). This is almost entirely a result of the ground out with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning (-.143). This was a minor travesty as Kyle should almost certainly have walked on four pitches as none of the first four pitches thrown by Brewers closer Corey Knebel and Schwarber didn’t swing at any of them. Kyle had one walk in four plate appearances.
- Goat - Addison Russell (-.155). Addison was hitless in four plate appearances. He was hit by a pitch in the eleventh and ended up scoring. I wondered briefly if there was some frustration in that hit batter. Rizzo had homered and then Javier Baez followed a walk by stealing second and advancing to third on a wild throw. Russell was then immediately hit. The Cubs rarely play those games though and Addison trotted to first and then came around to score.
- Kid - Kris Bryant (-.117). Kris had just one walk in six plate appearances. Kris is due to really break out and get hot. That’s going to be fun to watch. I comfort myself with this thought with each passing day where Kris looks more the part of a table setter rather than a destroyer of baseballs.
WPA Play of the Game - Anthony Rizzo lead off the eleventh inning with a towering homer down the right field line to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead. (.329). Rizzo’s fourth WPA Play of the Game and biggest to date. The Cubs’ sixth largest positive WPA event of the year.
*Brewers Play of the Game - Jonathan Villar hit a one-out home-run in the fifth inning to give the Brewers a 2-1 lead (.145).
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 13
- Hero - Kyle Schwarber and Steve Cishek 9
The Cubs just can’t keep two people in the positive 10 club. Did I mention that Schwarber was robbed though? This was a tough Billy Goat.
Up Next: Game two of this mid-season duel for first place in the National League Central. The Brewers have now lost five of seven and will be looking to bounce back against Tyler Chatwood. Tyler is 3-4 with a 3.86 ERA. He’s heading in the wrong direction though. In his last seven starts he’s 1-1 with a 4.85 ERA and has walked 34 batters in 29⅔ innings. The last time out Tyler walked seven men in 4⅔ innings. He only allowed four hits and so the usual story played out. He walked a ton, but didn’t allow a bunch of hits so the damage was limited (one run). On April 29, he had his best start of the season against the Brewers. In that one he went seven innings and allowed two hits, three walks and no runs. He struck out four. Yes, the Brewers despise the Cubs.
Chase Anderson will be the Brewers opposition. Chase Anderson was one of the Brewers best pitchers last year. Not so much this year. He is 4-5 with a 4.57 ERA. The last seven starts are even worse than that at 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA. Last time out he lasted just 4⅓ innings allowing four hits, three walks and three runs. He did strike out four. He hasn’t won a game since May 21. The last time he pitched into the seventh inning was on April 26 against the Cubs. He pitched quite well that day but was a tough luck loser. He threw seven innings and allowed five hits, one walk, and one run. He only struck out two. He’s 1-4 with a 3.81 ERA over his last four starts against the Cubs dating back to last May. Anderson is a reverse split right handed pitcher in 2018. He has allowed right handed hitters to have a collective OPS of .817 while holding lefties to .696. Also, he has a 6.23 ERA at home (3.12 on the road).
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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