It has been fun watching the Cubs shut down the Brewers bats so completely this year. It is easy to get spoiled by that. The Brewers are a good team, though, and they were unlikely to continue to go quietly. Finally, after nine games in the season series previously and just one walkoff win, the Brewers won convincingly. There wasn’t a lot of offense by either team last night, but the Brewers bunched their hits and walks just well enough to turn seven hits and three walks into four runs. On a night when Brewers pitching held the Cubs to just two hits and two walks, that was an ample amount of runs.
Confidence is a powerful tool in sports. As Cubs fans, we’ve seen several examples this year. There was April Javier Baez and now there is post-concussion Jason Heyward. The absence of confidence has that same Javy Baez looking lost at the plate right now. It comes and goes throughout the season. You always hope you have enough guys riding a hot streak to cover for the guys who are running bad. I saw it Monday night when Jonathan Villar hit his home-run. These Brewers are playing with a ton of confidence. They believe in themselves. That makes them a formidable opponent. To be sure, they’ve played above the talent level of their team in 2018, but they’ve sustained that momentum.
162 games is a long time. Over the course of the six plus months of the baseball season, there will always be ups and downs. The Brewers faced a bit of a gut check last night. They had lost seven of 11 and had fallen out of first place for the first time in quite a while. Had the Cubs won again last night, the collars would be starting to get a little tighter. A game and a half in the division is no big deal. But the idea that you had the best start in your franchise’s history and were still looking up at that deficit in mid June would be frustrating. They rallied the wagons and got it done last night. Chase Anderson posted his best start of 2018. Travis Shaw looked like an All-Star at the plate. For the Brewers, they were able to win without their top two relievers against their primary competition. That’s a big win for them. For the Cubs, we again turn the page. Sure the Cubs have dropped two out of three, but still have a chance to leave Milwaukee in first place.
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 64, June 12 - Cubs bats blanked by Brewers 4-0 (38-26)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Willson Contreras (.026). WPA and Heroes and Goats hasn’t been too kind to Willson in 2018. Last night his second inning single with a runner on first and no outs was one of the few bright spots for the offense and it lands him in the top spot. He had one hit in three at bats on the night.
- Hero - Ben Zobrist (.025). Ben had one walk in three plate appearances. That was leading off the second inning. The Cubs ultimately squandered runners on first and second with no outs.
- Sidekick - Luke Farrell (.019). The guys riding the Triple-A shuttle were tasked with saving the primary bullpen guys last night and they did a good job of it. Farrell and Anthony Bass combined for three innings of no run, two hits, one walk, five strikeout baseball. Farrell had four of those five strike outs in his two innings of work.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Tyler Chatwood (-.184). Five innings, five hits, four runs (three earned. Only two walks on the night, so there is progress there I suppose. Chatwood has been a full out belly flop so far for the Cubs. Hopefully he can get it turned around.
- Goat - Addison Russell (-.091). Russell did have a hit in his three at bats. He lined into the double play that ended the second inning (-.091).
- Kid - Javier Baez (-.077). Javy was hitless in three at bats. He struck out twice including one in the second inning after Contreras singled to put runners on first and second with no outs.
WPA Play of the Game: Travis Shaw stepped to the plate with runners on first and third and one out in the first inning. He doubled and two runs scored. That would turn out to be all of the offense the Brewers needed. (.150)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Willson Contreras’ single in the second inning with a runner on first and no outs with the Cubs trailing 2-0. (.059).
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 13
- Hero - Kyle Schwarber, Steve Cishek and Ben Zobrist 9
Up Next: The two teams wrap up their three-game set this afternoon. Once again, whoever wins the game wraps up the series with first place in the National League Central with less than 100 games until the end of the year. The Cubs will send Mike Montgomery to the mound. In three starts so far this year, Mike has been fantastic. He’s pitched into the sixth in each, throwing 17⅔ innings total, allowing 11 hits, two walks and two runs. He’s struck out 10. He faced the Brewers twice last year and it didn’t go well either time. He threw a total of 4.1 innings and allowed eight hits, six walks and 11 runs. He did strike out six. Hopefully he can keep his recent momentum going in this game.
Jhoulys Chacin will be the Brewers starter. He is 5-1 with a 3.58 ERA in 75⅓ innings of work this year. He’s trending very well despite a bit of poor run support. He’s 3-0 with a 2.81 ERA over his last seven starts. He probably should have lost a game or two in there, but he could easily have won four or five with how well he’s pitched. He did start once against the Cubs last year at Wrigley Field. He pitched well but ended up with the loss. He threw six innings and allowed five hits, three walks and two runs. He struck out six. Before that, he hadn’t started against the Cubs since 2012. Chacin has been very tough on right handed hitters (.544 OPS) but has been a little vulnerable to lefties (.797). The biggest difference is in his K/BB ratio. Against righties it is 37/11 against lefties it is 20/19. That sounds like a good recipe for another Javy Baez day off.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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