Take a journey with me. Go back to the time before Joe Maddon came over to the Cubs. Before the fruits of the rebuild had really started to appear at Wrigley Field. The time was 2013. Anthony Rizzo is there but his hair is longer and curlier. His performance shows flashes of greatness but also struggles. Jake Arrieta is there too. The beard isn’t all of the way grown in. Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop and Travis Wood are all there at times too. And hey, even David DeJesus is still a Cub. And Aroldis Chapman is a Red. And over the course of the year there is a minor altercation between Chapman and Rizzo. Why are we here? Because the Reds took 14 of 19 games from the Cubs that year.
One year later in 2014, they won another 11 of 19. Javier Baez and Jorge Soler and Jason Hammel were starting to show up. More and more pieces of the championship team. But still the Reds were a formidable foe. In 2015, Joe Maddon shows up and with Dusty Baker gone on the other side, the Reds hit a full rebuild. Sure, Joey Votto is still there and there are a few guys who are pretty good. But mostly there is a lot of bad on that side of the diamond. 2015 brought Kris Bryant and Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Miguel Montero and David Ross. Kyle Schwarber. The pieces were in place for what was to come. That brought the Cubs to 13 of 19 against the Reds. They followed that up with 15 of 19 in the championship season of 2016.
So yeah, there are a lot of guys on the other side who have surely gotten tired of watching the Cubs beat their brains in a bakers dozen or more times per year. Just as we as fans and our players were tired of being on the wrong end of it back in 2013. It builds up an angst. So here in 2018, with the Reds playing the best baseball they have in years and a Cub team that has been off of its best game here in June, they’ve pounced and taken two quick ones to start this series. These are the shots across the bow. They have served notice, they will not be doormats anymore. Are they right? It’s too soon to tell. They’ve taken four of the first seven games this year. 12 of them remain including 10 at Wrigley Field due to a scheduling oddity. There are plenty more battles to be fought. Who knows, maybe these Reds are the equivalent of the 2014 Cubs? They’ve brought through a lot of young talent in recent years and if you squint a little, you can see where there is some support building behind the guys like Votto and Eugenio Suarez who have been producing for a few years now.
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 73, June 22 - Cubs again blow early lead, lose 6-3 to surging Reds (42-31)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kyle Schwarber (.136). Kyle had just one hit in the game, but it was a two run fourth inning home run to make it 3-1 Cubs. He was retired in his other three at bats.
- Hero - Javier Baez (.103). Javy continued his recent hot streak with an RBI single of his own in the fourth inning. That single tied the game at 1-1. He was also hit by a pitch in one of his other three plate appearances.
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.090). Ben had a nice night with two hits and three walks in four plate appearances. Unfortunately, these three Cubs accounted for all but one of the Cubs baserunners. The other was a Chris Gimenez reach on an error.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jose Quintana (-.264). Jose got knocked around a bit allowing nine hits in just five innings of work. He also walked two, allowed a home run and four runs.
- Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.129). There was no one at bat that jumped out of this one, but he batted with men on base three of the four times he was up and failed to contribute. Over the last two weeks, Anthony has a line of .188/.293/.271 good for a wRC+ of 54 over his last 58 plate appearances. The numbers wouldn’t be this good if you take on a three hit game on June 15.
- Kid - Jason Heyward (-.108). Jason at least has been scalding hot. He was hitless in four at bats last night. Luis Castillo is now 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in three career starts against the Cubs. I warned you yesterday in the game preview that he’d been great against the Cubs. He was not great yesterday, but he was very good.
WPA Play of the Game: The Reds started the fifth inning with a single and a stolen base. One out later Joey Votto singled in a run to reduce the Cubs lead to 3-2. Eugenio Suarez stepped to the plate one of the National League RBI lead. He launched one for a two-run home-run and became the RBI leader. (.263)
*Cubs Player of the Game: Kyle Schwarber’s two run homer in the fourth. (.227)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 16
- Hero - Jon Lester 13
- Sidekick - Javier Baez 11.5
Up Next: The Cubs will be looking to stop the Reds five game winning streak in game three of this series. The Reds are 15-15 in their last 30 games and 11-9 in their last 20. The Cubs will turn to Luke Farrell to start today’s game. This will be just Luke’s second career start. The other one wasn’t a good one. He lasted just 2⅔ innings and allowed seven hits, three walks and five runs. His silver lining? He didn’t get charged with the loss. He’s been a solid pitcher with the Cubs this year. He’s thrown a total of 17⅓ innings and allowed 17 hits, six walks and 11 runs (seven earned). He’s had some trouble with the long ball, allowing four home runs. He does have a very high strike out total at 26. The Cubs are going to hope he can tread water a couple of times through the order and then turn this one over the pen.
The Reds will send Anthony DeSclafani to the mound. He is 2-1 with a 4.60 ERA on the season. He’s only made three starts so far but he’s been at least a little part of the Reds resurgence as he’s won his last two starts. Last time out was his best start so far. He threw 5⅔ innings allowing only three hits, one walk and two runs. He’s yet to make it out of the sixth inning in any of his starts. He hasn’t started against the Cubs since 2016, but he did win a game against the Cubs that year (as noted, one of only four wins in 19 games the Reds had against the Cubs that year). For those wondering, DeSclafani missed the 2017 season with an oblique injury. This one could be a shootout.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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