My mama told me there would be days like this. Finally after three days of struggling and nearly two weeks of subpar play, the Cubs jumped out to a 5-0 lead and led 6-1 into the seventh inning. As has been the case in this series, one bad inning spoiled the whole game. The Reds plated seven runs in the seventh inning and the Cubs dropped their fourth straight game. For the Reds it was their seventh consecutive win. The Reds move to 13 under .500 with the win. And so even the winning streak is little consolation for Cubs fans. No matter how you slice it, these Reds are not great.
I appreciate that those who visit and comment around this article are generally fairly positive. I know it has to be hard for even the most steadfast of us to stay grounded and optimistic. To be sure, watching the team go up in flames over the course of four days is disconcerting. Doing it against a not-elite team is all the worse. So these are definitely not the best of times.
What I try to do is analyze what is real, what is permanent and what is temporary. The Cubs bats have gone silent. That isn’t going to be permanent. The drop in power numbers is consistent and has now persisted through most of three months of a baseball season. To be fair, they aren’t subpar power numbers overall, just subpar by their own standards. The starting pitching has been a mess partially due to a double header disrupting the flow of the pitchers. The subpar starts of Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks are frustrating. Both pitchers need to be more consistent to be sure. But that’s not going to be a permanent problem. The impending return of Yu Darvish will almost certainly help balance things out. The cratering of the bullpen is a confluence of things. Injuries, illness, and a family death have all effected the bullpen of late. Too much reliance on Triple-A pitchers has finally taken its toll on the team.
This shall pass. Will it pass right away? I can’t promise that. It’s certainly daunting to head out west to place the Dodgers with a team that is reeling. The injured players aren’t due back and so there isn’t anything immediately to flip the script. But hold on. Don’t lose hope. You never want to make impulsive decisions when things are going badly. To be sure, you always want to be assessing the long term performance and the effectiveness of your coaches, your manager, your players and even your front office. The Astros last year and the Cubs the year before were able to juggernaut through all or most of the regular season and then on through the post season. But that is more the exception than the rule. Even last year’s Dodgers, though they had a dominant record, had a very long stretch of ineffective baseball in the second half. It happens to everyone. Some teams may steal a game or two during the time when they are struggling and avoid massive losing streaks. But every team plays under expectations at times.
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 75, June 24 - Cubs blow 6-1 lead with seven run seventh; swept by Reds (42-33)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jason Heyward (.178). Jason had a two-run double to drive in the first two runs of the game. He had one hit in four at bats on the day.
- Hero - Mike Montgomery (.104). Mike’s final line on the day was not great, but he was fantastic once again through six innings. In total, he allowed six hits, two walks and four runs. Mike lost it very quickly after breezing through six innings.
- Sidekick - Randy Rosario (.049). Randy pitched 1⅓ innings and allowed one hit and one walk. He got out of a bases loaded jam to end the seventh.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Pedro Strop (-.706). The second largest negative game by a Cubs player in 2018 to date. Pedro has been so dependable and he just couldn’t get it done today. Pedro retired two hitters but allowed four hits, three walks and four runs.
- Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-095). Kyle was hitless in four at bats and struck out three times. It was a very tough day at the plate.
- Kid - Ben Zobrist (-.040). Ben pinch hit to lead off the ninth inning and was retired.
WPA Play of the Game: Jason Heyward batted with runners on first and second and two outs in the fifth inning. It was still 0-0 at the time. He doubled in two runs to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. (.245)
*Reds Play of the Game: Jesse Winker came to the plate in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter with runners on first and third and no one out and the Reds losing 6-2. He hit a three run homer. (.182)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop and Jon Lester 13
- Sidekick - Javier Baez 11.5
Up Next: The Cubs head west to open a four game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Obviously, the Cubs just took two of three from them a week ago. They then went to New York and swept a three-game set from the Mets. So those two wins just a few days ago, they were meaningful against a team that is 25-9 over its last 34.
Duane Underwood will be making his major league debut for the Cubs. He’s 3-7 with a 4.27 ERA this year for the Iowa Cubs. I’ve always been cautioned not to read too much into numbers for the Iowa Cubs which has a number of extremely hitter friendly parks. Despite the hitter-friendly parks, he’s allowed 69 hits in 71⅔ innings and walked 20. He’s struck out 60 and allowed only three home runs. So you can see some peripheral numbers that will give a pitcher a chance to be successful.
The Dodgers will send Kenta Maeda to the mound. Maeda is 4-4 with a 3.84 ERA on the season. Over his last seven starts, he is 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA. He faced the Cubs last Tuesday and lasted 3⅔ innings allowing five hits, five walks and three runs. So the Cubs saw the ball pretty well against him. Let’s hope they can do it again.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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