On paper, this series looked like it would be a hard-fought, close series. In reality, it was definitely that. You never want to read too much into one series of games. For instance, the Marlins looked like a competitive team the first four games of the year against the Cubs. But, from what I can see, this Phillies team is putting together some interesting things. Understanding that Rhys Hoskins, one of their more talented bats, missed this series due to a facial injury, this Phillies team looks like a team on the rise. The pitchers that threw in this series were by and large talented. We didn’t see Jake Arrieta, but we know how that show looks. This team had all of the looks of one that is a few bats and maybe an extra arm or two away from being a very competitive team. Even as presently constituted you don’t have to squint a lot to see that they could have won two or even all three of these games.
In the end the Cubs pulled off two out of three. That’s a pretty fortunate outcome, but we’ve certainly had more than a few games that we probably should have won that slipped away. Those things don’t necessarily even out, but definitely all teams experience them. Tyler Chatwood had another smoke and mirrors start. He walked far too many hitters, but when the dust settled he’d only allowed one run. Word from the Cubs locker room was that they were happy with his performance that some of the mechanical tweaks looked better. It will certainly be a process. With Yu Darvish out for some time, the Cubs don’t really have the luxury of a phantom injury and then working these problems out on the back fields. I’m still not enjoying the Chatwood experience but I respect that he’s taking the ball every five days and is apparently receptive to what the coaches are trying to do to simplify some of his mechanics and try to get more consistency.
The Cubs bats produced just enough yesterday to pull out another victory. When we bemoan some of our own bad luck at times, we should remember games like yesterday. Nick Pivetta did not throw badly at all. He was charged with just six hits and one walk. Granted one of the hits was a home run, but it was a solo home run. That line is rarely going to produce four runs allowed. The Cubs did have Tommy La Stella amazingly reach base on catcher’s interference twice and the Phillies made another error besides that, but none of that really contributed directly to any scoring. The Cubs simply bunched almost all of their base-runners in one inning. The fifth inning happened to somebody else.
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 59, June 7 - Cubs score three in the fifth and then hold on to win 4-3 (35-24)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Brandon Morrow (.168). Brandon got a chance to get right back on the horse so to speak. He was given the ninth inning in a one run game. He allowed a two out walk, but no hits. And hey, the one he walked was the one who homered against him the day before.
- Hero - Pedro Strop (.123). Pedro is having some kind of year. I looked at a lot of projections for him this year and they all had Pedro starting to show the signs of being on the wrong side of 30. To be fair, even many good relievers alternate good and mediocre seasons. Pedro spots a 2.13 ERA and a 2.96 FIP over 26 appearances this year. His BABIP is low (.250), but it was lower in a full season for the Cubs in 2015 (.225). His strand rate is high (82%), but he’s done that before too (2012 - 83.2%). So it isn’t necessarily a mirage. He threw a perfect eighth yesterday as he continues to be one of the main setup men with Carl Edwards Jr. injured.
- Sidekick - Tommy La Stella (.120). All he does is get on base. Four plate appearances yesterday, one hit, two catcher’s interference. If you don’t mind a lack of slugging percentage, Tommy is your guy. He’s got a line of .329/.402/.356 over his 84 plate appearances this year. His one hit yesterday was an RBI single.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat/Goat - Javier Baez and Brian Duensing (-.079). Javy was hitless in three at bats with a strike out. He’s still mired in a slump but with Addison Russell nursing an injury there aren’t any good choices than running him out there every day. Brian had a rough inning. He allowed two hits and two runs. One of the runs was unearned and the inning was aided by a Kris Bryant error.
- Kid - Ian Happ (-.059). Ian was hitless in three at bats. Kyle Schwarber was also hitless in three at bats, but he missed the podiums. It wasn’t a good day for the Cubs offense.
WPA Play of the Game - Brian Duensing allowed a lead off single in the sixth inning. A fielder’s choice and error put runners on first and second with no outs. Brian got a strike out but then Scott Kingery had a two run double to cut the Cubs lead to 4-3. (.186)
*Cubs Play of the Game - Anthony Rizzo lead off the fourth inning with a solo homer to make it 1-0 Cubs. (.130)
- Superhero - Kyle Schwarber and Pedro Strop 12
- Sidekick - Steve Cishek 7
We’ll try not to mourn for very long, but this ends a run of 45 consecutive games that Javier Baez ended in the top three for the Cumulative Heroes and Goats Standings. He’s far from buried as he is just half a point behind Cishek.
Up Next: The Cubs open a three-game set with the Pirates. For those of you who haven’t looked ahead at the Cubs schedule, this is the first of nine straight against the National League Central with series against the Brewers and Cardinals to follow this one. The Cubs next 20 games are against the National League Central and the Los Angeles Dodgers. This is going to be a key stretch in games as the Cubs look to re-take control of the National League Central from the Brewers.
The Cubs will have Mike Montgomery on the mound in this first game. Mike has had two very good starts so far in two tries. He’s thrown a total of 11⅔ innings and allowed just four hits, one walk and one run. He’s struck out nine. The one run was a home run. One of those two starts was against these Pirates. He was the winner in that one in his first start. He also threw a strong game against them last August and won that one. Hopefully the third time isn’t the charm for the Pirates.
The Pirates come in stumbling. They’ve lost seven of 10 dating back to the Cubs taking two out of three from them at the end of May in Pittsburgh. They just dropped two of three to the Dodgers in a brief three game homestand. Their struggles aren’t recent though. They’ve lost 14 of 20. If they lose at least two in the series to the Cubs, they’ll leave town under .500. Chad Kuhl will be their starter. This is a rematch from the May 28 game that the Cubs won. Chad deserved better in that one. He threw six innings and allowed four hits and four walks but only one run. You don’t love it, but that line is going to win most times. But Montgomery was just a little bit better. Chad gets hit a bit harder by lefties (.860 ops) than righties (.700 OPS). The Pirates pitching in general has been slowly tailing off as the season wears on. This might be a series where the bats break out.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Tommy La Stella