After last year’s spot starts in the rotation, I felt comfortable with the idea of Mike Montgomery being the fifth starter. Don’t get me wrong, I heard those Tyler Chatwood road ERAs and what not from recent seasons and felt like in leaving Colorado, he could be a great addition to the rotation. Certainly, pretty much every team has to use at least six and often seven or eight (or more) starters due to double headers, injuries and just general fatigue for other starters. So as always, I appreciate the way the Cubs front office lines up depth for the Cubs.
Still, three starts in, there is definitely a case to be made for Mike Montgomery getting several more starts. I don’t know if the league will catch up to him or whatever, but his early results have been fantastic. Certainly seven hits in six innings doesn’t look as impressive as two hits in 5.2 innings the last time he faced the Pirates. But bear in mind that was less than two weeks ago. This was a big test for Mike. It is hard to face the same team two weeks in a row. We saw that early for both teams as both pitchers got jumped on early yesterday in a pitching rematch from the prior series.
Keep that in mind through the rest of this series as well. Both of these teams are pretty familiar with the guys on the other side. Don’t be surprised if a high scoring affair breaks out in one of these games. Additionally, these Pirates have really fallen off of a ledge the last few weeks or so. They surely weren’t as good a team as their early record indicated, but I also don’t think they are as bad a team as their recent performance has indicated. Expect these Pirates to get back off the mat. Hopefully it will start next week against some other team and not today against a pitcher they’ve had some success against. More on that later.
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 60, June 8 - Cubs score three early runs, hold on for 3-1 win (36-24)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Mike Montgomery (.242). With six innings of one run ball yesterday, Mike now has a 2-0 record and a 1.02 ERA as a starter (3.23 FIP). So far he only has a 5.09 K/9 which isn’t ideal, but it is supported by a 1.02 BB/9 which is fantastic. He’s allowed just one home run in 17.2 innings as a starter. He is being bolstered by an amazing .192 BABIP and a 95.2% LOB. It’s not sustainable in the long run surely, but even as some of those numbers normalize, he’s been flat out fantastic.
- Hero - Jason Heyward (.133). All he does is rack up multi-hit games. Alright, that probably isn’t true, but this has been a lot of fun for me to watch. J-Hey was up over a .270 average for a little while yesterday. He had two hits in four at bats and it was a pretty nice stop that robbed him of a third hit. He scored a run after his first inning double. That line since April 19? It’s up to .296/.347/.454, wRC+ 116 in 119 PA. With a more or less sustainable BABIP of .316.
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop (.114). We talked about Pedro yesterday and his fantastic start to the 2018 season. Add on another 1.1 scoreless innings and his first save of the year. He came into the game with the tying run at the plate in the eighth, got a ground out to escape that inning and then worked around a lead off single in the ninth. He did a great job covering for Brandon Morrow who has been overused with all of the recent successes.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Javier Baez (-.073). Ugh. He’s dropping from his perch a top the Heroes and Goats leaderboard as stunningly as he raised to the top of it. He was hitless in three at bats yesterday with a strike out.
- Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.069). Anthony had four plate appearances and recorded a sacrifice fly in one of them. He struck out in the other three. The Cubs won a game in which their two RBI leaders were held hitless.
- Kid- Ian Happ (-.061). WPA just doesn’t respect the defense. Ian Happ was a big part of this win with his defense. That last ball would certainly have scored a run and would have put the Cubs in peril. But he made the grab. At the plate he was hitless in three at bats with a strike out.
WPA Play of the Game - The first two hitters for the Pirates in the top of the second singled. The Cubs had a 2-1 lead after the first, but even approaching the bottom of the Pirates lineup, a scary situation was developing in a hurry. Four of the first six Pirates hitters had singled. But, Montgomery turned to a pitcher’s favorite rally killer. He got Colin Moran to ground into a double play. (.114)
*Pirates Play of the Game - Josh Harrison lead off the game with a single and Austin Meadows followed with a single of his own. (.086) The Pirates were in business. A sac fly and a caught stealing later, this amounted to just a single run.
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 13
- Hero - Kyle Schwarber 12
- Sidekick - Steve Cishek 7
Kyle Schwarber’s stay at the top was quite a bit shorter than Javy’s. I suspect we haven’t heard the last of Kyle though. But Kudos to Strop for making the most of his opportunities so far this year. I apologize in advance for jinxing him, but he last appeared on a negative podium as the Goat on April 14 game against the Cardinals.
Up Next: Game two of the three game set between these two teams. Once again it is a rematch of two weeks ago. Jon Lester is on the hill for the Cubs. He is 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA on the season as he slowly makes a case for being on the National League All-Star team. Last time out he was dominant. He threw seven shutout innings in defeating the Mets. He allowed two hits, three walks and seven strikeouts. He’s had a little bit of trouble against the Pirates this year. In two starts, he’s allowed 15 hits, three walks and eight runs in just 11 innings of work. Those numbers are well off of those Jon has against the rest of the NL.
Nick Kingham will be the Pirates starter. Nick is 2-2 with a 4.03 ERA over his first five starts of his career. He didn’t pitch all that great against the Cubs the last time. He lasted 5.2 innings, but he allowed eight hits, two walks and three runs. He struck out four. He’s had a little bit of trouble with the long ball having allowed four home runs in 29 innings of work. He’s only walked five hitters though, so expect him to be in the zone a lot. Maybe Javier Baez and Kris Bryant can break out today even against a right hand opponent.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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