As the Cubs drift towards the finish line of the first “half” of the season, they’ve now received two strong pitching performances back to back. It’s always been funny to me that we call the time after the All-Star break the second half. For the Cubs, the second half began a little more than a week ago and for some teams, it was almost two weeks ago. Anyway, I digress. Jose Quintana followed up the very strong pitching performance of Kyle Hendricks on Monday night with one of his own. It was a little less dominant and a lot shorter, but it was okay. The bullpen had his back and the Cubs pitchers combined on a shutout.
Like so many games, the glass can be half full or half empty, depending on how you want to look at it. The Cubs have held the Giants to two runs in just shy of 20 innings pitched so far in the series. That’s obviously very good. If the Cubs can get the kind of starting pitching in the second half that they’ve gotten in the past two days, the biggest things the Cubs will have to worry about will be how to line up the playoff rotation and which fringe pieces can be added at the trade deadline.
Or you could view the glass as half empty. The Cubs have plated just three runs in 20 innings at the plate. After a home stand that saw them score 61 runs in eight games, they score just three runs in two games. So the inconsistency remains. The only counter point I offer is that there were at least a small handful of balls that were absolutely demolished and just didn’t get out of cavernous AT&T Park. Kris Bryant will be back today and Anthony Rizzo should be back in the lineup too. The Cubs have gotten much less production from those two than could reasonably have been expected so far this season. It is likely that some of the other Cubs won’t be able to sustain the excellent level of production they’ve had, but at least the progression and production of Bryant and Rizzo, the two leaders of this offense, will cover for any drop off the Cubs will have offensively from players who had outstanding halves.
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 89, July 10 - Cubs shut out Giants 2-0 (52-37)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jose Quintana (.347). Jose threw six innings of three hit, two walk ball. He struck out three. He picked up a win for his efforts. He’s 7-5 with a 3.24 ERA in his last 15 starts. Or if you prefer, 4-3 with a 3.04 in his last 10 starts. The overall results are there, he just needs to get locked into a bit more consistency to be the pitcher the Cubs hope he can be.
- Hero - Addison Russell (.166). Little league home runs have been everywhere in Cubs games lately. Russell doubled in the seventh inning and then on a wild pitch, he moved up to third and the throw to get him was wild, bringing him around to score. He had one hit in four at bats on the day.
- Sidekick - Victor Caratini (.095). His two-out, RBI double made it 2-0 Cubs. He had one hit in three at bats on the day, filling in for Anthony Rizzo at first.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Willson Contreras (-.109). Willson was hitless in four at bats and struck out in three of them.
- Goat - Albert Almora Jr. (-.084). The Cubs offense only has 10 hits in two games in this series. Albert was hitless in four at bats as well. He only struck out twice.
- Kid - Ian Happ (-.049). Ian actually did reach base on a walk and scored a run. He was retired in his two official at bats. One of his outs followed a David Bote single.
WPA Play of the Game: With two outs and a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning, Ian Happ drew a walk. Victor Caratini followed with a two-out, RBI Double to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. (.143) This is Caratini’s first time being responsible for the Play of the Game.
*Giants Play of the Game: Brandon Belt lead off the fourth inning with a single, bringing Andrew McCutchen to the plate. McCutchen drew a walk to put runners on first and second with no outs. (.065). The Giants only had one hit the rest of the game and Belt, who would reach third base while the Cubs were recording a double play, was the only runner to reach scoring position for the Giants.
- Superhero - Javier Baez 16.5
- Hero - Jon Lester 12
- Sidekick Pedro Strop and Ben Zobrist 11
Up Next: The teams finish both this series and the season series this afternoon. The Cubs have already locked in at least a split in the series with their third win. With a win this afternoon, the Cubs would win the season series for the fourth consecutive year against the Giants. Mike Montgomery will look to keep the positive pitching momentum going. He is 3-3 with a 3.68 ERA on the season. In his last seven starts, he’s 2-2 with a 3.18, so his trend continues to be very good. However, he seems to have been a little less effective in his most recent starts. Last time out he took a loss against the Reds after allowing six hits, two walks and three runs in five innings of work. Mike has allowed at least three runs in each of his last three starts. Mike hasn’t started a game against the Giants since September of 2016. In that one, he allowed four runs (three earned) in four innings of work.
Johnny Cueto is the Giants starter. He was pushed back a day to get an extra day of rest ahead of his start. This is what I had to say yesterday about Johnny:
Johnny Cueto is the Giants hurler. He is 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA in just 37 innings of work this year. The former workhorse has broken down the last couple of years, throwing only 147⅓ innings last year and being on pace for less than 100 this year. Last time out, in his first time back after his DL stint, Johnny took a loss against the Cardinals. He allowed 10 hits, two walks and five runs in just five innings of work. Prior to his DL stint, he was 3-0 and had allowed only three runs in 32 innings of work. He last faced the Cubs last May. He went six innings in that game and allowed five hits, one walk and four runs. He did strike out eight, but allowed three home runs and took the loss.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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Carl Edwards Jr.