Well, this is the article I expected I’d be writing soon. The Cubs once again dug an early hole. And once again, they battled back from that deficit. But they eventually lost the game in extra innings. As a result, they lost the series to the San Francisco Giants. The Giants are a pretty simple team to figure out. They are 30-17 at home and 19-29 on the road. So it is about what most teams should expect that the Cubs took two of three from them at Wrigley and then lost two of three to them at AT&T Park. The Arizona Diamondbacks were the
last only team to go into San Francisco and come away with a series win this year. It’s an even number year, so don’t entirely count out the Giants for a second half run at a wildcard spot if they can get some of their key players healthy.
So I’ll go glass half empty, half full again today. The glass is half full! Do you remember when an early 4-0 deficit meant that you could turn off the channel and go do something with your baseball watching time? For a few years now, the Cubs have flipped that script. This team comes from behind with frequency. After four runs allowed in the first, Mike Montgomery and six other Cubs combined to throw 11 scoreless innings. Unfortunately, James Norwood ran out of gas in the 13th. Also in the glass half full column, Jason Heyward hit a home run and reached base four times. Kris Bryant returned to the lineup and homered in his first game back, his first since June 15 and only his second since May 14. Also, the Brewers lost again to the Marlins, so no further drop in the standings.
The glass is half empty! This is the fourth consecutive start that Mike Montgomery has been charged with at least three earned runs. That is not a good trend. I won’t dismiss the five very strong starts before that, but either Mike is wearing down a little during this long stretch of starts or the league has figured him out a little. Either way, hopefully the All-Star break and a little extra rest will do him some good. Also in the glass half empty, Anthony Rizzo recorded his fourth consecutive start in which he had no hits in five at bats. Anthony is struggling big time right now. This will pass. As a whole, the Cubs offense had 33 innings at the plate in this series. They recorded just 21 hits. I included this in the glass half empty section, but I’m just going to tip my cap to some talented Giants pitchers who were throwing well.
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 90, July 11 - Cubs rally back from four run deficit, lose in extra innings 5-4 (52-38)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Luke Farrell (.264). There are two Cubs pitchers that make me cringe whenever they take their mound. One of them occasionally gets the job done. That one is Luke and it wasn’t pretty, but he worked around three walks to produce two scoreless innings while trying to buy some time for the bats to wake up.
- Hero - Brandon Morrow (.132). Brandon has been an extremely effective reliever for the Cubs. Hopefully he’s strong when we reach games 163+. He threw a perfect 11th inning yesterday.
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop (.130). Pedro worked around an error and a hit by pitch in the seventh and then recorded the first out in the eighth.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.247). Anthony had just one walk in six plate appearances. He struck out twice. He did give one a good ride in the first that would have changed the entire complexion of this game with two men on, but it ended up being a very long out. He also grounded out with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth. (-.121)
- Goat - James Norwood (-.236). James recorded five outs in this one. He allowed three hits, a walk and a run. He struck out two. He wasn’t the first and won’t be the last to be beaten by Buster Posey. He seemed to be a little out of gas as he’s been largely used in one inning roles this year.
- Kid - Mike Montgomery (-.199). Mike ended up lasting five innings and allowing eight hits, one walk and four runs. He only struck out one. In his last four starts, Mike has thrown 21 innings, allowing 27 hits, eight walks, three home runs, and 16 runs (14 earned). His strike outs per nine of 6.00 is just about at the bottom edge of where a pitcher can have success at the big league level and even at that, you’d probably need to allow less than 3.43 walks per nine. He’s allowed a BABIP of .343 over that time and is only stranding 64% of runners. He’s also getting only 38% ground balls. When I look at his nine starts together, I see a K/9 of 5.86 (not good), walk rate of 2.66 (that’s better), a BABIP of .258 (whoa that’s a bad swing, his early results were definitely inflated by a very strong and unsustainable BABIP), and a LOB of 76.8% (again, he was buoyed early on by a very strong and unsustainably high strand rate). His ground ball rate was 49%. Get well soon Yu!
WPA Play of the Game: James Norwood threw a scoreless 12th. He followed that up by recording two pretty quick outs in the 13th and I thought he might escape trouble. But then he was looking at arguably the three best Giants hitters. Brandon Belt walked, Andrew McCutchen singled and that brought Buster Posey to the plate. Pat Hughes noted on the radio broadcast that the outfielders were playing up so as not to allow a blooper to win the game. Posey lifted one deep to right and Kris Bryant, playing right, could not get to it. (.391)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Javy Baez lead off the seventh inning with a solo home run to tie the score at 4-4. (.202)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 16.5
- Hero - Jon Lester, Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop 12
Up Next: The Cubs have an off day today and then Friday night they open a new series in San Diego. Last year, the Cubs were swept in their three games in San Diego as part of a winless trip to California. These two teams will also meet for a four game series in Chicago to start the month of August. As I write this Thursday morning, the Padres have lost seven of 10. They will have played one more game by the time the two teams meet Friday as the Dodgers are in San Diego right now and have already taken two of three from the Padres. The Padres 40-55 record is not great, but it’s been even worse of late, with the Padres losing 14 of 20.
Tyler Chatwood is first up for the Cubs. He is 3-5 with a 5.01 ERA. I mentioned Cub pitchers who make me cringe whenever they are in the game. Tyler is the other one. Last time out Tyler threw 120 pitches over 5.2 innings. He allowed nine hits, four walks and seven runs. The second consecutive start in which he’s allowed seven earned runs. As a result, he’s got a 6.75 ERA over his last seven starts. He’s thrown just 33⅓ innings over those seven starts and walked 30 batters. Early on this season when he allowed a lot of walks, he wasn’t allowing a lot of hits. But even that is out the window lately. He’s allowed 37 hits in those 33⅓ innings. Two batters an inning on average will get you destroyed. The one relatively decent start that Tyler had in the last seven was against a very good Dodgers team when he threw five innings and allowed two hits, five walks and one run. It didn’t work in May against the Giants, but maybe Tyler can have good results against a team he’s very familiar with from his time with the Rockies. Tyler faced the Giants four times in 2017. He threw a total of 24⅓ innings, allowing 19 hits, 11 runs, nine walks (!?!) and 22 strike outs. Last June 3, he threw eight innings of four hit, one walk, one run, eight strike out ball in San Diego. That would be mana from the heavens right now.
Old pal Clayton Richard is slated to start Friday. Clayton is 7-8 with a 4.50 ERA on the season. Over his last seven starts he is 4-2 with a 4.09. Last time out, he threw five innings in a no decision against the Diamondbacks. He allowed five hits, four walks and three runs while striking out two. He faced the Cubs once last year and threw 6⅓ innings allowing five hits, three walks and two runs while striking out three. This is a guy the Cubs should be able to hit. But then, most of baseball feels that way and Clayton is still plugging along.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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