After a lot of driving, getting rained on for days and watching a lot of softball, I’m glad to be back at home and hope to get back to normal. Thanks all of you for your patience over the weekend as my articles had to be a little more bare bones than usual. Fortunately, while I was otherwise occupied, the Cubs were largely taking care of business. Sure, given that the Cubs were at home and the Cardinals have been backsliding for a while, it would have been nice to get out with four games and certainly the second half of the doubleheader Saturday looked winnable, but sweeping double headers is hard. Winning three of five is a perfectly good recipe for success. I can all but guarantee if the Cubs could lock in winning three of five from here out that they’d win the division and probably have a coin-flip at worst for the best record in the National League.
On Sunday, Jose Quintana turned in a strong performance. He threw seven inning and allowed six hits and four walks. He struck out six and only allowed two runs. That’s a strong performance. I’ll never understand why a large portion of Cub nation looks at Jose Quintana as less than he actually is. I realize you can’t just lop off the two worst starts of a player’s whole season and ignore them. But really, one of the two games was pitched in the most brutal conditions I can remember a game played in. When Jose Quintana pitches against anyone other than the Braves, he has 97⅔ innings and 35 runs allowed (32 earned). That’s a 2.95 ERA. That would slot in as the 14th-best ERA in baseball, best on the Cubs and sixth in the National League.
As usual, the offense took a little while to get going. But once they did get going, they just kept tacking on runs. The Cubs moved to 46-10 when scoring at least four runs. Coupled with the Brewers loss, the Cubs improved to a 3½-game lead in the division. The Cubs continue to have three fewer losses than any team in the National League and continue to have the highest projected win total in the National League. So five games post All-Star Break, all systems are go.
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 98, July 22 - Cubs rally back from early deficit for 7-2 win and take three of five (58-40)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jose Quintana (.222). As we discussed above, he threw seven innings, allowing six hits, four walks, and two runs while striking out six.
- Hero - Kyle Schwarber (.113). Kyle’s sixth inning solo home-run gave the Cubs their first lead of the day at 3-2. It was his only hit on the day in four at bats.
- Sidekick - Willson Contreras (.099). Willson had two hits, two RBI and a run scored on the day in four at bats. His RBI single in the fourth tied the game at 2-2. He then added an RBI single in the eighth.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jason Heyward (-.098). Jason hasn’t appeared a lot down here over the last few months, but despite two walks and a run scored in five plate appearances, today he lands in the bottom spot. The reason was his double play grounder in the fifth with one out and runners on first and second. (-.115)
- Goat - Javier Baez (-.089). With Javy and Jason in the middle of the lineup, the two of them get a lot of opportunities to be in Heroes and Goats and so it seems I’m writing about the two of them more days than not. Javy had one hit in five at bats on Sunday.
- Sidekick - Tommy La Stella (-.028). Tommy was retired as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning after Addison Russell had walked to start the inning.
WPA Play of the Game: Kyle Schwarber came to the plate with two outs in the sixth and the bases empty with the score tied 2-2. He homered to give the Cubs the lead. (.183)
*Cardinals Play of the Game: With one out and a runner on first, Yairo Muniz delivered an RBI double to extend the Cardinals lead to 2-0. (.119)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 19.5
- Hero - Brandon Morrow 13
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop 11
Up Next: The Arizona Diamondbacks come in for a four-game set. This is the first time these two teams have met in 2018. The Diamondbacks were one of the best teams in baseball in the early going, but they have cooled off considerably. Their 54-46 record is respectable enough and has them in second place, just 1½ games behind the Dodgers. However, they are just 4-6 in their last 10, 8-12 in their last 20 and 15-15 in their last 30. So this is not a team setting the league on fire anymore. In fact, they are largely just treading water. They just dropped two of three at home to the Rockies. Prior to that, they had a 3-3 road trip that involved winning two of three in Atlanta and losing two of three in Colorado.
The Cubs will send Luke Farrell to the mound for his second start of the season. Overall on the season he is 3-3 with a 3.86 ERA. As a starter, though, the numbers are much worse. He started against the Reds on June 23 and only last 2⅔ innings and allowed two hits, two walks and three runs. he did strike out four. With six home runs allowed in 28 innings, that’s the biggest Achilles heel. He has also walked 14 men and allowed 24 hits. On the positive side, he’s struck out 37. The Cubs are going to hope they can get four or five innings out of him with the game still within reach.
The Diamondbacks will counter with Patrick Corbin. Patrick is having a very nice season with a 6-4 record and a 3.24 ERA. Over his last seven starts he’s backsliding a bit, with an 0-2 record and a 3.98 ERA. He last recorded a win on June 5. The lack of wins isn’t his fault though. In his last two June starts and his first July start, he threw 19 innings, allowed 13 hits, three walks and two runs while striking out 23. So this is still a very strong pitcher, despite the lack of wins. That stretch should easily produce two or three wins. Last time out, the Braves scored four on him in six innings. He only allowed six hits and one walk, but we know full well how pesky those Braves can be. Patrick has aside from one start pitched very well against the Cubs. Last year he started twice against the Cubs. He threw a total of 9⅔ innings and allowed 15 hits, eight runs (seven earned) and walked two. Almost all of that damage came in a start last August 1 at Wrigley. Aside from that start, Patrick is 4-1 with a 4.40 ERA dating all the way back to 2013 against the Cubs. Patrick has been hit much harder this year by lefthanded hitters (.829 OPS) than righthanded (.545) — a reverse split from a lefthanded pitcher. Expect Joe to utilize an almost entirely lefthanded lineup today, possibly including Victor Caratini behind the plate.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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