It seems like I’ve written a lot of headlines like this one, particularly recently. The Cubs have frequently found themselves in early holes and then dug their way out. Certainly, it isn’t ideal to always start out fighting uphill as that is clearly not a great recipe for success. But kudos to this offense for continuing to battle regardless of the score. The offense has scored a ton of runs of late and it is working right now against lesser competition. Hopefully, once the opposition starts to improve, some of the Cubs pitchers will have either gotten healthy or worked out some of the problems they’ve had as of late.
In this one, Kyle Hendricks struggled a bit, but showed some signs of improvement. I’ve said it a bunch of times in this space, he’s been a better pitcher from July to the end of the season than April to June through his career. It’s difficult to understand a scientific reason for a guy being consistently better in one half of the season than the other, so you do hesitate to put too much stock in it continuing. But it is possible that Hendricks gets into some kind of a groove over time. Whatever the case, I’m hoping it holds true again this year. The Cubs need more from their much hyped starting rotation.
The bullpen was fantastic with four scoreless innings from four different relievers, allowing just one hit between them. On a day when it appears Brandon Morrow was not available and with Carl Edwards Jr. still rehabbing an injury at Triple-A Iowa, other guys stepped up. Certainly coming off of an off day, there were some fresh arms down there. No one was extended and with another off day Thursday, the Cubs should have a full assortment of relievers ready to go as needed Wednesday.
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 83, July 3 - Cubs rally from 3-0 deficit to win 5-3 for fifth straight (48-35)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Steve Cishek (.123). This game was clearly a team effort with no one really standing out by WPA standards. Steve was used in his normal role. He was given the highest leverage inning out of the pen while the Cubs were leading. He threw the eighth inning after the Cubs grabbed a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh and he faced the Tigers 2-3-4 hitters. He retired all three, the last two via strike out.
- Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.092). A little surprising that no one on the offense was higher given the comeback from down 3-0. But, that had a little to do with leaving men on base ahead of the scoring and then with four different Cubs combining to produce the three run rally. Rizzo had just one hit in four at bats, but it was an RBI single to tie the game at 3-3 in the fifth. He also added an RBI fielder’s choice in the seventh for the go ahead run.
- Sidekick - Justin Wilson (.090). After a couple of subpar outings, it was good to see Wilson throw a strong inning. He essentially retired four batters in the seventh inning with the score tied at 3-3 as the inning was extended on an error by Addison Russell.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Javier Baez (-.094). Javy was the only starting position player without a hit. He was hitless in four at bats. He was twice retired with a runner at first and that gave a little extra negative bump to his score.
- Goat - Kyle Hendricks (-.091). Kyle threw five innings and allowed seven hits, one walk and three runs. I’m going call this one progress as there was just the one walk and there were no home runs. If Kyle can limit the walks and homers, he’ll be just fine. Of course water is wet and you could say to essentially every pitcher.
- Kid - David Bote (-.018). I actually had to double check this one after I saw it. David batted once and drew a walk. Odd that it would produce negative WPA. Alas, he was subsequently caught stealing to end the inning. Thus, negative WPA.
WPA Play of the Game: The first two batters of the Cubs fifth inning doubled, producing the Cubs first run. That brought Jason Heyward to the plate. Jason also doubled to cut the deficit to 3-2. (.135)
*Tigers Play of the Game: The Cubs loaded the bases with two walks and a double in the third inning around a strike out of Kyle Hendricks. That brought Jason Heyward to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. As hot as he’s been, it was strange to see him not come through as he popped out to third base. (-.089). (I believe this is the first time one player has accounted for both the positive and negative event of the day).
- Superhero - Jon Lester and Pedro Strop 13
- Sidekick - Javier Baez 12.5
Up Next: The Cubs have won five straight and are 13 games above .500. Both of those numbers are season highs. This will be the third attempt at six straight wins and the fourth attempt to get to 14 over. Let’s see if this one can break through the wall. Jose Quintana will be the Cubs pitcher. He is no stranger to the Detroit Tigers, though this Tigers team is not the one he faced for much of the time he was with the White Sox. Q is 6-6 with a 4.31 ERA on the season. He’s 1-3 with a 4.10 ERA in his last seven starts. Inconsistency has been the only consistent thing for Q this year. Last time out, he threw 5.1 innings in a no decision against the Dodgers. He allowed seven hits, three walks and three runs while striking out four. The last time Jose faced the Tigers was last year, before being traded to the Cubs. That start did not go well. In 5.1 innings, he was tagged with five hits, including three home runs, three walks and six runs. These Tigers are barely recognizable as the same team however.
Francisco Liriano is the Tigers starter. I’m so used to him being a Pirates starter that rather than saying the Cubs were familiar with him from his days in Pittsburgh I just initially typed that he was the Pirates starter. So yeah, the Cubs are familiar with him. This year, he is 3-4 with a 3.99 ERA. In his last seven starts, he is 0-3 with a 4.46 ERA, so things are not trending well at all for him, including three straight losses. The last time he faced the Cubs was 2016 when he faced the Cubs three times, losing two of them. The Cubs tagged him for 14 runs in 15.1 innings in 2016. I do like the probability of the Cubs winning a high scoring affair. If I’m wrong on that, I hope it is that the Cubs are winning because Q shut down the Tigers rather than it being a high scoring affair.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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Albert Almora Jr.