The Cubs celebrated the holiday by winning their sixth consecutive game and pushing their record to 14 games over .500. Both of those represent a season high for the Cubs. The Brewers also keep winning and so the Cubs remain one game back, but there is a lot of baseball still to be played. Both teams are looking near certain to make the playoffs but one of them is going to be left with the unfortunate path of having to play in the wildcard game, potentially facing the Dodgers or Diamondbacks. I remain optimistic that the Cubs will win the division, but my hat is off to the Brewers who just keep winning.
Two players particularly shined in this victory. One of them got the Superhero award, the other barely registered in the WPA standings, because his other three at bats were all outs with men on base. Let’s look at the last one first. With the Cubs losing 2-1 in the fourth, Javy Baez singled to start things off. (.048) He was then credited with stealing second when the Tigers tried to pick him off first, he went to second and the throw went into the outfield. He ended up at third base on the play. (.071) After Addison Russell walked, Javy stole home for the second time this year, capped by a phenomenal slide into home. (.008) Once there were runners at first and third and no outs, there was an expectation that at least one run would score (by WPA standards) and so there is very little credit for the steal of home. But that doesn’t make it any less breathtaking. Baez essentially stole a run in this game to tie the score. You can’t know how sequencing would change, but with a strike out and a line out to center following, the Cubs might not have scored that run. Javy is now in the top 10 in the NL in doubles, triples, homers, slugging, RBI, runs and stolen bases. Baez is just off of the pace for a 30-30 season and I wouldn’t rule out him getting there.
Willson Contreras was the hitting star yesterday. After a bit of a slump in June, Willson is hot again. His full season line is fantastic at .284/.370/.465 (wRC+ 126). But from June 23 to present, he’s got a line of .421/.465/.789 (wRC+ 229). He’s hit three of his seven home runs over this stretch as finally his power stroke seems to be showing up in home runs and not just doubles. By any measure, Willson remains one of the best catchers in the National League.
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 84, July 4 - Cubs win 5-2 to sweep Tigers, win sixth straight (49-35)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Willson Contreras (.319). Willson had two hits and a walk in four plate appearances. He drove in three of the Cubs five runs. He had a solo homer to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning and then followed up with a two-run double in the seventh to cap the scoring.
- Hero - Jose Quintana (.131). Jose threw six innings allowing five hits, three walks and two runs. Thanks to the Contreras homer in the bottom of the sixth, he also picked up the win.
- Sidekick - Anthony Bass (.097). WPA for relievers who throw full innings doesn’t account for how rough the inning was. Anthony allowed two hits and a walk in his one inning of work in the seventh. But he ultimately held the line with a huge assist from Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras gunning down a runner at the plate.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Ian Happ (-.144). Tough day at the plate for Ian, retired four times in four at bats. Three of the four times he batted with runners on base. One of those four was a ground ball double play.
- Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.043). After not being in the starting lineup, Anthony pinch hit with runners on first and second and two outs in the sixth and popped out to end the inning. He was hitless in two at bats on the day.
- Kid - Addison Russell (-.033). Addison reached just once in his four plate appearances, via a walk. He was the runner on first that helped set up Javy’s steal of home. He stole second himself later in the inning.
WPA Play of the Game: Willson Contreras’ solo home run with one out in the sixth gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead. (.175)
*Tigers Play of the Game: John Hicks homered with two outs in the third inning to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. (.116)
- Superhero - Jon Lester and Pedro Strop 13
- Sidekick - Javier Baez 12.5
Up Next: After an off-day Thursday, the Cubs will open a three game set with the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. The Reds are 6-4 since they played the Cubs. They just took two of three from the White Sox at home after splitting a four game set with the Brewers. They won the last two from the Brewers, so they’ve won four of five. They also took two out of three in Atlanta after their sweep of the Cubs. The one loss to the Braves was in extra innings and both losses to the Brewers were competitive games. Jim Riggleman has these Reds playing good baseball. They are 18-12 over their last 30 games.
Mike Montgomery will get the start for the Cubs. He is 3-2 with a 3.55 ERA on the year. Over his last seven starts, he is 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA, so he is trending in a very positive direction. Last time out, he picked up a win against the Twins for five innings of seven hit, three walk, five run (three earned) baseball. Not a great start by any means, but the conditions were brutal with intense heat and he survived the high scoring affair. He also faced the Reds in his start before that. He threw six innings in that one allowing six hits, two walks and four runs. So despite the overall trend line being positive, the last two starts have been a little less good. Hopefully he can slow down a talented Reds lineup.
Tyler Mahle is the Reds starter. Tyler has been the Reds best starter throughout. He is 6-6 with a 3.83 ERA. In his last seven starts, he has been even better with a 3-0 record and a 2.84 ERA. In fact, his last loss was eight starts ago against the Cubs on 5/20. That day, he threw six innings and allowed seven hits (including three home-runs), two walks, and four runs. He’s faced the Cubs twice this year and is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA. Some of you may recall that he was the winning pitcher in the 1-0 Reds win against the Cubs in early April. The last start for Tyler was a no decision against the Brewers. He threw 5⅔ innings and allowed six hits, three walks and three runs (one earned).
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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