Some days, these articles are more fun to write than others. It seems like every year one team just has your number. When that team is in your division, the results can be fairly devastating because the sheer number of games you play against them. When that team is the fifth place team in your division it is an awfully bitter pill to swallow. I’m going way out on a limb to suggest the Reds won’t finish last in the Central, but they have resided there for almost the entire season. So suffice to say, many of the other teams in the National League have beaten up on them.
Never mind that the Reds are 36-34 since Jim Riggleman took over or that they are 19-12 since May 31. Disregard that teams who they are going to win the season series from include the Braves and Dodgers. The thing that is going to frustrate Cub fans is that the Reds are 3-7 against the Brewers, 1-9 versus the Cardinals and of course 7-3 against the Cubs. That’s a gut punch to be sure.
Due to injuries, Kris Bryant has played in the 11th most games on the Cubs. He’s played in 66 games and we know a shoulder injury slowed him in a handful of games beyond that. The Cubs have been forced to play without Bryant about a quarter of the time. Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward are other regulars who have spent time on the disabled list. The bullpen has seen injuries to Brandon Morrow and Carl Edwards Jr. Yu Darvish has made only eight starts and at least half of those were ineffective. Every team deals with injuries, but the Cubs have had a fairly large handful.
The Cubs also wake up this morning with the second-best record in the National League. Unfortunately, that leaves them two and a half games out of first place. It is easy to look right now and see a dominant Brewers team that just keeps racking up victories. A team that doesn’t appear fazed at all by injuries or even minor set backs. They’ve relentlessly piled up victories through the season, despite a roster and some peripheral numbers that suggest that this just isn’t a dominant team. Baseball is crazy that way. Despite massive amounts of data and tons of things people use to analyze the game, sometimes a team just keeps on winning. They build confidence and momentum and those two tools make up for all of the things they don’t have.
It is easy to see that. That narrative is definitely developing. Maybe it will hold through the season. Yesterday was probably the first time all year I’ve allowed myself to wonder if they won’t just continue on and reach the high 90s in victories. They’ve certainly positioned themselves well enough. They have already reached the point where if they split their remaining games evenly, they will win 90 games. I still look at the Cubs and say they haven’t played their best baseball yet. Assuming the Cubs get positive contribution from at least one of Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood in the second half, then I believe the Cubs will ultimately approach 100 wins. That’s a big assumption. Right now, the Cubs have to just survive until the All-star break, turn it on in the second half and hope they can once again be a team that wins 50-ish games in their last 81 games to close out the season.
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 85, July 6 - Cubs lose to Reds 3-2 to snap six-game winning streak (49-36)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Ian Happ (.135). Ian had a two-out walk in the seventh with a man on and a one-out single in the ninth after coming into the game late. Alas, there was no scoring in either inning.
- Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.103). Anthony had two hits in four at bats on the day. He had a lead-off single in the second inning and then added a one out single in the eighth that contributed to one of the Cubs runs.
- Sidekick - Randy Rosario (.059). Randy worked around some traffic to record five outs. He did allow two hits and a walk, but none scored as the Cubs bullpen combined for four scoreless innings.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jason Heyward (-.266). Jason was hitless in five at bats. The biggest one was the last one as he battled against Rasiel Iglesias but ultimately hit a weak liner to end the game. He was also the first out of the eighth inning and the last out of the fifth inning with a runner on base. Each of those at bats produced a fair amount of negative WPA.
- Goat - Addison Russell (-.194). Addison was also hitless, though only in four at bats. His largest negative was his final at bat as well, as he made the first out of the ninth inning. (-.091).
- Kid - Willson Contreras (-.101). This one caught me off guard. Willson had two of the Cubs eight hits and scored one of the two runs. His ground out to end the eighth with runners on first and second was a killer. (-.123) He also grounded into a double play to end the second with runners on first and second. (-.090)
WPA Play of the Game: In a game that literally went down to the last pitch of the game, the last play was the biggest play of the game. Jason Heyward made solid contact on a couple of pitches from Iglesias that ended up foul but ultimately Iglesias got the job done. (.147)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Anthony Rizzo’s one out single with a runner on first in the eighth inning. (.111).
- Superhero - Jon Lester and Pedro Strop 13
- Sidekick - Javier Baez 12.5
Up Next: Two teams that have both won seven of 10 will face off on Saturday afternoon at the park. The Reds will be seeking their sixth straight win against the Cubs and the Cubs will be seeking a win so that they can have a shot at winning their third straight series. The Cubs will send Tyler Chatwood to the mound. This first half, other than the birth of his first child, will be one to forget for Tyler. He is 3-5 with a 4.54 ERA. Over his last seven starts, things have been even worse. He is 0-2 with a 6.53 ERA. He’s only pitched into the sixth inning once in those seven start. Last time out, he threw five innings in a no decision against the Twins. He allowed seven hits, three walks, and seven runs. This was one of the first times this season where he wasn’t able to escape a number of his often self-created jams. He did face the Reds once this season, way back on April 2. In that game he was a hard luck loser when he threw six innings and allowed four hits, six walks but only one run as the Cubs lost 1-0.
Matt Harvey is the Reds starter. Matt is 4-5 with a 4.91 ERA. He’s been slowly turning things around though and is 3-3 with a 4.31 ERA over his last seven starts. Included in that is a strong start against the Cubs on June 21. In that game, he threw six innings and allowed just five hits, one walk and two runs. He’s won his last three starts including a win over the smoking hot Brewers and the early National League front runner Braves team. Without doing a lot of research, I’m going to guess that there aren’t a lot of pitchers who can boast wins against all three of those teams. Doing so in three consecutive starts is impressive. Fangraphs gives the Cubs 64.5% win odds for today and the money line also favors the Cubs. If I were a betting man, my money would not be on the Cubs with this match-up, let’s hope I’m wrong.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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