The feel of playoff baseball arrived at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon. Of course, like everyone else, I don’t expect the Washington Nationals to make the cut for this year’s postseason. But, they’ve been a mainstay for a few years and they have a talented roster. It isn’t for nothing that they were the presumptive National League East favorites.
There has been a lot of sloppy baseball seen in recent games involving the Cubs, not the least of which being because they’ve been playing the San Diego Padres and the Kansas City Royals. But this one didn’t feel that way. The game started with the Nationals turning two hits and a hit by pitch into a run in the first. A couple of more singles in the second and the Nationals were up 2-0. But despite putting eight hits together against Kyle Hendricks in six innings, the Nationals managed only those two runs.
In those same six innings, the Cubs managed just one hit of their own. Jeremy Hellickson was superb. Oddly, for a pitcher who’s calling card had been his control, his issue on this day ended up being walks. Particularly walks to Anthony Rizzo. Jeremy retired 17 of the first 18 hitters he faced, with the lone exception having been a four pitch walk toRizzo to start the ballgame. He was cruising along with two outs in the sixth when he lost a 13-pitch battle to Rizzo, resulting in a walk. Javier Baez followed with a walk of his own and that brought Ben Zobrist to the plate. Ben has been responsible for so many key hits as a Cub, you just knew he’d have a good at bat. And he did. But it too ended up in a walk.
That left Jason Heyward up with the bases loaded and two outs. The Nationals summoned Sammy Solis, a tough lefthanded pitcher to face Jason who has really turned around his numbers against left handed pitchers this year. If you haven’t seen it, he has a .274/.344/.415 line against righties and a .307/.358/.400 against lefties. If you squint a little, he’s exactly the same hitter. Jason came through on a 2-0 pitch with a line drive single, driving in two runs to tie the game.
An inning later the Cubs turned three singles and a walk into exactly one run with some strangely less aggressive base-running than usual. But one run was all the Cubs ended up needing. The Nationals had a hit in the seventh and two walks in the eight. They had a batter reach on an error in the ninth, but they never scored again after plating runs in the first two innings thanks to superb pitching by the Cubs staff.
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 114, August 8 - Cubs come from behind to win 3-2 against Nationals (67-48)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Carl Edwards Jr. (.336). Carl was summoned with runners on first and second and no outs and the Cubs nursing a 3-2 lead. Carl was able to escape the jam, facing only two batters, with a little help from Willson Contreras taking advantage of an over-aggressive rookie base-runner.
- Hero - Jason Heyward (.210). Timing is everything. The Nationals compiled nine hits and two walks and scored two runs. The Cubs managed four hits and six walks. They turned that into three runs. Heyward had one of the hits, a two-run single. It was his only time on base in four at bats.
- Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo (.172). Anthony has been hitting the ball all over the place and with authority. On this day, his contribution was his patience at the plate. Behaving like an old-fashioned lead-off man for once, Anthony drew three walks in four plate appearances and basically pestered Nationals pitching all day long.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Brandon Kintzler (-.212). Joe Maddon was quick to note that all of his pitchers threw well on Friday and that he didn’t want to discuss the umpiring. I was listening on the radio for this one, so I’ll leave that for your interpretation. Kintzler walked the only two men he faced in the eighth, setting the stage for the heroics of Contreras and Edwards.
- Goat - David Bote (-.144). Mama told me there would be days like this. It happens to everyone kid. Both had just one walk in four plate appearances including a strike out to end the sixth inning with the bases still loaded (-.076). He was also caught stealing after his walk.
- Kid - Javier Baez (-.093). Javy had just the one walk in four plate appearances, but it was a big one.
WPA Play of the Game: No question about this one. Jason Heyward’s two run single. (.270)
*Nationals Play of the Game: Juan Soto’s walk in the eighth inning following Bryce Harper’s lead-off walk to put runners on first and second with no outs. (.126)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 28.5
- Hero - Ben Zobrist 16
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop 15
Up Next: Game two of the three game set this afternoon. Jon Lester will be on the mound for the Cubs. He is 12-4 with a 3.44 ERA. But there has been much talk about his tailspin since the All-Star break. He is 2-2 with a 6.81 ERA in his last seven starts which actually includes three starts before the break that weren’t great either. Last time out he faced the Padres and lasted just five innings allowing eight hits, two walks, five runs and two home runs. He only struck out one and recorded a no decision. He faced the Nationals twice last year and had no record. He totaled 12⅔ innings of work, nine hits, four walks and four runs allowed. He struck out 14 and allowed no homers. If he pitches like that today, I have to believe the Cubs will record a victory.
Tanner Roark will be the man trying to stand in the way of that. He is 6-12 with a 4.21 ERA. That’s a shockingly bad W/L record for a man with a 4.21 ERA. He is 3-4 with a 4.09 ERA in his last seven starts. He’s won his last three stars actually and has thrown 22 innings allowing just two runs in three starts against the Reds, Mets and Brewers. Two of those three teams are pretty good, so you know he’s throwing the ball well of late. He faced the Cubs once last year and he won that start. He lasted 6⅓ innings and allowed five hits, three walks and two runs. He did not appear in the playoffs last year. Over the last three years and four starts against Cubs, he is 3-0 and has allowed just eight earned runs in 23 innings of work.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Carl Edwards Jr.