Joe Maddon has often said that if you ride all of the ups and downs, baseball will kill you. That has been particularly true of late. The Cubs haven’t won three games in a row since July 14, 15 and 19 surrounding the All-Star Break (these were actually the last three of a four-game winning streak). They also haven’t lost two in a row since July 27 and 28. It feels like it has been win one, lose one since the break. There were a couple of win two, lose ones though, and the Cubs are actually two games over .500 since the break. But recently the pattern has been very satisfying win, crushing defeat. Rinse and repeat.
I can’t promise that the streak will come to an end soon. But I can tell you that the days of the 2018 season are falling away and at this very late date, the Cubs still have the best record in the National League and the Milwaukee Brewers are once again five games in the loss column behind the Cubs. As we get later and later in the season, five games in the loss column becomes more and more statistically important. Circling back to that last paragraph, the Cubs have had inconsistent play. But, they’ve not lost two in a row yet this month. It’s hard to make up five in the loss column on a team that avoids losing streaks.
The Cubs got some pretty good pitching yesterday. Kyle Hendricks was dominant early and that set the tone. The offense jumped out early and gave the Cubs the lead. This isn’t to say that there weren’t at least one or two tense moments, but the game was never particularly close. This was a thoroughly satisfying win to me. The Brewers spent four plus innings in their bullpen which had already been seriously overworked. I suspect the Brewers are less upset about it because they did come and go from Chicago without Josh Hader throwing even one pitch. The Cubs will start a stretch of 23 consecutive games soon and in that stretch will be the remaining six games between these two teams. With those six games remaining, the Brewers remain very much alive. But this win was a positive step towards closing the door on them.
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 119, August 15 - Cubs jump out to early lead and hold on for 8-4 win to split series (69-50)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Anthony Rizzo (.224). People were starting to give up on Anthony before the All-Star break. He has had some help at times from Javier Baez, but he has largely carried this team since. Anthony had two hits and an intentional walk in five plate appearances. One of the hits was a two-run homer in the first and another was an RBI single.
- Hero - Steve Cishek (.111). Steve came into a bases loaded two outs situation in the seventh and got the final out. He then threw a spotless inning in the eighth. Steve has been terrific in 2018 for the Cubs performing in any role he’s been asked to fill.
- Sidekick - Justin Wilson (.089). That same inning put two of the three Heroes on the podium. Justin came into a one out bases loaded situation in the seventh and got a pop up.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Carl Edwards Jr. (-.154). Carl had a rough day. He did record one out in that seventh inning, but not without allowing two Kyle Hendricks inherited runners to score while allowing two hits and a walk.
- Goat - Willson Contreras (-.027). Willson had a hit and a walk, he scored a run in four plate appearances. Basically, someone had to land in these last two spots.
- Kid - Kyle Schwarber (-.013). Kyle had one hit in four at bats. The Cubs had 13 hits and four walks on the day. The kind of day this offense hasn’t produced much of late.
WPA Play of the Game: It didn’t take long for this one. Anthony Rizzo dropped out of the lead-off spot and was placed back in the clean-up spot. He batted with one out and a runner on first. He launched a home-run that reached the basket for an early 2-0 Cubs lead. (.181)
*Brewers Play of the Game: In that seventh inning for the Brewers Hernan Perez, who had replaced Ryan Braun after he left the game early, batted with the bases loaded and one out against Carl Edwards. He singled, moving all of the runners up one base. That cut the Cubs lead to 7-4. (.087).
- Superhero - Javier Baez 25.5
- Hero - Ben Zobrist 16
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop 15
Up Next: The Cubs and Pirates open up a four-game series in Pittsburgh Thursday night. The Pirates just completed a three-city, nine-game road-trip. They finished that trip with three straight losses including a two game sweep at the hands of the Twins. Before that, they lost two of three to the Giants (as part of a four-game series split) so they’ve lost four of their last five and six of 10 overall. They’ve also lost 11 of 20 since their 11 game winning streak that lead them to trade for Chris Archer who threw yesterday and won’t appear in this series. The Pirates are 28-19 against the National League Central, so expect them to be a formidable foe despite their recent woes.
Jon Lester will get the start in the first game of the series. He is 12-5 with a 3.89 ERA on the season. He is 1-3 with an 8.65 ERA in his last seven starts which dates back to the week before the All-Star break. He’s had just one good start in there though the one win was actually in a different game than the one good start. Last time out he was hammered in a start against the Nationals allowing 10 hits, nine runs (eight earned), and three home runs in just 3⅔ innings of work. He at least struck out five and walked one. Jon is 2-1 in four starts against the Pirates so far this year. He’s thrown 23 innings across those four starts and has allowed 23 hits, 12 runs, eight walks and struck out 17. Those numbers were buoyed by one terrific start against them in June in Chicago. They’ve scored exactly four runs against him in each of his other three starts. So the magic number for the Cubs today may be five.
Ivan Nova will be the opposition. He is 7-6 with a 4.42 ERA on the season. He too has been fading over his last seven starts. He does have a 3-1 record, but it is attached to a 5.35 ERA. I feel like I’ve been saying this about a lot of guys lately, but within that last seven starts was one pretty awful start against the Dodgers where he allowed seven runs in five innings. In June and July, those Dodgers wreaked some havoc on the National League pitchers. . In his last start, he threw six innings in a victory against the Giants. He allowed only three hits, two walks and two runs while striking out three. Ivan has faced the Cubs twice this year and he’s won both of them. He has 12⅔ innings of work, 11 hits, two walks and four runs allowed. He’s struck out 14. Over his last five starts against the Cubs, he’s 4-1 with a 3.99 ERA. This doesn’t look like a great match-up on paper. Fortunately, games aren’t won and lost on paper.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Albert Almora Jr.