Not often, but sometimes you feel sorry for the other guy. Not the Reds mind you. They surely didn’t lose a moment’s thought about sweeping the Cubs in their place earlier this year, and for a time the position that put the Cubs in. Nah, I feel sorry for Homer Bailey. He had at one point a promising career and maybe, just maybe, he can find his way back. But if you didn’t catch the stat, the Reds are 1-17 when Homer starts. To put that into perspective, in games that Homer doesn’t start, the Reds are 55-58. Not exactly a contender, but essentially a .500 team. That’s brutal. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
The Cubs took care of business Sunday and all four games in this series. As seems to be constantly the case lately, the Cubs were doing something they haven’t done in decades. The four game sweep of the Reds was the first time the Cubs have done that since 1945. Pretty crazy. It isn’t like they don’t fairly regularly have four game series between them. But they did what they had to do. The net result is a four game lead over the Cardinals and 4½ over the Brewers. Better still, it is five in the loss column ahead of the Cardinals and six ahead of the Brewers.
We haven’t talked about the math in that for a little while now, but I’ll give it to you today. The Cubs are now 23 games over .500. So if they play one over .500 the rest of the way, they’ll be at 24 over, a 93 win season. To get to 93 wins, the Cardinals would have to finish out their season with 20 wins in their last 31 games. For the Brewers, it would be 20 of 30. In fairness, the Cardinals have won 22 of their last 30. So they’ve at least recently done it. But this would mean that they won 42 of their last 60 games. That’s a .700 winning percentage or a 113-win pace. So they basically have to have been the Red Sox over the last 60 games. They still have a four game set with the Dodgers at the end of August and into September. The Brewers on the other hand, they’ve won just 16 of their last 30. So winning 20 of their next 30, that’s a bit of a stretch.
But of course, you are saying that isn’t impossible for either team. Well, the Cubs haven’t played a lot of 33 game stretches at one over .500 either. I’ll leave the math to you, but if the Cubs manage to even go three over .500 over their last 33 games, they’ll win 95 games and it gets all the harder for either team to catch them. If the Cubs don’t win the division at this point, it will be because they played poorly. Kris Bryant will return soon and the Cubs lineup and bench will get even deeper. When rosters expand, the Cubs will add a handful of guys who have recorded some meaningful outs at times for this team. The bullpen will get deeper. The Cubs are now on a 95+ win pace for the entire 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 129, August 26 - Cubs pound Reds in 9-0 shutout, sweep four game set (76-53)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kyle Hendricks (.213). Kyle threw seven shutout innings and allowed only two hits and a walk. He struck out five.
- Hero - David Bote (.159). David had two hits including a long home run. He drove in three runs on the day.
- Sidekick - Jason Heyward (.118). Jason had quite a day himself at the plate. He had four hits in four at bats, drove in two runs, scored three, and had a triple. Jason had been in a bit of a slump, so this one was probably pretty sweet for him.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.024). 9-0 victories always make for some rough people on the Goat podiums. Anthony had two hits in four at bats and scored three times. This was a tough one for him to wind up in the Billy Goat place.
- Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.015). Kyle only had one hit in four at bats. Of course that one hit was a home run. Some days Heroes and Goats doesn’t play nice.
- Kid - Albert Almora Jr. (-.012). Albert had one hit in four at bats as well. The Cubs had 13 hits and a walk on the day. Only Willson Contreras didn’t have a hit, but he drove in a run and that got him out of the bottom spots.
WPA Play of the Game: With the Cubs leading 3-0 in the third, David Bote batted with a runner on first and two outs. He sent one out onto the street for his sixth home run and his sixth WPA play of the Game already. (.098)All of his appearances are positive ones, three have come in the last five games. David has had a flare for the dramatic in his young career.
*Reds Play of the Game: Tucker Barnhart lead off the third inning with a single. He was the only Red with a hit off of Hendricks. (.036)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Hero - Pedro Strop 19
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist 16
Up Next: The New York Mets come to town for a three game set. While the Mets only have a slightly better record than the Reds, this will be a bit of a step in class. For one, the Mets are actually playing fairly well lately, not withstanding their 15-0 loss on Sunday. They still took two of three from the Nationals. Before that, they split four with the Giants and before that they took two of three in Philadelphia. Not only have they won six of 10, but 12 of 20 and even 15 of 30. So things have been less bad for the Mets of late. And they’ll be sending their two best pitchers to the mound the next two nights.
Jon Lester will get the start for the Cubs. He is 14-5 with a 3.64 ERA on the year. He is only 2-3 with a 7.08 ERA over his last seven despite having won his last two starts and only allowing one run in 12 innings over those two starts. Jon had been pitching pretty poorly before that. The Mets have just a 14-19 record against left handed starters and so hopefully, a couple of lefties for the Cubs in the first two games of the series will do the trick. Jon faced the Mets back in June and pitched fantastically in a win. He threw seven innings and allowed only two hits and three walks while striking out seven. He didn’t allow a run. He has a personal four game winning streak against the Mets over his last four starts dating back to July 2016. Over those four games, he’s thrown 27⅔ innings, allowing only 17 hits, 11 walks and four runs while striking out 25. Just don’t go back to the fifth start back. It changes the picture drastically.
Noah Syndergaard will be the opposition. Noah has been a little less effective this year after having missed most of 2017. Still, he is 9-3 with a 3.38 ERA on the season. He is also 5-2 with a 3.86 ERA over his last seven starts. He comes off of a win against the Giants in New York. He threw six innings in that one and allowed five hits, one walk and two runs while striking out six. He hasn’t faced the Cubs since 2016 but in three lifetime starts between 2015 and 2016, he’s 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA over 18 innings of work and has struck out 22 in 18 innings of work. This one will almost certainly not be easy.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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