Every day, I run a photo of the day’s Superhero. I don’t think I’ve had too many exceptions (if any). But today, I just had to. By the ground rules we created long ago for Heroes and Goats, we ignore pitcher’s hitting (and hitter’s pitching). But I didn’t want to ignore Jon Lester’s day. Particularly, because WPA didn’t particularly capture it. Lester allowed a run in the first which the Cubs immediately grabbed back. He then allowed two more runs in the second. That created a pretty deep WPA hole for Jon. He did largely dig out of it as he then shut the door and the offense battled back.
Jon has long been known for his great pitching. But he displayed a number of other skills last night. I’ve long been impressed by his ability to make changes. He was a terrible hitter when he came to the Cubs and famously had that horrendous hitless streak to start his career. He had a single last night. It drove in two runs. Jon has turned himself into a passable hitter. He’s a good bunter and if the opposing pitcher isn’t particularly sharp against Jon, Jon is going to beat him. On top of that, Jon picked a runner off first who got a little too cute with his lead. He capped his night by snaring a hot liner up the middle that threatened bodily harm. It was quite a day for Jon. His offensive heroics would have placed him in the Superhero spot.
Looking at the bigger picture, the Cubs won their sixth consecutive game. I’ve been explaining the math to those of you who aren’t running scenarios in your head constantly. The math is very kind to the Cubs now that they’ve built a 4 1⁄2 game lead over the Cardinals and five games over the Brewers (five and six respectively in the loss column). They have a four game lead on the entire National League. But also importantly, the Cubs added Noah Syndergaard to the list of really talented pitchers who they’ve won games against. I haven’t kept a running tally, but I know that list includes Kershaw, Nola and Scherzer. Oh yeah, and tonight’s Mets starter Jacob deGrom. They’ll get a second chance to do that tonight. More on that later. If you don’t believe the Cubs will have a fighting chance against any team in Major League Baseball, you haven’t been paying attention. Will they be favored against any team? No. I’m not suggesting that. But they’ll not be completely over matched by anybody.
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 130, August 27 - Cubs rally from early deficit for sixth straight win; 7-4 (77-53)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Anthony Rizzo (.171). Anthony stays blisteringly hot with three more hits in five at bats. Included were two doubles and a solo home run to keep the Cubs consecutive home run streak going. It has reached 12 games which hasn’t happened since 2006. Anthony scored twice and drove in two runs.
- Hero - Jesse Chavez (.169). I love end of season Joe. It doesn’t always work, but he just isn’t as patient anymore and he stalks every win. Pedro Strop has been less dominant of late and so Joe didn’t waste time getting him out of the game after facing two batters and allowing a hit and a walk. Joe played matchups to finish out the game and that lead to Jesse Chavez recording the final two outs for a save. His stuff was really active and he struck out both batters he faced.
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.102). Ben had two hits in five at bats. He drove in a run and scored another. The Cubs greeted Syndergaard with four straight hits to start the night. Those first four hitters combined for nine hits, five doubles, a homer, five runs, three RBI and a walk. Elsewhere, Kris Bryant had four at bats in a rehab start and should add to that mix soon.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Steve Cishek (-.100). Last night was one of those times a broadcaster loves. Right after Len and JD talked about a long scoreless streak for Cishek, he allowed a long home run to blow a 4-3 lead. He retired the other three batters he faced including a strike out.
- Goat - Justin Wilson (-.085). Wilson bridged Strop to Chavez. Wilson allowed one hit to the only batter he faced. A line single on an 0-2 pitch. That loaded the bases and set the stage for Chavez’ heroics.
- Kid - David Bote (-.067). Even batting ninth David finds himself in a number of leverage spots. He did have a hit yesterday in four at bats. He struck out with runners on first and second to end the fourth and he also struck out to end the six with a runner on first.
WPA Play of the Game: For the second time this year, a pitcher ends up with the WPA Play of the Game. Both times it was Jon Lester. Last time was a game against the Twins back on July 1. This time, he batted with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning. He had a two run single to give the Cubs a 4-3 lead. (.194)
*Mets Play of the Game: Kevin Plawecki’s home run off of Steve Cishek to tie the game leading of the seventh. (.190)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Hero - Pedro Strop 19
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist 17
Up Next: Game two of the three game set and game six on the season between these two teams. The Cubs will be looking for six wins in six tries against the Mets this year and ninth straight win against the Mets dating back to last year. That would also be their seventh straight win overall. They’ll send Cole Hamels to the mound for his second playoff-like pitching matchup this month. Cole is 9-9 with a 3.82 ERA on the season but 4-0 as a Cub in five starts. In his last seven starts, he’s 5-1 with a 2.78 ERA. As a Cub, he’s thrown 34 innings, allowing 24 hits, eight walks, no home runs, four runs (three earned) and struck out 30. He’s been nothing short of phenomenal. Cole is coming off of a complete game, eight hit, two walk, one run effort against the Reds. Don’t be surprised if Joe has a little quicker hook tonight after throwing 114 pitches five days ago. He hasn’t started a game against the Mets since 2015. There is little relevance to it, but when he left the NL, Hamels had a 2-0 record and a 1.00 ERA over his last five starts and 36 innings of work against the Mets. So if nothing else, he has fond memories.
Jacob deGrom is on the hill for the Mets. He has by many measures been the best pitcher in the NL this year. He is 8-8 with a 1.71 ERA on the season in 174 innings of work. His last seven starts he is 3-4 with a 1.78 ERA. He’s coming off of a loss at home to the Giants. He threw six innings allowing four hits, four walks and two runs (one earned) while striking out 10. That line shouldn’t lose a ton of games. He’s been a victim of poor run support often this year. The Mets have let him go past the 100 pitch mark often, so expect him to pitch deep into this game. He faced the Cubs on June 2 and was fantastic. He threw seven innings and allowed seven hits, two walks and one run while striking out 13. He also threw a complete game with one run allowed last year in June against the Cubs. But his last start in Wrigley Field goes all of the way back to May of 2015. The Cubs scored four on him that day. The Cubs did win that June 2 game in extra innings long after Jacob was out of the game. Let’s hope they can once again keep it close and win it late.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed