The Cubs and Mets finished up Tuesday night’s game on Wednesday afternoon to start a day of bonus baseball. The result? Two walks (one by Javier Baez of all people, the other intentional to Kyle Schwarber) following a wild throw on Victor Caratini’s bunt attempt. That loaded the bases and one out later Ben Zobrist had an RBI single for the walk-off win. That was the Cubs’ seventh consecutive victory, made them a perfect 6-0 on the season with one to play against the Mets and gives them nine consecutive wins against the Mets dating back to last year. Impressive all around.
This was despite a dominant outing in a dominant season for Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The Cubs did manage eight hits and a walk off of deGrom, but could only plate a single run on a sacrifice fly off of the bat of David Bote. The fantastic outing by deGrom is part of the reason we see Ben Zobrist up top in the Superhero spot. Ben didn’t start the game, but came off of the bench and had a couple of hits including the game winner. Cole Hamels had another strong outing for the Cubs and for the sixth time in six starts he finds himself on one of the positive podiums. Cole has moved into the top five on the season in a remarkable turn of events.
In the regularly scheduled game, things didn’t go as well. The Cubs allowed a grand slam early and never really recovered. All things must come to an end and the Cubs were fortunate to win two of three facing two of the best pitchers in the National League. Certainly, once you win those two games you get greedy and want to win all three. I get it. we all wanted this one pretty bad. The baseball season is full of gauntlets and this next 11 games will be one for the Cubs. It certainly would have been nice to head out with an eight game winning streak and at least a four game lead in the division.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. I imagine some will want to blame giving a start to Alec Mills. This was as good a time as any to do that, this was normal rest for him and a favorable matchup against a team that has been one of the worst in the NL. Alec recovered nicely after a rough first inning. Certainly, no one is going to look at four runs in five innings and say “that was a good start.” But we applaud veterans all of the time when they have a rough first inning or two and then shut the door. Alec did that to some extent. Hopefully, the Cubs can keep him relatively stretched out and they’ll be able to get him another start or two after the team clinches. I certainly want to see more of Alec, but there is business to be taken care of and this isn’t the time for development.
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 131, August 28/29 - Cubs win a game (2-1) started by Jacob deGrom in extra innings for second time this year; seventh straight win (78-53)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero/Hero (tie) - Ben Zobrist (.285). Ben Came into this game as a pinch hitter in the seventh with a runner on first and one out and singled. He later had the game winning single in the bottom of the 11th with the bases loaded and one out.
- Superhero/Hero (tie) - Cole Hamels (.285). Cole threw five more shutout innings. He allowed four hits and three walks while striking out eight. Unfortunately, due to an error and a couple of unlucky hits, Cole was only able to last five innings.
- Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo (.152). Anthony’s fourth hit of the game in the tenth inning nudged him over the finish line to reach this spot. He edges out three pitchers who each threw a scoreless inning (Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek and Jesse Chavez). Anthony’s got a pile of personal and team achievements, but a three hit game off of deGrom in his finest season has to be a pretty decent one on that list. June 28 to present, Anthony has 237 plate appearances and a .345/.430/.576 (164 wRC+) with 15 doubles and 10 home runs. That’s an MVP caliber season.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Albert Almora Jr. (-.185). Albert did have one hit in five at bats and he scored the one run in regulation. His strike out with the bases loaded and no outs in the 11th lands him here.
- Goat - Daniel Murphy (-.131). Daniel had his first rough day as a Cub going hitless in four at bats before being lifted from the game. He didn’t play in Wednesday’s game, so the Cubs are still undefeated with Murphy in the lineup.
- Kid - Brandon Kintzler (-.127). I wasn’t watching last weekend when Kintzler allowed the back to back home runs. But I never really see anyone make solid contact against him. He also seems to have the equivalent of Schwarber’s luck with the strike zone where he isn’t getting calls that other people do. Now that I’ve made excuses for him, Brandon has been terrible as a Cub. Not a lot of hedging it. In nine innings of work (not a huge sample) he has allowed 17 hits, six walks, three home runs and nine runs. That makes for a 9.00 ERA (9.38 FIP). All caveats apply, a .400 BABIP is crazy and won’t last, a 27.3% HR/FB is really high too.
WPA Play of the Game: After Javier Baez walked to lead off the bottom of the 11th, Victor Caratini laid down a bunt. Mets pitcher Paul Sewald threw the ball away sending runners to second and third with no outs. (.212)
*Play of the Game: Jacob deGrom took matters into his own hands with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth. He had an RBI single to give the Mets their lone run. (.145)
Game 132, August 29 - Cubs walloped by Mets 10-3 to snap winning steak (79-53)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Willson Contreras (.038). Willson had two hits, a walk and two runs scored in four plate appearances. One of the few bright spots in this game was Willson’s offense. This team becomes much more ferocious with his bat contributing.
- Hero - Ian Happ (.030). Ian had one hit in four at bats. The one hit was an RBI single. He did strike out twice.
- Sidekick - Albert Almora Jr. (.007). There were only four Cubs with a positive WPA for this stinker. Albert lands here for getting hit by a pitch. That was his only time on base in four plate appearances.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Alec Mills (-.187). Alec threw five innings and allowed five hits, two walks and four runs. He struck out five.
- Goat - Ben Zobrist (-.111). Ben has been so hot lately that I actually skipped over him on my first draft today. Ben lands here despite having a hit in four at bats. The Cubs only had six hits and three walks, so it’s odd to see him here when he had a hit. However, the double play he hit into in the fifth inning was particularly damaging, coming with runners at first and second and one out. The Cubs were only down 4-1 and with Zobrist at the plate and Rizzo behind him, that felt like the spot where the Cubs could come back.
- Kid - David Bote (-.080). David had a rough day at the plate going hitless in four at bats and striking out twice. David’s strike out with runners on first and third and two outs in the first was also a big out at the time.
WPA Play of the Game: Not a lot of question about this one. Alec alternated singles and outs to the first four batters, walked the fifth and then Todd Frazier came to the plate in a 0-0 game with two outs and the bases loaded. He hit a grand slam. (.283)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Ian Happ batted with two outs and a runner on third in the second. He had an RBI single to cut the deficit to 4-1. (.059) That was as close as the Cubs would get.
- Superhero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Hero - Pedro Strop 19
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist 17.5
Up Next: The Cubs will head out on an 11-game, four-city road trip. First up on the trip is a quick stop in Atlanta to make up a game that was rained out on their trip there on May 17. This will be the sixth and final regular season game between the two teams. The Braves have won three of the first five games between the two teams and will be looking to win the season series. With the Braves holding a lead in the National League East and the comes leading the NL Central, there is a chance the two teams will see each other again in the playoffs.
The Cubs will look to Mike Montgomery (to keep their winning streak going?), fresh off of the disabled list. Mike is 4-4 with a 3.62 ERA on the season. He hasn’t started a game since August 7, first spending some time in the bullpen and then heading to the disabled list. When last he started, he had a 2-2 record and a 4.10 ERA over 37⅓ innings of work over his last seven starts. He hasn’t faced the Braves as a starter, but did get into two games as a reliever. In those two games, he threw three innings and allowed two hits, two walks and no runs. He did start two games against the Braves in 2017 posting a 1-1 record. He had 11 innings of work, seven hits and two walks allowed as well as four runs. He struck out six. He actually won his start in Atlanta and lost the one in Chicago.
The Braves counter with Mike Foltynewicz who is 10-8 with a 2.67 ERA on the season. The Cubs face yet another outstanding young pitcher. Over his last seven starts, he is 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 43⅓ innings of work. His results are pretty steady. Last time out against the Marlins, he was a tough luck loser. He allowed just one run over six innings of work but took the loss as the Braves lost 1-0. He allowed only two hits and two walks while striking out eight. He’s faced the Cubs once this year and didn’t get a decision in the game. But you can add Foltynewicz to the list of pitchers who the Cubs outlasted by keeping the game close and then beating the bullpen. Mike threw five innings in a game on May 15 and allowed only three hits. He did walk five while striking out 10. He allowed one run and it was unearned. The Cubs ultimately won 3-2. Another tough one ahead for the Cubs.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game for game 131?
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