Tommy La Stella pinch hit against Jacob deGrom the other night with a runner on first and no outs in a tie game. I noticed in that at bat that deGrom mostly threw fastballs with a mix of right down the middle and just slightly in. I have to acknowledge that deGrom is one of the hardest throwing starting pitchers in baseball. But, the implication was clear. La Stella was not going to do any real damage and so he just went right after him. In the odd chance that La Stella did catch up with a fastball, the expectation was that it would only be a single. And with Albert Almora on first, it would be a hard single to left, so it wouldn’t even send the runner to third likely.
Fast forward to last night. Tommy got another opportunity to pinch hit against the Braves with a runner on first, the Cubs down one in the sixth with a runner on first. This time, Tommy was facing Mike Foltynewicz, another of the game’s top youngsters. This was an interesting one, not only did Tommy hit a two-run home-run that ended up being the game winner, he took the ball to right field. Tommy almost exclusively hits the ball in line with the regularly positioned short stop. He hits balls at short and left center. So this was an interesting development. It’s a valuable skill to be able to just loop balls into left field. But keeping pitchers honest is a thing too.
After Tommy’s home run, the Cubs bullpen locked down the final three four innings holding a one run lead. They retired 12 of 13 batters after the home run with only a lone single in the seventh. Brandon Kintzler had retired two batters in the fifth before the Cubs took the lead, so in all, five Cubs relievers retired 14 of 15 batters they faced. Allowing just a single and a sacrifice fly. That’s some quality relief work.
With the win, the Cubs move back to their season high 25 games over .500. The Cubs need to play just one game over .500 to reach 94 wins or one game under to reach 93. The Cubs have a full four-game lead on the entire National League for best record. It doesn’t look like anyone else in the National League is going to win over 90 games, so there should be some margin of error barring a total collapse. Yes, we’ve all, or almost all, been around for some pretty epic Cubs collapses in the past. Including one or two that started later than this. But these aren’t those Cubs. These Cubs have arguably the deepest roster in the National League and it will only get deeper on Saturday when the rosters start expanding. Nearly every player the Cubs add will have already contributed in some meaningful way to the Cubs’ successes this 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 133, August 30 - Cubs squander early lead but battle back for 5-4 win (79-54)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Tommy La Stella (.291). I’ve seen it said that Tommy La Stella is going to set a Cubs single season pinch hit record mostly because he gets the most opportunities. That’s not entirely fair. Tommy has a .313/.389/.422 line as a pinch hitter. Yes, last night’s home run boosted that slugging percentage. But, that line plays period. Tommy is absolutely one of the game’s best pinch hitters. Yes, opportunity always plays into it, but execution does too.
- Hero - Pedro Strop (.204). Pedro has been a God send this year. It saddens me to know that there are still Cubs fans who don’t think highly of Pedro. I can’t ever remember a more consistently good year in and year out Cubs reliever than Pedro. He threw a perfect ninth for his 11th save. He had recorded nine saves previously in his career.
- Sidekick - Carl Edwards Jr. (.143). Carl has been struggling lately, but last night in an important game he was lights out. He dispatched the Braves quickly with a three up three down eighth inning.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Mike Montgomery (-.217). Mike looked good through four innings, even adding a single off of Foltynewicz, no small accomplishment. But he lost it in the fourth so the line doesn’t look so good. He ended up allowing eight hits, one walk and four runs in just 4 1⁄3 innings.
- Goat - David Bote (-.100). David was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice. David did an admirable job filling in for Kris Bryant who should be back Friday or Saturday.
- Kid - Daniel Murphy (-.096). Hey, at least the Cubs still haven’t lost a game that Murphy starts. That’s a pretty cool stat eight games in. He had a hitless night in five at bats before being replaced defensively.
WPA Play of the Game: Tommy La Stella’s one-out, pinch-hit, two-run home-run gave the Cubs a 5-4 lead. (.291) Oddly, this is Tommy’s first positive WPA Play of the Game.
*Braves Play of the Game: With runners on first and third and no outs in the fifth following two straight Braves singles, Freddie Freeman tripled to left center, scoring two runs to tie the game at three. (.226)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 21
- Hero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist 17.5
Up Next: The Cubs move on to the second of four cities on this 11 game trip. They move now to Philadelphia for three games. The Phillies won Wednesday night, but aside from that this is a team moving in the wrong direction. They just lost two of three at home to the Nationals. They have dropped seven of 10, 13 of 20, 17 of 30. That said, know that the Phillies are 42-24 at home. They are a significantly better team at home. They are 16-15 against left handed pitchers (55-47 vs. righties). When the two teams met at Wrigley in June, the Cubs took two of three. The Cubs also took four of seven last year.
Jose Quintana will be the starter in game one. He is 11-9 with a 4.33 ERA. Over his last seven, he’s 3-3 with a 5.30 ERA. Last time out, he lasted only five innings but picked up a win against the Reds. He allowed six hits, three walks and allowing two runs while only striking out two hitters. He did face the Phillies back in June. He pitched 5⅔ innings in that game and allowed three hits, two walks and two runs while striking out 10. Jose has never recorded a win against the Phillies. He has a 5.94 ERA in three career starts against them.
The Phillies counter with Nick Pivetta who is 7-10 with a 4.76 ERA. He is 1-3 with a 5.22 ERA over his last seven. Last time out he pitched in Toronto and got a no decision. He threw 6⅔ innings and allowed seven hits, three walks and five runs. He struck out four and allowed two home runs. He faced the Cubs earlier this year and took a loss. He threw five innings and allowed six hits, one walk and four runs. He struck out six and allowed a home run. He also faced the Cubs last August and he won that one. He lasted five innings in that one as well allowing six hits, four walks and three runs (two earned). So the Cubs hitters should be pretty familiar with him.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Tommy La Stella
Carl Edwards Jr.