For me, Friday’s game felt like a metaphor for the season. The game was certainly rough around the edges. It was also generally satisfying. You kind of felt like the Cubs totally had things in control, but yet it could have gone either way right down to the finish. That somehow feels like it will be the story of this Cubs season. Where one bad stretch of games would entirely sink the whole season. As I think back on the game, I can’t decide if it was one of the most thrilling or one of the most frustrating I’ve seen.
With most teams closing in on 50 games left to play, the 2018 season is going to come down to a sprint to the finish in the National League. The Cubs have a one game lead in their division. That qualifies as the biggest divisional lead. There are 11 teams within 5½ games of a playoff spot. Regardless of how the season has gone to this point for any of the teams, one hot or cold stretch could completely change the story on the season. Which team is the healthiest and which team is best at taking care of business within its own division could make the difference.
There appear to only be three teams in the National League just playing out the string. They are the Mets, Marlins and Padres. That could mean an advantage to teams from the National League East with two teams with their eyes firmly set on next year. The Reds have slowed their torrid pace from a month or so ago, but they have still won five of 10 and still appear more satisfied to be a pain in the butt night in and night out rather than flooding the team with minor leaguers looking to get their feet wet. We’re reaching that point in the season where you’ll hear a lot about “if the season ended today.” Well, if the season ended today the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers would have a one game playoff for the National League West crown. The winner would start a five game series against the Phillies with the Phillies having home field advantage. The loser would go home. Crazy.
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 109, August 4 - Cubs build early lead and then hold on for 5-4 win (63-46)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jose Quintana (.254). Jose was fantastic yesterday. He threw six innings and allowed four hits, no walks and one run. Indeed, the only mistake he made ended up as a solo homer.
- Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.158). Anthony continued his torrid hitting since being inserted into the lead-off spot day in, day out. He had three more hits including a solo homer in four at bats. Since moving into the lead-off spot, Anthony had lead-off 19 games. He has 87 plate appearances and a line of .375/.471/.639.
- Sidekick - Brandon Kintzler (.133). Brandon was summoned in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. The Cubs were leading 4-2. He allowed a hard hit ball, but right at David Bote at third base and that was that.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Ian Happ (-.081). This is a tough crowd spot. Ian’s sacrifice fly in the eighth inning drove in what ended up as the winning run. Alas, at the time it gave the Cubs a three run lead and earlier in the game he’d struck out with the bases loaded.
- Goat - Victor Caratini (-.070). Victor had one hit in four at bats. But hey, he got to tag a few very key runners out at home.
- Kid - Randy Rosario (-.062). Randy faced one hitter. Eric Hosmer had a very good at bat and in the end drew a walk to load the bases in the eighth inning and set the stage for Kintzler.
WPA Play of the Game: With runners on second and third and one out and the score 5-4, Pedro Strop got a hard hit grounder right at David Bote who grabbed it and threw home to cut down the tying run. (.242)
*Padres Play of the Game: Just two batters earlier, Cory Spangenberg doubled with runners on first and second to make it 5-3.
- Superhero - Javier Baez 29.5
- Hero - Ben Zobrist 16
- Sidekick - Brandon Morrow 13
Javier Baez narrowly missed his seventh consecutive podium spot. He finished fourth. He’d had five positive appearances and one negative in the previous six. Anthony Rizzo is up to -1 for the season and has a chance to have a positive cumulative score for the first time since April 1, four games into the season when he was +1. Brandon Kintzler became the 41st Cub to appear in Heroes and Goats this year. I can envision a maximum of three more players appearing for the first time (Duane Underwood, Mark Zagunis and Drew Smyly).
Up Next: Game three of the four game set this afternoon. Kyle Hendricks will pitch for the Cubs. He is 7-9 with a 3.97 ERA. He’s 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA over his last seven starts, but that is largely driven by one start against the Dodgers back in June where he allowed six runs in 2 2⁄3 innings in Los Angeles. That start will roll off his rolling seven the next time out. Last time he faced the Cardinals in St. Louis and threw seven innings, allowing four hits, no walks and two runs. He finished that game with a string of six scoreless innings. He beat the Padres earlier this year and is 3-1 with a 3.13 ERA against them in his last five starts against them. In his earlier start this year, he threw five innings and allowed five hits, no walks and two runs.
The Padres will send rookie Walker Lockett to the mound for his second major league start. He made another spot start in June against the Reds. He took the loss after allowing four runs in 3⅔ innings. He allowed four hits, and five walks. He has added two relief innings to those numbers and in total he’s thrown 5⅔ innings, allowing eight hits, six walks and six runs. In Triple-A this year, Walker is 4-9 with a 4.92 ERA in 111⅔ innings of work. He’s allowed 123 hits, 75 runs (61 earned) and 14 home runs. He’s struck out 104 and walked 27. His home run total is fine and his walk total is actually very good. So it is surprising that his numbers are so bad. With 14 unearned runs in 111⅔ innings, the first guess I’m going to make is that he’s been victimized by bad defense. The second is that he is allowing plenty of hard contact. Let’s hope today isn’t the day he figures it out. He hasn’t posted what I’d call good numbers since 2016. (I’ll note that I know nothing about the conditions he pitches in while pitching at Triple-A).
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed