The Cubs have gotten to 26 over .500 a couple of times, but haven’t yet broken through to 27 over. I’m fairly certain they will break through that barrier on their way to 28 or 30 over .500 (95 and 96 wins respectively). But for now they are back to 25. The Brewers lost, so the Cubs magic number still dropped to 11. That’s the whole thing about that lead in the loss column (bumped to three over the weekend). No matter how strong a team is, it becomes hard to gain enough ground late in the season, particularly when the gap is more losses than wins. The Red Sox are having one of the best seasons in franchise history. They aren’t winning 70 percent of their games. Even if you say the Brewers win nine of their final 12 (75 percent), that still adds three more losses onto their total. The Cubs would need to go just 7-6 to match that win total and 8-5 to win the division outright. I won’t say impossible, but the Brewers aren’t going to win the Central.
The Cubs offense remains stuck in third gear. Some combination of 27 straight days at the ballpark, the grind of 149 games played and a two plus week stretch where they faced Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Mike Foltynewicz, Aaron Nola and Max Scherzer twice has sent the Cubs bats into possibly their deepest slumber of the year. There are signs of a couple of bats maybe breaking out (Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras) and Victor Caratini has been hot. But at the same time, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez have cooled off and so there just isn’t a lot going right at the moment. It sounds like the lineup will see returns of Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward. I hesitate to call either of them fresh coming off of difficult to recover injuries, but Jason in particular has been spared the grind of the last month.
On the plus side, the pitching remains good. They’ve allowed a total of 90 runs over the 26 games played in this stretch. That’s just about 3½ runs per game. You can’t just take out the three worst games in a stretch, but aside from three clunkers, they’ve allowed 59 runs in 23 games. That’s down to 2½ runs per game. That’s a big explanation for why this team is 16-10 during this stretch. 16 wins in 26 games is a 100-win pace. Absolutely, you’d sequence the wins better, moving a couple of wins to the Brewers series, but this team has aced this test.
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 149, September 16 - Cubs lose 2-1 as bats continue to slump (87-62)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Willson Contreras (.118). Willson had a double pinch hitting in the fifth inning. That helped set up the Cubs only run of the game. I imagine that double has been talked about a lot elsewhere, so I’ll skip it. (He got to second base and Russell didn’t score, so no harm no foul in my book.)
- Hero - Jaime Garcia (.115). Jaime worked two scoreless innings allowing one walk and one hit while striking out two. He still has work to do, but that ERA is down to 8.10 and his FIP is down to 4.35. Jaime has provided some much needed bullpen help over the weekend.
- Sidekick - Kris Bryant (.065). Kris also had a pinch-hit single in the game. Sadly, the game ended with him in the on-deck circle. He hasn’t homered since he returned, but he’s been striking the ball fairly well.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Victor Caratini (-.264). A few inches in a couple of spots and Victor is one of the Heroes in this one. That is often true for a lot of guys, but he struck the ball well a few times only to come up empty in four at bats. One of those empty at bats was doubly so as it was a ground ball double play to end the sixth inning.
- Goat - Ian Happ (-.244). Ian’s second season in the majors has been a bit of a step back. Write him off forever at your own peril. Ian was hitless in four at bats as well. Ian grounded into a double play his very first time up. He also made the last out of the fifth inning with runners at first and third.
- Kid - David Bote (-.162). David has run into some tough match-ups by virtue of being healthy and versatile. He too was hitless in four at bats yesterday. He struck out once.
WPA Play of the Game: Anthony Rizzo batted with two outs and runners on second and third in the seventh inning. The Cubs were trailing 2-1 at the time. Amir Garrett was summoned and he struck out Rizzo. (.131)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Willson Contreras doubled with one out and a runner on first in the fifth inning. This set up the lone Cubs run. (.118)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 22
- Hero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Sidekick - Cole Hamels 15.5
Up Next: The Cubs leave Chicago for the last time in the regular season for three games against the Diamondbacks. The two teams met earlier this year in Chicago and they split four games. Arizona is heading in the wrong direction of late. They’ve lost seven of 10 and 14 of 20. They are now 4½ back in the division and four back in the wild card race. They just finished a seven-game road trip where they won just two games, one each in Houston and Colorado with the Colorado series being a four-game set. Let’s hope the Cubs see a fading team and not a team backed all of the way up to the wall and needing to win basically every game the rest of the way.
Kyle Hendricks will get the start for the Cubs. He is 11-11 with a 3.71 ERA. Over his last seven games, he’s 3-2 with a 2.57 ERA as he continues his strong second half push. Last time out he allowed two runs on five hits in five innings of work against the Brewers and got a loss for his efforts. He walked only one and struck out five. After struggling with the long ball earlier in the season, he’s allowed only one over those last seven starts in 42 innings of work. Kyle pitched in the series at Wrigley against the D-Backs and allowed three runs on seven hits in five innings. He was the loser in that one despite striking out eight and walking only two. Kyle has only made three starts in his career against Arizona and he’s 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA over 16⅔ innings of work.
Patrick Corbin is the opposition. Patrick is having a fine season with an 11-5 record and a 3.05 ERA. He too is finishing strong with a 2.22 ERA and a 3-1 record over his last seven. If Patrick can lower his ERA just a little bit over these last two weeks, he can complete a nifty feat. He had a 5.15 ERA in 2016, a 4.03 ERA in 2017 and if he can drop it just a little bit more he can accomplish reducing his ERA by over a point year over year twice in a row. That’s hard to do. Patrick beat the Cubs back on July 23. He threw seven innings of one run ball, allowing six hits and no walks while striking out nine. Patrick has been fantastic against the Cubs in his career dating all of the way back to 2013, he’s 4-1 with a 3.34 ERA in 29⅔ innings of work. The Cubs knocked him around pretty well in one start last year though scoring eight runs on him (seven earned) in just three innings. So though this looks like a tough match-up, there is some reason for hope.
Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Ian Happ have all hit home runs against Corbin (as did Jon Lester). Kris Bryant has four hits and a walk in 11 plate appearances against Patrick. So there are some Cubs who have had very good success against him. Daniel Murphy has only seen him five times, but has three hits. Ben Zobrist has just one hit in 12 plate appearances. I would not be surprised if this is an off day for Ben.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Carl Edwards Jr.