So close. Kyle almost completed his first game since 2016. I think if the Cubs were a little more secure in the division, Joe probably would have given him one more batter. But with things tight and needing to lock down every win possible, it was the right call to take no chances and get it done. Surely no one was all that concerned over allowing a single to Paul Goldschmidt. That isn’t even that bad an outcome against that guy. But he had allowed the Pollock home run and two successive fly outs after that. You certainly didn’t want to breathe any life into a collapsing Diamondbacks team. You have to hope they keep right on collapsing for two more days.
On the other side of the ball, the Cubs got contributions from their key performers. Kris Bryant was on base three times including his first home run in a very long time. Javier Baez had a long home run of his own to continue adding to his MVP resume. Ben Zobrist had two more hits and is in contention for a batting title. Batting titles don’t garner the respect they once did, but it is still quite an accomplishment, even if similar to recording the most wins we’ve found that it isn’t the best statistic to measure accomplishment.
The Cubs are surely dead tired right now. But it does have to help that they are winning more nights than not. Tim Huwe pointed it out in a couple of places yesterday. The Cubs through last night’s win are now 27-17 since August 1. That’s a .614 winning percentage and a 99-win pace. Once again, this team was one of the best teams in baseball from August 1 to the end of the year. Others have pointed out that if the Cubs can go .500 the rest of the way that the Brewers will have to win eight of 11 to match that. Those Brewers may very well win eight or nine more games. My confidence comes from the belief that the Cubs will not go .500 the rest of the way and that they will too will win at least seven or eight more games, making it all but impossible for the Brewers to catch the Cubs. A third straight National League Central crown is close at hand.
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 150, September 17 - Cubs combine long ball and strong pitching for 5-1 win (88-62)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kyle Hendricks (.445). Between the run allowed in the ninth and the five runs the offense put up, Kyle just missed a top 10 WPA game. Still, 8⅔ innings, three hits, one walk and eight strikeouts with one run allowed is a fantastic outing.
- Hero - Kris Bryant (.172). Kris had two hits and a walk in four plate appearances. The sample size is growing and the results are improving. Kris has a .320/.407/.480 (wRC+ 141) now since coming off of the disabled list. This is now a 59 plate appearance sample with some pretty elite performance. The only caution is that he does have a .469 BABIP in there, which no matter how hard he’s hitting the ball is completely unsustainable.
- Sidekick - Javier Baez (.120). Javy had only the one hit last night in four at bats. But it was a long one. 32 home runs and 105 RBI out of a middle infielder is a phenomenal season. He’s got a few more weeks to add onto those totals which are only a small subsection of his contributions to the team.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Willson Contreras (-.075). Willson was hitless in four at bats and struck out once.
- Goat - David Bote (-.059). David had one hit, in the ninth inning. He struck out the three previous at bats. Every reasonable fan new the struggles would come. I’ll be interested to see how David grows and adjusts. His defense and ability to barrel balls will provide value off of the bench. But can he be more?
- Sidekick - Addison Russell (-.050). Addison was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice.
WPA Play of the Game: With the Cubs leading 1-0 in the sixth inning and Anthony Rizzo on first Javier Baez stepped to the plate with one out. He crushed one deep to left and the Cubs had a 3-0 lead. (.187). This is the first time since August 6 that Javy was involved with the play of the game and he still leads the team with 14 times.
*Diamondbacks Play of the Game: Eduardo Escobar had a double with one out in the fourth inning with the score tied 0-0. This was the first hit of the night off of Kyle Hendricks. (.048)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 22
- Hero - Javier Baez 21.5
- Sidekick - Cole Hamels 15.5
- 4th - Kyle Hendricks 14
- 5th/6th - Brandon Morrow/Jon Lester 13
- 7th - Ben Zobrist 12.5
- 8th/9th - Anthony Rizzo/Jose Quintana 12
It is unlikely any of the starting pitchers can reach Pedro Strop’s total. But with the top nine separated by 10 points, plenty of movement remains possible. Javier Baez has moved within striking distance of his first Superhero of the Year. Anthony Rizzo has fallen off of the pace, but seeks his fourth in five years this feature has been running.
Up Next: The two teams meet again tonight for the second of three games. The Cubs will send Mike Montgomery to the mound. Mike is 4-5 with a 3.87 ERA on the season. Over his last seven starts, he is 1-2 with a 3.89 ERA. Mike has only thrown six innings once since returning from the disabled list and only pitched into the sixth inning one other time. So expect that this will probably be a short start from Mike. Last time out he threw four innings against the Nationals. He allowed three hits, one walk and two runs while striking out two. He hasn’t started a game against the D-Backs as a Cub. He did have a decent start against them back in 2015, but that isn’t really relevant to anything going on today.
Matt Andriese will make the start for Arizona. Matt is 3-5 with a 4.76 ERA on the year. He’s made four starts this year, one each in April, May, June and July. He hasn’t started since. He’s not made it out of the fourth inning in any of those starts, so don’t expect a great deal out of this start. Matt came over from Tampa Bay in a minor trade on July 25. Since coming to the D-Backs, he is 0-1 with a 7.31 ERA. The National League has not treated him well. He’s allowed six home runs in only 16 innings of work. Let’s hope the Cubs can keep that trend going and get into the bullpen early today. This team could really use a few crooked numbers and a double digit score. So 3-1 game, right?
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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