As I always say, you never want to read too much into one baseball game. However, for one night, it appeared that the best team in the National League just added another elite player. The Cubs cruised through the month of August with an 18-10 mark and now they’ve added Kris Bryant’s bat back to the mix. They also added Addison Russell’s defense back to the mix. If the Cubs can repeat their 18-10 month, they’d win 97 games. If they go just 11-17, they’ll win 90. If they win 90, then the Cardinals need to finish out 14-12 which is certainly doable. The Brewers would need to finish out 14-11 which is probably doable the way they are playing. The Brewers have six games against the Cubs in the next two weeks.
The Cubs jumped out to an early lead like they did in Atlanta on Thursday. But this time, they held that lead but continued to add anyway. Kyle Hendricks was once again superb. I’ve pointed these numbers out in the past, but I’ll post them again. For his career, Kyle Hendricks has made 64 first half starts. In those 64 starts, he has 375⅔ innings and a 21-21 record with a 3.52 ERA. He has made 62 second half starts. In those 62 starts he has thrown 373 innings and has a 27-11 record with a 2.75 ERA. Kyle becomes a better pitcher down the stretch.
On the offensive side, the Cubs lineup gets really, really long with Kris Bryant in the lineup. If they can get just a little bit more consistent production out of Kyle Schwarber and/or Willson Contreras, the lineup is really stacked. A lot of people spent a lot of time worrying about this team. But here we are creeping up on the end of the season and this team is right where it wants to be. Playing good baseball, consistently winning and with a healthy cushion. Every team has at least five more losses than the Cubs do and the Cubs now have just 27 games remaining. That translates to the Cubs having a magic number of 23 against the entire National League for home field advantage throughout the National League playoffs. To the extent that they’d want home field advantage in the World Series, the Cubs have the fourth best record in baseball now and have moved to within 2½ games of the Astros. With the caliber of player the Cubs would use as designated hitter, the only reasons for wanting home field advantage in the World Series have to do with the crowd and batting last.
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 135, September 1 - Cubs bats awaken, pitching remains strong in 7-1 win (80-55)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kyle Hendricks (.235). Kyle threw six innings and allowed six hits, two walks and one run. He struck out four.
- Hero - Kyle Schwarber (.101). The extremely high center field wall cost Schwarber a home run to center field yesterday. It hit high off of the wall and bounced well back towards the field allowing Kyle to motor around with at triple. There were two men on at the time.
- Sidekick - Javier Baez (.098). Javy continues to state his case for the National League MVP. He notches another three hit game. He drove in a run and scored a run.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.043). There wasn’t anything particularly goat-like for the Cubs last night, so there’s some tough luck down here. Anthony had one hit in five at bats and scored a run.
- Goat - Albert Almora Jr. (-.010). Albert came in late for defensive purposes but was hitless in two at bats.
- Kid - Kris Bryant (-.008). He had two hits in four at bats, though he did strike out twice. He scored a run. He also played steady defense at third including starting an around the horn double play.
WPA Play of the Game: Kyle Schwarber batted in the third inning with the Cubs leading 2-0. There were runners on first and second and two outs. He flied one deep to left that just missed being a home run. He had to settle for a two run triple. (.135) This is Schwarber’s first involvement in the play of the game since July 22.
*Phillies Play of the Game: Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the fourth, the first two Phillies each singled. That brought Nick Williams to the plate with runners on first and second. He also singled to give the Phillies their lone run. (.091).
- Superhero - Javier Baez 21.5
- Hero - Pedro Strop 21
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist 15.5
Up Next: The two teams complete this series as well as their season series. The teams have split two this weekend but the Cubs have already won three of five in the season series. If they win Sunday, they can win the season series. They also won the season series the last two years.
The Cubs will look to Jon Lester to get the job done. He is 14-5 with a 3.67 ERA. I know wins are a beloved stat these days, but if Jon gets the win today, he’ll move into a tie for second in the National League in wins with his mound opponent. It’s been rough going in the second half for Jon and though in his last three starts it’s been better, over the last seven starts he is just 2-2 with a 5.30 ERA. Jon hasn’t seen the Phillies yet this year. He’s won his three previous starts against them dating back to 2016. In fact, going back to September of 2014, he is 4-0 with a 1.62 ERA against them. Of course this team doesn’t much resemble their 2014 team. Last time out Jon pitched six innings in a no decision against the Mets. He allowed five hits, three walks and three runs. He struck out three.
Aaron Nola will be the Phillies starter. Aaron is 15-3 with a 2.10 ERA. He is clearly one of the finalists for National League Cy Young. Over his last seven, he is 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA. He has not been dragged down with the Phillie struggles. Last time out he threw seven innings in a no decision against the Nationals. He allowed only four hits, two walks and two runs (one earned) while striking out eight. Aaron started against the Cubs back in June. He was only so-so in that one. He threw six innings and only allowed four hits. But he did walk four and allow three runs. He struck out six. In two career starts against the Cubs (the other back in 2015), he is 1-0 with a 4.61 ERA. There is no way to be super confident against Nola, but the Cubs have fared extremely well against the best pitchers the National League has to offer. The recipe has been consistent. Keep the game close and then win late. So that’s what you are looking for.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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