Saturday night’s game was no work of art. It was closer than many of us probably would have liked. The Cubs didn’t play particularly flawless baseball. The starter only lasted five innings. This wasn’t any kind of signature win for the Cubs resume. We’d all like to conjure an image of the conquering heroes and how they stormed through the south side of Chicago leaving a trail of waste on their way to a third straight National League Central championship.
Well, this wasn’t that. The good news is that style points don’t do anything for you. A win is a win. And this was a win that was awfully good to have. I cringe at the idea of a win you NEED to have or MUST have. We weren’t at that point yet. But, this team took some load off of its shoulders with last night’s win. The loss the Brewers experienced in Pittsburgh didn’t hurt either in the pressure department. Those Brewers are going to look back on this season and shake their heads about their 6-12 record against the Pirates. The only other NL teams the Brewers have losing records against are the Dodgers (3-4) and of course the Cubs (8-11). At least with the Cubs, the Brewers bounced back from a large early hole.
Javier Baez gave the Cubs an early 2-0 lead in the first inning with another home run. After that, this night served as a final going away present to Hawk Harrelson. I haven’t listened to him in years, but I do remember watching a decent bit of him earlier in life. I have fond memories of two types of broadcasts. One was the type where he would just go silent for a whole inning at a time, hanging his play-by-play man out to dry. The other usually featured the Minnesota Twins. In this second type of game, he would bemoan that not one ball was squared up. The other team would have dinked and dunked and duck-snorted their way to 15 runs. Which he would of course dismiss all of to bad luck.
It isn’t all luck. Some of it is bad play. Like Daniel Murphy’s RBI “double” last night. One of the weird things baseball did along the way is say that it isn’t an error if you just didn’t get to the ball or if you lose it in the sun. Daniel Murphy didn’t hit what I’d call a double. He hit a somewhat hard hit, but not exactly booming, fly out to left that the left fielder took the wrong route on, only to see the ball fly over his head.
In all, the Cubs turned nine hits and four walks into seven runs off of White Sox pitching. I suspect the Cubs may some day not enjoy facing Lucas Giolito. He does seem to have a lot of movement on his pitches. He certainly deserved at least a little better than five runs in 6⅔ innings yesterday. If that Murphy ball was caught, he might have allowed two less runs in that inning. He’d also have made more than a handful less pitches in that inning.
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 154, September 21 - Cubs bounce back with 8-3 victory over White Sox (90-64)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jesse Chavez (.157). Jesse allowed just one walk over six batters faced in the sixth and seventh innings, recording five outs. Deals like the Chavez one are my favorites. Of course the massively lopsided ones like the deal that brought Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Cubs are awesome in their own way. But when the Cubs traded for Jesse Chavez, I thought “who?” Then I looked at his numbers and I’m like “ok, random right handed middle reliever.” Whatever. I thought the Cubs had a strong bullpen and I didn’t get it. Heck, I imagine the front office didn’t expect a guy who is 2-1 with three saves over 33 innings of work. Oh yeah and a 1.36 ERA (2.61 FIP). He has a 9.82 K/9 against a 1.36 BB/9. Sure, that 96.8% strand rate is totally unsustainable in the long run... let’s just hope the short run takes us through... oh, about November 1.
- Hero - Javier Baez (.149). Javy fell from his perch after yesterday’s game, falling out of the season lead in Heroes and Goats. No worries though, he bounces right back with a two hit, three RBI and a walk day. Treasure this season for Javy. Whatever comes after, this season should not be lost. This Javy season was a gift from the baseball Gods for years of Cubs fans suffering. Not only has he had a spectacular, MVP-worthy season (it doesn’t matter if he wins it or not, it was definitely worthy), but that season propelled the Cubs on another playoff run. This isn’t some empty Sammy Sosa season, piling up numbers while the team finished in fourth place. The Cubs needed a hero this year and Javy was the one that answered the call.
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.130). Ben’s not too shabby either. Especially for a guy who many wrote off last year after he had a year largely lost to injury. Never mind that he was raking in April and May before he got injured. Ben is probably going to finish second or third in the league in that old-school stat called batting average. It’s not a great stat, but it’s been revered for a long time and so many of us still monitor it out of habit of nothing else. Ben had two hits in four at bats yesterday. His .311 is tied for third in the NL and tied for seventh in baseball. Not too shabby indeed.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jason Heyward (-076). Jason was hitless in four at bats and struck out once. It can be hard to get back into a groove when there are no rehab stints coming off of an injury. Just the same, I’m glad to see Jason’s bat back in the lineup.
- Goat - Willson Contreras (-.065). Willson was also hitless in four at bats. It’s going to be a fun story when Willson goes silent at the plate through the whole second half before crushing some teams hopes and dreams in the post season. (please let this be true)
- Kid - Kris Bryant (-.040). Kris Bryant was also retired four times yesterday. The difference between he and the two before him is that he got to bat five times and so he did get one hit. He struck out twice though.
WPA Play of the Game: Remember that Daniel Murphy “double” I talked about way back in the open of this piece? Yeah, that was the play of the game. Tough break Lucas. (.180)
*White Sox Play of the Game: Tim Anderson’s solo home run in the third inning to tie the game at 2-2. (.119)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 23.5
- Hero - Pedro Strop 22
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist 14.5
- 4th - Kyle Hendricks 14
Up Next: The final game of this three-game set, as well as the final game in the six game series between these two teams. The Cubs have won three of five and can do no less than split the season series. The Cubs will hand the ball to Kyle Hendricks. Kyle is 12-11 with a 3.58 ERA on the season. Over his last seven, he’s been flat out dealing. He is 4-2 with a 2.22 ERA. Last time out he narrowly missed a complete game with 8⅔ innings of three hit, one walk baseball. And two of those hits came in that ninth inning. He struck out eight and allowed just one run while picking up the win. He started the game that Giolito won against the Cubs back in May. Kyle went six in that one, but he allowed four hits and three runs. An odd result with no walks and six strike outs. That is a totally outlier game to allow four hits, no walks and three runs. Kyle hasn’t been very good in his career against the Sox. Dating back to 2015, he is 0-2 with a 4.10 ERA. That includes a seven inning shutout back in July of 2015.
The White Sox counter with Carlos Rodon. The left hander is 6-6 with a 3.22 ERA. He’s only pitched 117⅓ innings after dealing with some injury issues early in the year. Over his last seven starts, he’s faded a little with a 3-3 record and a 4.20 ERA. He hasn’t won since August. That win was against the Yankees though, so you know he is up for the challenge. Included in his personal losing streak are losses to the Red Sox and Indians, that happens to a lot of people. That Indians start was his last game. In that one he threw seven innings and allowed seven hits, three walks and five runs (four earned). He last faced the Cubs last July. in that one he went four innings and allowed seven hits, three walks and four runs. He did strike out 11 though. He was dominant in a start against the Cubs in 2015 with six shutout innings (though he did walk six). No Cub has faced Rodon even 10 times. The whole team has 29 plate appearances against him (oddly, Kyle Hendricks has two of those, including a single).
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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