I’m not going to go back and check, but I think the Cubs are now 3-0 following my “everything is gonna be all right” posts. So there’s that. Can’t spike the ball very hard following that win. Most of the things that I’m nervous about with this team were on display last night. I remember thinking the Cubs had six dependable relievers back in June. I thought it was fascinating that Joe basically had the option of running one group out for 7-8-9 one day and if they weren’t available the next day he could send out a completely different three the next day. Now here we are in September, late September, and I’m holding my breath when anyone other than Jesse Chavez is handed the ball.
There were two things that came out of yesterday’s game that I did think were very important for the team. First and foremost, they scored seven runs. It certainly felt like they should have scored more than that with some of the opportunities they had early. But, it’s infinitely better that they scored seven that could maybe have been nine or 10 than they scored one and it could maybe have been two or three. Jason Heyward’s home run appeared to relax the team one notch. I’ve seen some notes that the Cubs still ended up swinging at 40% of the pitches out of the zone, up from a season norm of 31%. That sure does sound like a team that is pressing. Particularly since I don’t think the Pirates threw anyone last night who is particularly deceptive. Ivan Nova has been around long enough to be labelled as crafty. I do wonder how many of those out of the swings were recorded by Ian Happ who absolutely had to be in the lineup against a guy who he’d hit three home runs against previously.
The other thing that came out of the game was a walk-off win. Not just a win. But I used that picture at the top of the page for that reason. The team got to jump around the field like idiots and enjoy a moment for just a few minutes. In that moment, all of the fatigue, all of the struggles, all of the injuries get to fade away. The whole bunch of guys got to go out there and just enjoy themselves for a minute. There isn’t any definitive carry over this year for these walk-off victories. There have been seven previous Cubs walk-off wins. They are 3-4 following them. One was the start of a four game winning streak, one was in the middle of a seven game winning streak, one was the first of back to back wins. So it isn’t that. I don’t think that on the heels of that win, they’ll now storm through and it will lead to a five-game winning streak to end the season. I just think for a couple of minutes this team experienced joy and euphoria. They could catch their breath and just be happy.
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 158, September 26 - Cubs blow early lead but walk-off 7-6 victory (92-66)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Albert Almora Jr. (.364). I’ll admit it, I was already contemplating what the 11th inning would look like and how long I was going to stay up and be frustrated when Almora came to the plate. He came in late, had two at bats and delivered the game winning hit.
- Hero - Brandon Kintzler (.142). Brandon faced one batter and recorded two outs. Nifty. He got a win for that effort. People love pitcher wins.
- Sidekick - Jason Heyward (.123). Jason stood up top on this list for a long time. His two-run home-run in the first inning was an enormous boost to the Cubs offense. On the Cubs broadcast, they flashed on the screen that Heyward has the Cubs highest batting average with runners in scoring position. He had two hits and three RBI last night. Anyone who doesn’t recognize that Heyward’s bat took a big step forward needs to look at last night’s game. Not everything is captured by a wRC+ or an OPS+ or WAR or whatever the stat du jour is. One of the things that matters is, do you think the guy standing in the on deck circle or standing at the plate has any chance of beating you. Jason Heyward might beat you. He’s not over likely to beat you. But he comes through with some big hits.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Justin Wilson (-.386). I’m going to hang my hat on an excuse that Justin had only thrown four pitches in 10 days prior to being handed the ninth inning last night. Also, though it was a screaming line drive, the big blow almost ended the game. Wilson faced five batters, allowed three hits and two runs.
- Goat - Victor Caratini (-.127). Vic came up empty in four at bats. He did have a successful sacrifice bunt. He twice was retired with a runner on second and once with the bases loaded.
- Kid - Carl Edwards Jr. (-.027). Carl’s drifting towards a full blown case of the yips. I saw him visibly frustrated on not getting a borderline call last night. First, when you have very little command, you are often not going to get the corners. Second, the on screen graphic had the pitch out of the zone pretty clearly. Carl has to get out of his head and he has to do it immediately. This team is dead in the water without him and right now if I had to make a playoff roster, I’m not sure how I could include him on it.
WPA Play of the Game: With a game that flowed like last night’s, you had to figure the plays of the game are pretty obvious. Albert Almora’s walk-off single scored Terrance Gore with two outs in the tenth. (.370) Just Albert’s third visit here.
*Pirates Play of the Game: Starling Marte’s line drive down the first baseline just evaded Rizzo’s glove. If Rizzo is even able to knock that down, this game might not have reached extras. But that ball was scorched. (.346)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 23.5
- Hero - Pedro Strop 22
- Sidekick - Kyle Hendricks 17
- 4th - Anthony Rizzo 15
Up Next: With the magic number now at four and four games left to play, they are pretty much all must win games for the Cubs. They’ll try for their second straight win and a series split with the Pirates tonight. The winner of tonight’s game also wins the season series between the two teams. The Cubs will send 17 game winner Jon Lester to the mound. He has a 3.43 ERA in 175⅔ innings of work on the season. The Cubs brought him to Chicago to pitch in big games like this. Down the stretch Jon has been very strong. He has a 5-1 record and a 1.96 ERA over his last seven starts. Last time out, the White Sox were effective at driving up his pitch count and getting him out after five innings. But Jon still got the win for five innings of work that included eight hits, no walks and three runs (two earned). He struck out four. He’s faced the Pirates five times this season already and he is 3-1 with a 3.72 ERA in those games. In the five games, he’s allowed four runs three times and none twice. Two of the last three games were the two with no runs.
Trevor Williams is one more promising young Pirates starters. After a 7.82 ERA in a cup of coffee season in 2016, he threw 150⅓ innings last year with a 4.07 ERA. He’s bettered that mark this year with a 3.04 ERA over 165⅔ innings. That’s a very nice progression for a young starter. Trevor is 14-9 on the year. In his last seven starts he has been dominant with a 4-1 record and a 1.27 ERA. He hasn’t allowed a run since a September 10 start in St. Louis. In four of his last five starts he has not allowed any runs. He’s faced the Cubs twice and he’s won one and lost one. But he’s allowed only two runs over 13 innings. He was one of the losers in that wacky series in Pittsburgh when the Cubs won two 1-0 games back to back.
This is a tall order and should be a low scoring affair. The Cubs have a handful of players with more than 10 plate appearances against Williams. Anthony Rizzo has two doubles and a homer over 14 plate appearances against Williams. Kyle Schwarber has two home runs and a double in 13. Kris Bryant has also hit him well with a triple and five walks in 12, so hopefully he feels well enough to play tonight. Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist have both struggled against Williams, but I can’t imagine both not being in the lineup tonight.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Albert Almora Jr.