On the last Sunday of the regular season, the Cubs will be one of four teams playing meaningful baseball. It’s such an ironic development for Cubs fans. For years, Cub fans would have graciously accepted just playing meaningful games into late September. But now, as a team that was expected to win the division by most and expected to win the division comfortably by many, this is a frustrating outcome. The Cubs, Brewers, Dodgers and Rockies all have chances to win their division and all have a chance to be in a wildcard game. If that weren’t confusing enough, the Braves also have the same record as the Dodgers and the Rockies, so even if one of those teams knew they were going to win the West, they still wouldn’t know who was going to have home field advantage in that game. For the Cubs and Brewers, that’s easier as the winner of the division will have the National League’s best record and will have home field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. The other team will go to the wildcard game and host it with the second best record in the league.
I always have to tip my hat to teams that have their eyes on the offseason and next year but stop and pull it together late in the season to play a playoff hopeful. For two straight nights, the Tigers have given the Brewers everything they can handle. Christian Yelich has almost single-handedly beaten them back. If you weren’t following last night’s game, he hit two home runs and also made a leaping grab at the wall with two outs and two runners on base. Christian Yelich is the NL MVP. Sorry Javy, it’s been fun.
Elsewhere, the Nationals pounded the Rockies, pushing the Rockies backwards into a tie with the Dodgers. The Giants also took a 5-5 tie to the ninth inning against the Dodgers before a nightmarish inning that lead to the Dodgers winning and being in position to head to the final weekend tied. There is a not unrealistic chance of two one-game playoffs on Monday. Hold onto your hats, its going to be a bumpy ride. It’ll be interesting to see of the Tigers, Cardinals, Giants and Nationals, how many of them play another strong game today. For those teams, today is the final day of their season. Getting through one game is all that is left standing between them and their offseason plans. I’m reminded of a season when we learned of a few Cubs having their off-season flights booked for a quick flight back to their off-season home. I remember how frustrated Cub fans were by that. I suspect those bookings are fairly normal for guys who don’t get to their actual home for eight months of the time. But the media saw fit to tell us about that. Anyway, it would be natural for some of the players on some of those teams to have at least one eye out the door. Somehow I doubt it, but it sure would be great if the Cardinals were one of them.
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 161, September 29 - Cubs bats silenced by Cardinals in 2-1 loss (94-67)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Cole Hamels (.132). Cole once again failed to win his tenth game of the season. He deserved better in this one, but it wasn’t to be. He fails to win a game over his last seven starts. But he threw seven innings and he allowed three hits, two walks, two hit batters and one very costly catcher’s interference. That amounted to two runs, one earned. Cole finishes the season with a 2.36 ERA as a Cub and a 3.61 ERA over those last seven starts. The decision doesn’t need to made for a while, but I’m all for picking up his option.
- Hero - Steve Cishek (.055). Steve threw a perfect eighth inning. Steve has looked much better the last two outings. It is clear that however far the Cubs are going to go in the postseason is going to be based on long starts and some combination of Cishek, Jesse Chavez, Justin Wilson and Pedro Strop finishing it out. If the Cubs go any deeper than that in their pen, it’s going to be scary.
- Sidekick - Jesse Chavez (.041). Chavez threw a perfect ninth. The Cubs bullpen gave them every chance to get back into this one, but it was not to be.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Ben Zobrist (-.174). A tough crowd award for the guy who score the team’s only run. He had one hit in four at bats. He also lined into a double play and then lead off the sixth and the ninth innings with outs. (The first out in an inning gets the largest negative in a 1-2-3 inning).
- Goat - Kris Bryant (-.161). Kris was hitless in three at bats and also lined into a double play.
- Kid - Anthony Rizzo (-.105). Anthony had one hit in four at bats. The Cubs managed only five hits and no walks on the day. Tip of the hat to Miles Mikolas. He was dominant and pitched to the conditions. Rizzo flat crushed one in the sixth inning that died in the wind as so many Cubs balls did. It is easy to say that on a different day the Cubs would have had at least one and possibly a small handful of homers. But the best pitchers pitch to the conditions at Wrigley, so I tip the cap.
WPA Play of the Game: Paul DeJong’s RBI single in the fourth inning with runners on first and second and no outs. (.112). The single tied the game at 1-1.
*Cubs Play of the Game: With a runner on first and two outs in the first inning Javier Baez lofted a pop up in the direction of right center. With the outfield playing very deep and the wind causing some problems, the ball hit off of the glove of Cardinals second baseman Yairo Munoz and Ben Zobrist streaked around from first with the game’s first run. (.108)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 22
- Hero - Kyle Hendricks 20
- Sidekick - Javier Baez 19.5
Up Next: Game 162 sees the final scheduled game of the regular season. The Cubs will send Mike Montgomery to the mound. Mike is 5-6 with a 3.99 ERA on the season. Over his five starts since coming off of the disabled list, he’s thrown 22⅓ innings and allowed 14 runs. I wouldn’t expect Mike to go very deep in this game unless he is extremely effective. This will be called an all hands on deck game, but I’m not sure we’ll see Cishek or Chavez knowing the Cubs will have to play again on Monday most likely. I know you have to get to that game, but there isn’t a lot of point to getting there if you have little chance of winning. Mike has made two starts against the Cardinals this year. He’s 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA. Ugh. Go offense.
Jack Flaherty is the Cardinals starters. Jack at 22 years old is in his rookie season, though he did pitch for the Cards a bit in 2017. He’s 8-8 but has a 3.16 ERA. He’s 1-2 with a 3.46 ERA over his last seven days. Last time out he threw 5⅓ innings against the Brewers and allowed four hits, two walks and three runs. He’s started twice against the Cubs and is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA over 10 innings of work. Yeah, this matchup isn’t pretty. Hopefully the Cubs can hold it close early and pull one out late. Or you know, some superstar players play to their full capabilities.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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