There was that brief moment last night when the Cubs scored the first run and they jumped out to an early 1-0 lead. Then there were the other seven-plus innings. The ones where the Brewers brutalized the Cubs with 11 consecutive runs. That was a frustrating loss. Coming on the heels of letting one slip away on Monday, this one was doubly painful. The second place team just won back to back games and trimmed two games off of their division deficit. This assures that the Cubs will lose another series. The collective reaction across twitter was a giant OMG!
Don’t be that Cub fan. You didn’t think they’d go the rest of the season without losing a series, did you? After all, this was the first one that has happened since the July 27-29 series against the Cardinals. Before that, they lost one in San Francisco July 9-11. So basically they’ve lost three series over the last two months. That’s not bad. Last night, the tweets I was seeing, you’d think the Cubs were in the midst of a death spiral. The Cubs are in a stretch of 23 consecutive games as has been talked about endlessly here and elsewhere. They are now 10-5 in that stretch. That’s fantastic! The Cubs aren’t in any slump. Call it what it is. The Brewers have won the first two games, one in flat out dominant fashion. I tip my hat to them. They absolutely had to have at least two wins in this series, not just for their division title hopes, but if the Cubs had rolled through Milwaukee, the Brewers would be slipping into trouble even in the wildcard race.
Consider this. I’m just going to quote Fangraphs. You can bounce around to other places that do playoff projections and final record projections. Even with those two losses the last two nights, the Cubs are 84.2% to win the division. Even with those two wins, the Brewers are just 87.7% to even make the playoffs. Even if the Cubs were to lose again tonight, they will not be in dire straits. Certainly, it wouldn’t be ideal, but this is the Brewers doing what they needed to do.
The Braves ran into the Red Sox this week and the National League West keeps running into each other and shuffling positioning every few days. So literally, the Cubs solely need to outlast the Brewers in the division to have home field advantage throughout the National League playoffs. The Cubs have a five game lead over each of the Braves and Diamondbacks with 24 to play (magic number 20). The Cubs still have a four-loss advantage over the Brewers (magic number 21). The Cubs have four games left this season with the Brewers. Every game the Cubs win out of those four drops their magic number against the Brewers by two.
The Brewers problem right now is the same one they’ve had for a while now. Even if they do win three or even four of the games left against the Cubs, they struggle from the fact that the Cubs win more often than the Brewers do across all of the games. Even if the Brewers won every one of the four remaining games, that would give the Brewers just a one-game lead in the division (ignoring those four Nationals games for the Cubs in between). The one game would be two games in the win column. The Cubs would only need to win two more games than the Brewers over the other games to tie the division and three to win it outright. That math by itself isn’t great. But remember, that assumption is them winning every one of these games. Possible? Sure. Likely? no. Just for a reference point, Fangraphs estimates a 57% chance the Cubs win tonight.
Relax, the Cubs aren’t the team backed against the wall. That’s the Brewers. They’ve done what they needed to do. Tip of the cap to them. We’ll talk about it later, but the Cubs send Jose Quintana to the mound and some of his best career starts have come against the Brewers. All is far from lost.
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 138, September 4 - Cubs crushed by Brewers 11-1 for second straight loss (81-58)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Willson Contreras (.032). Talk about a tallest midget award. Willson reached on an error, driving in the Cubs only run. It would have scored anyway, so there’s that. He struck out the other two at bats.
- Hero - Brian Duensing (.008). Wait, no maybe this is an even taller midget. Brian recorded two outs after coming into a bases loaded jam. That’s the good news. The bad is that he started the following inning and allowed a hit and two walks that resulted in three earned runs.
- Sidekick - Albert Almora Jr. (.002). Albert deserved some Heroes and Goats luck after two straight appearances on the goat side in games where he came in late as a defender and ended up hitless and ending up on the wrong side of the ledger. He has one hit in four at bats and it is enough to land him here. If anyone can find Albert’s bat, please send it back, it’s been lost for a very long time. Without doing any searching for dates, since the All-Star game, Albert has a .223/.273/.286 line (wRC+51). It’s hard to imagine any good reason for Albert’s bat to be in the lineup these days.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jorge De La Rosa (-.091). This was a real team effort, so there is no outsized negative score. Jorge faced four batters and allowed two hits and a third hitter reached on an error. He was charged with two earned runs.
- Goat - Javier Baez (-.084). Javy was hitless in three at bats.
- Kid - Brandon Kintzler (-.067). Brandon pitched one inning and allowed two hits and a run.
WPA Play of the Game: With the bases loaded and two outs, Erik Kratz scored on a wild pitch in the second inning to tie the game at 1-1. (.088).
*Cubs Play of the Game: Willson Contreras batted with one out and a runner on third. He hit a ground ball to short and Orlando Arcia threw the ball away. A run scored and Willson advanced to second. (.071)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 21
- Hero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo 17
Up Next: The Cubs will look to salvage one game in this series. They’ll send Jose Quintana to the mound to do it. Jose is 11-9 with a 4.21 ERA on the season. In his last seven starts, he’s heading a little bit the wrong way having a 2-3 record and a 5.20 ERA. However, over this last three starts, he is 1-0 and has allowed only four runs in 16 innings of work. The last time Jose faced the Brewers was in August. In that start, they roughed him up. He allowed six hits including three home runs and five runs in total over only five innings. However, in his career, he has made eight starts against the Brewers. In those eight starts, he is 4-2 with a 1.67 ERA over 54 innings of work. He has a WHIP against them of 0.796. He’s a dominant pitcher against these Brewers. That includes Miller Park where he is 3-1 with a 1.32 ERA in five starts and 34 innings of work (.794 WHIP). The Cubs have the right guy on the mound for this game.
The Brewers counter with Jhoulys Chacin who is having a fantastic season. He is 14-5 with a 3.53 ERA. Over his last seven he is 5-2 with a 3.38 ERA. Even those numbers are inflated by one very bad start against the Dodgers back at the start of August when he allowed nine runs (eight earned) in 4⅓ innings of work including three home runs allowed. He now hasn’t allowed a homer since August 14. He’s faced the Cubs twice this year and has yet to allow even one earned run. He’s allowed only seven hits in 13 innings of work. He’s walked five and struck out 17. The Brewers have the right guy up for the job too. The good news? Anthony Rizzo has hit him well and Joe said he’d play today. Daniel Murphy has hit him well too, so that’s something the Cubs didn’t have in those previous games.
Chacin has very pronounced splits, allowing a .566 OPS to right handed hitters and a .764 against lefties. Expect the Cubs to load up their lineup with left handed hitters. I’d expect Bryant and Baez to be the only right handed hitters in the lineup. The great thing is, with three switch hitters, the Cubs can deploy three left handed hitters, three right handed hitters (including Quintana) and three switch hitters. So the balance isn’t even out of whack to do it.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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The Cubs made EVERY player on the Brewers look like a hero