When the Cubs exploded to a four run fourth inning after having sent the minimum nine batters to the plate, I could feel Cub nation breathe a collective sigh of relief. Every now and then I feel like I offer up a couple of useful pearls of wisdom for your viewing of the next game. Yesterday I pointed out that Jhoulys Chacin had great numbers against the Cubs (he hadn’t allowed a run in 13 innings against the Cubs this year). I noted though that Daniel Murphy had good success against him and that he could make a big difference. Daniel led off the game with a single and then led off the fourth with a home run that appeared to rattle Chacin a little bit. We saw it earlier this year when Jose Quintana’s own scoreless streak was broken against the Brewers. It seemed to throw him off for a bit.
A couple of singles and some aggressive heads up base running later, the Cubs had four runs. That’s a significant number. The Cubs haven’t lost a game in which they scored four runs since August 11. The bummer of that stat is that it is only a 10-0 stretch in those games. The team is 15-8 in all games over that time which is great. But if the offense would do its thing more consistently, this division race, such as it is, would be over. As it is, the Cubs are 63-13 when they score four runs this year.
What of that division race? If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen me post these numbers last night just before bed. The Cubs have 23 games left. If they go 12-11 over that stretch, then the Brewers need to finish the season 15-6. The Braves have the best record among the other two National League division leaders. They would need to go 18-5 to match the Cubs. I won’t dismiss the possibility that one of those teams could go berserk. The Brewers remaining schedule is largely at home and fairly soft. However, I won’t dismiss either that the Cubs are likely to win more than 12 of the final 23 games. After the four-game set in Washington this weekend, the Cubs have only six more road games. Three of those are on the south side of Chicago.
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 139, September 5 - Cubs jump out to early lead, hold on for 6-4 win (82-57)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jose Quintana (.214). I know most Cubs fans have looked up Jose’s season with disappointment and/or disdain. At 12-9 with a 4.14 ERA (4.52 FIP), it doesn’t feel like he was enough for trading away two excellent prospects who are knocking on the door for the White Sox now. But, don’t dismiss that he is 2-1 (and the Cubs are 3-1) in four starts against the Brewers. I said yesterday that the Cubs had the right guy on the mound for last night’s game and that turned out to be true.
- Hero - Daniel Murphy (.149). Daniel ended up recording three hits in four at bats yesterday. He scored twice and as I noted, he hit the home run that opened the scoring for the Cubs. If you didn’t catch his quote yesterday, he described the Cubs as the deepest and most versatile team he has ever seen. Daniel has been around a lot of teams and a whole lot of baseball in his career.
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop (.100). Pedro allowed a walk and a single to the first two batters he faced. With a two run lead, that is pretty scary. He retired the next three and recorded his 12th save. Pedro has been a life saver this year. Surely Joe Maddon is the moron everyone he thinks he is, but he trusted a guy with nine career saves to carry the bulk of the load after losing his closer. This in a pen that features forever closer in waiting Carl Edwards Jr. as well as former closers Justin Wilson and Steve Cishek (and added Brandon Kintzler)
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jesse Chavez (-.098). Another thing I talked about in one of the discussions yesterday was how basically every Cub has gotten trashed at some point. In fairness, I haven’t heard Jesse trashed yet, but it is surely coming. He allowed two hits, one of which was a home run, and two runs while only recording one out. That made the game tense down to the end. All relievers go through a tough outing or two. It’s much more how they bounce back and how long it takes them to do so.
- Goat - Albert Almora Jr. (-.052). I’ve been hard on Albert lately. He hasn’t had a lot of good at bats. And I rolled my eyes last night when he swung at the first pitch he saw. But in total fairness, he absolutely smoked it. Unfortunately, he smoked it right into the glove of the Brewers third baseman for an easy double play (as a sheepish Kris Bryant had left first on contact).
- Kid - Kris Bryant (-.031). Kris had a hit in four at bats last night. He also sent a ball to extremely deep center that rated out as a hit 91% of the time. Unfortunately, Lorenzo Cain didn’t get the memo and became part of the 9%.
WPA Play of the Game: Christian Yelich was asked to pinch hit for just the second time this season. There was a runner on first and no outs in the ninth inning and the Brewers were down 6-4. He singled putting a very fast runner on first with the tying run and no outs. (.144)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Anthony Rizzo batted in the fourth after Daniel Murphy had given the Cubs a 1-0 lead and Javier Baez followed with a single. Rizzo singled to center. With Rizzo up, the Brewers were shifted heavily to the right side. When Baez got to second, he had Mike Moustakas standing at around the shortstop position between him and third. Javy did that math instantly and realized he’d almost certainly beat or get to the base at exactly the same time as Moose. Moose was unable to get himself into a position to take Cain’s throw from centerfield in the direction of third base and the throw bounced away. Javy continued on to score on the overthrow. Orlando Arcia’s throw towards home went wild and Rizzo made it all of the way to third. The Cubs have aggressively attacked shifting teams. The pitcher has to rotate over to third in a situation like that but teams just haven’t started working on that. Everything is complicated because there is no cutoff man because everyone is playing deep on the right side. So a throw comes in hot from the outfield and there is only a sprinting fielder to take the throw. (.143)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 22
- Hero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo 17
- Fourth/Fifth - Ben Zobrist/Cole Hamels 15.5
- Sixth - Kyle Hendricks 14
Up Next: The Cubs move on to the final leg of this 11 game, four-city road trip. They have started the trip 4-3. In the larger set of 23 consecutive games without a day off, they have started out 11-6. The Nationals have split their last 10 games, have lost 11 of 20 and 17 of 30. This team is slowly drifting in the wrong direction. However, they still retain enough pieces of the pre-season National League East favorites to be dangerous on any given night. They just lost two out of three to the Cardinals and before that lost two out of three to the Brewers. So in the spirit of equality, I’ll be expecting them to lose at least two to the Cubs. You may recall that the Cubs took two out of three in Chicago highlighted by the walk-off grand slam of David Bote that erased a 3-0 deficit.
The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks to the mound in the opener. Kyle’s overall line of 11-10 with a 3.77 ERA isn’t super exciting. However, he’s 5-1 with a 3.02 ERA over his last seven. Kyle has a pretty noticeable first half/second half split in his career and this year has been no exception. Last time out Kyle was effective in a win in Philadelphia. He threw six innings and allowed six hits, two walks and one run. He struck out four. He faced the Nationals back in August when the teams last met and was decent. He didn’t get a decision for that one but he threw six innings and allowed only two runs. He allowed eight hits but no walks. He struck out five. Kyle was victimized by the long ball in the first half, but he hasn’t allowed a home run now since August 4 against the Padres of all teams. Kyle hasn’t recorded a win against the Nationals since May of 2016.
The Nationals send Stephen Strasburg to the mound. Stephen is having a rough go of it this year. He’s only thrown 101⅓ innings due to injuries. He’s recorded a 7-7 record and a 4.09 ERA. Over his last seven, it’s been even worse at 2-3 with a 5.50. He’s made three starts since coming off of the disabled list. In those three starts, he is 1-0 over 16 innings of work. He’s allowed nine runs in those three starts. Last time out he was decent against the Brewers though throwing six innings and allowing five hits, two walks and two runs while striking out seven. So he’s no pushover even in a down season. He started one game against the Cubs last year and he was very good in that one. He got the win with seven innings of four hit, one walk, three run (two earned) and 13 strike outs.
The Cubs have not hit Strasburg well at all. Jason Heyward was their best option but he is on the disabled list a while longer. Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rizzo have .496 and .377 OPS against him. Things have gone a bit better for Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist, but then Javier Baez is hitless in 11 at bats against him. Tommy La Stella and Almora have had a little success in small samples. So don’t be surprised if one or both gets into the lineup. Straburg is fairly split neutral this season (.729 to righties and .716 to lefties). In his career he’s extremely split neutral at (.631 v .634). Can’t love this matchup on paper. I’m just going to hope that the Cubs are the better team, have more to play for and that they can keep it close and win it late. Nevermind that they surely didn’t get into DC until the wee hours of the morning.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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