I’m totally aware of and understand the idea that there isn’t particularly a “clutch” skill and that these things even out over time. But I love that in David Bote’s first 21 plate appearances in the ninth inning or later he has a line of .421/.476/.577 with three doubles, three homers and 10 RBI. (His season line is .254/.329/.457.) So far, David Bote is an MVP-level player in the ninth inning or later and without doing the math, a below-average hitter in the rest of his at bats. All of those things will settle in to whatever normal will be for David, but it’s been a great run for him to start his career.
Javier Baez was charged with an error in the fourth inning while shifted to short right field for a Bryce Harper at bat. I thought it was an infield single, but the scorer and I didn’t agree. Certainly, Javy’s throw would have taken an arm off of Kyle Hendricks as it led Kyle right into the line of a sprinting Harper. The wheels came off a bit after that and the Nationals ended up plating three in the inning, turning an early Cubs 2-0 lead into a 3-2 Nationals lead. The Cubs tied it at 3-3 in the top of the fifth, gave the lead back up in the bottom of the fifth, then tied it back at 4-4 in the eighth.
This was not the prettiest game you’ll see, but it was effective. The Cubs notched victory number 83 and once again they are 26 games over .500. The Cubs solely need to play .500 baseball from here out to win 94 games. I’m going to keep betting on the over. In the preseason I guessed that the Cubs would win 97. The only thing I can see stopping them from that now would be pulling back on the reins the last week of the season after everything is locked up. But I just don’t know if even that will stop things. Certainly a large number of innings being tossed by Triple-A and rehabbing pitchers will have a negative effect, but there isn’t a lot of dead weight offensively on the roster. Even a team with Taylor Davis behind the plate, Victor Caratini at first, Tommy La Stella at third and Terrance Gore in center would still have a couple of very productive hitters around 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 140, September 6 - Cubs win see-saw battle with two runs in tenth 6-4 (83-57)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - David Bote (.291). Like a thief in the night, he sneaks in and takes the Superhero award. He came into the game late for defensive purposes, didn’t get an at bat until the tenth, then hits an RBI double to give the Cubs the lead.
- Hero - Justin Wilson (.277). I thought I might be writing a number of words today about Justin Wilson and his clutch performance. He came in with runners on second and third with only one out in the eighth inning to face two right handed hitters. He really needed a strike out and he got it. Then he recorded the final out. I can’t ask you to forget that Justin’s 2017 season with the Cubs happened. But he’s been a really good reliever this year.
- Sidekick - Albert Almora Jr. (.237). Albert actually had two hits in this game in five at bats, but he lands here for his one-out double in the 10th that started the decisive rally. That almost makes me forget the bad base-running play in the top of the eighth that may have snuffed a Cubs rally that could have ended this game in regulation.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Kyle Hendricks (-.251). Kyle fell victim to one bad inning. WPA doesn’t care about earned runs versus unearned ones. The three unearned runs in the fifth land Kyle here. He allowed four runs, one earned in five innings of work. He allowed six hits and struck out six while walking no one. I mentioned yesterday he hadn’t allowed a home run in several starts. scratch that. It’s true for most pitchers, but Kyle is particularly hard to beat if you can’t hit the ball out of the yard.
- Goat - Javier Baez (-.175). WPA also doesn’t much care for scoring from first base on a “double.” Those points go to Rizzo, not Javy. Javy had a rough night at the plate with just one hit in six at bats. But he made something happen the one time he was on base. I fear MVP voters are going to “penalize” Baez because the Cubs are going to finish well clear of the field. He probably needs one more really hot stretch to make his numbers hard to ignore.
- Kid - Carl Edwards Jr. (-.167). Carl is going through a bit of a slump, particularly with his command/control. It certainly didn’t help that the umpire blew a call in the Bryce Harper at bat. You certainly can’t know how sequencing can change, but the first three pitches Edwards threw to Harper were strikes and Harper ends up walking. A fly out and single later and that was it for Edwards, setting the table for Wilson’s heroics.
WPA Play of the Game: David Bote’s one-out, RBI double in the tenth inning gave the Cubs a 5-4 lead. He’s come around to score and give the Cubs a two run lead which made the tenth inning a little more comfortable. (.291) This is the seventh time Bote has been credited with the play of the game. For perspective, only Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez among hitters have more appearances here.
*Nationals Play of the Game: Mark Reynolds’ two-out, two-run home-run off of Kyle Hendricks in the fourth inning gave the Nats a 3-2 lead. (.233)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 22
- Hero - Javier Baez 18.5
- Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo 17
- Fourth/fifth - Ben Zobrist/Cole Hamels 15.5
Up Next: Game two of the four game set between the two teams. The Cubs will send Jon Lester to the mound. Jon is 15-5 with a 3.53 ERA on the season. He is 3-2 with a 5.06 ERA over his last seven starts. The last start was a very good one in Philadelphia. He threw six innings and allowed eight hits, no walks, no runs and struck out seven. He recorded the win in that one, out-dueling Aaron Nola. Jon could possibly get five more starts, though far from certain. For those who have wondered, he probably has less than a 5 percent chance of winning 20. I didn’t do any math on that, so I may even be high on that estimate. Included in that last seven starts for Jon is one where the Nats absolutely lit him up. He allowed 10 hits, and nine runs (eight earned) in just 3⅔ innings. He did strike out five, but he allowed three home runs. In Jon’s last five regular season starts against them, he is 0-2 with a 4.75 ERA and that goes all of the way back to 2012. Bear in mind that ERA is wildly inflated by this year’s clunker.
Joe Ross makes his first start of the 2018 season after his recovery from Tommy John surgery. In 2017, Joe was 5-3, throwing 73⅔ innings. He’s never won against the Cubs though he’s pitched fairly well. He is 0-2 with a 3.44 ERA in 18⅓ innings of work over three starts. No Cub has even 10 plate appearances against him. Anthony Rizzo has two doubles in nine and Kris Bryant has a double in six. But really, no meaningful data there. It’ll be interesting to see how Joe is throwing coming off of the surgery and recovery process. In the minor leagues this year, he’s made six starts and thrown 26⅓ innings with a 2.39 ERA. I’d never read too much into rehab numbers other than to note that it is unlikely that Ross goes more than about five innings, maybe six if he is particularly efficient.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Albert Almora Jr.