I’m going to make an earnest effort to take a lot less time than that game did. For a while, this one looked like it might have a chance at an MLB record long nine inning game. Unfortunately, the Cubs offense slowed down as the game wore on and the game sped up.
Doubly unfortunate was that the Cubs pitchers by and large never commanded the strike zone. I know there was some chatter about the strike zone during the game on social media. To be fair, the home plate umpire definitely was missing calls in both directions for both teams throughout. But Cubs pitchers weren’t doing themselves any favors.
It was surely a cold night in Texas. Rangers players were mostly wearing those ski mask/hood thingies, But it was not the frigid type of night where pitchers lose grip on the ball. Pitchers were not allowed to blow into their hand or anything like that. So I’m not giving the Cubs pitchers any free passes. Though they gave out a whopping 12 of them.
And that’s all of the half-hearted attempt at humor I’m going to make. This one got away. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. Bringing Jose Quintana into a March game probably passes for urgency, but if one were looking for an exhibit on killer instinct and letting one get away, this one might fit the bill.
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 2, March 30: Cubs 6 at Rangers 8 (1-1)
- Superhero: Kyle Schwarber (.180). Kyle had a strong night at the plate in his first start of the season. He had three hits on the night including a first-inning RBI-single and a fifth inning solo homer. His bunt single in the ninth was a smart play and highlights the downside of shifting in the ninth inning with a two-run lead. A solo homer had little value, but getting the tying run to the plate had enormous value. Kudos to Kyle.
- Hero: Javier Baez (.112). Javy makes back to back appearances on the Hero side of the ledger to start the season. He had singles in his first two at bats, stole a base, drove in a run, scored twice and even drew a walk in five plate appearances. Way to fill up a box score.
- Sidekick: Willson Contreras (.111). The middle of the Cubs lineup combined for eight hits, four runs and five RBI and all three of them land on the positive side. Contreras had a pair of doubles, a single, a run and two runs batted in on the day.
- Billy Goat: Carl Edwards Jr. (-.606). Last year in the second game of the season, Eddie Butler turned in one of the largest positive WPA games of the year. This year it is Carl in a negative direction. Edwards faced four batters, walked two, allowed two hits, including a long home run and was charged with three devastating runs.
- Goat: Yu Darvish (-.121). I always worry about a starter who has to wait 20 minutes or more between the time they finish warming up and the time they enter the game. The Cubs spotted him a three run lead in a long first inning. Yu simply didn’t have any command of his impressive array of pitches in this one. In 2⅔ innings, he walked seven, allowed two hits, including a home run, struck out four and was charged with three runs.
- Kid: Anthony Rizzo (-.096). His walk in the first inning contributed to the rally to open the game. But that was the only time he reached base in five plate appearances.
WPA Play of the Game: Carl Edwards Jr. allowed a single and a walk to the first two batters he faced to start the eighth inning. That brought Joey Gallo to the plate. Joey Gallo destroyed one for a three-run homer (.368). That turned what had been a 6-5 Cub lead into the 8-6 score that would be the final score. Gallo had a three true outcome day with a walk, a strikeout and a homer.
*Cubs Play of the Game: Kyle Schwarber’s one-out solo homer in the fifth inning made it 5-3 Cubs. (.114)
Cumulative Top 3/Bottom 3:
- Javier Baez 5
- Kyle Schwarber 3
- Ben Zobrist 2
- Yu Darvish -2
- Albert Almora Jr. -3
- Carl Edwards Jr. -3
With each team winning one of the first two games, they will each have a chance to win the series on Sunday. The Cubs will send ex-Ranger Cole Hamels to the mound. Cole has a grand total of one major league, regular season start against the Rangers. For what little it is worth, he is 1-0 with a 5.14 ERA against them.
He’ll be opposed by Lance Lynn. The long time Cardinal has quite a bit more experience against Cubs hitters. In 20 lifetime starts against the Cubs, Lynn is 6-7 with a 4.62 ERA in 101⅓ innings of work. The line against Lynn isn’t super imposing though at .241/.335/.398. In his first year in the American League, Lance had a 10-10 record with a 4.77 ERA in 156⅔ innings of work for the Twins and Yankees last year.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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