It’s possible I use the phrase train wreck too often. That’s my instinct for describing Saturday’s game. But that’s what this was. It was a slow moving train derailment. The insanity started in the first inning and whatever the heck Justin Bour’s play was, what with him basically calling himself out on a close play (when the umpire had called him safe). And it didn’t end until the final moments of the game when an umpire decided to end the game on a judgment call.
It is always unfortunate when a game ends on a judgment call. As someone who did some amateur umpiring, I can say that you never want to see the game end with umpire’s discretion. You want to be part of the background. But no, this one ended on a very close call. I do think he got it wrong, but it should never come down to that.
For all of the angst and animosity, the Angels team that took the field was not a particularly good one. It was a team that the Cubs should beat. But, the Cubs simply didn’t play well. Kyle Hendricks allowed six consecutive Angels to reach base starting with Bour in the first. Five of them were singles and the other was old pal Tommy La Stella doing his swing at the glove trick that somehow keeps working. The Angels had a sixth-inning rally that produced two runs on only one hit. All the more frustrating, the hit came first. It was then followed by four walks in the inning.
Was it in the post mortem for the 2017 season that the front office talked about attacking the strike zone and not walking so many hitters? Here we are in 2019 and this remains a problem. It’s hard to argue taking out a struggling Kyle Hendricks until you watch the bullpen struggle to survive the last four innings against a subpar offensive Angels team.
This is the third consecutive Cubs loss that was defined by a starting pitcher who was effective in shutting down the Cubs through swings and misses and weak contact and then finished by a closer recording more than three outs to end the game. At least this time, the Cubs bats mustered some offense against Angels closer Cody Allen. But in the end, they came up short. Again.
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 14, April 13: Cubs 5, Angels 6 (5-9)
- Superhero: Javier Baez (.387). Javy’s superhero skill is becoming incorporeal. I have no idea how he wasn’t out at second on his final double of the day. Javy had three doubles in five at bats. He drove in two runs. Unfortunately, he didn’t score one.
- Hero: Jason Heyward (.281). Obviously Jason is not going to finish the season with the numbers he’s putting up. But if this blistering start is not a mirage, I’m not sure I can think of anyone ever I’d be happier for. I can’t even imagine how it is possible to struggle for three full years and then turn it around like this. Jason had two hits, a walk, and a very strange sacrifice fly/error play that gave the Cubs hope.
- Sidekick: Mark Zagunis (.082). Mark had quite an at-bat in the eighth inning and it ended with a two-run single. It’s a small sample size, but it appears that Mark’s bat is ready to play at the big-league level.
- Billy Goat: Willson Contreras (-.413). From the Sidekick spot to the Billy Goat spot. Things can turn abruptly from one day to the next. Willson had just one infield single in five at bats. He struck out three times including a devastating one that I’ll talk more about below.
- Goat: Kyle Schwarber (-.305). I basically only watch the Cubs, but at least as far as Cubs game go, no one has more judgment calls go against them than Kyle does. That said, Kyle’s in a horrible slump. Maybe the breakout season everyone is calling for is coming, but he had another rough day at the plate. He had one walk in five plate appearances and struck out twice.
- Kid: Daniel Descalso (-.155). The Cubs had nine hits and seven walks in this one. They had traffic all day long, but just couldn’t cash in enough times. Daniel struck out to end the eighth with runner on first and second and the Cubs down two. He had one hit in five at bats and struck out twice.
WPA Play of the Game: Kyle Schwarber’s game ending strikeout got all of the publicity, but the devastating one was Willson Contreras immediately before it. The Angels pulled the infield in with a 6-5 lead and one out in the ninth. Any kind of fly ball had a very good chance of producing a run with Javier Baez on third. Additionally, a hard grounder was probably going to win the game absent a strong fielding play from the Angels. Plan C then would be working a deep count against a pitcher who appeared to be content to work around Contreras. Maybe, Allen would bounce one or something that could get away and let Baez come home. Instead, Willson flailed at three straight pitches out of the zone for the all important second out. (.298)
*Cubs Play of the Game: With runners on second and third, one out and the Cubs losing 6-4, Jason Heyward was at the plate. He popped one down the left field line that was possibly going to be a foul ball. Angels left fielder Brian Goodwin tried to make a sliding catch only had it to bounce off of his glove. Heyward made it all of the way to second and one run scored. (.254)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
(* = injured list; # = returned to minors)
- Ben Zobrist 11
- Jason Heyward 8
- *Victor Caratini/Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez 4
- Yu Darvish/Kris Bryant -5
- Kyle Hendricks -6
- #Carl Edwards Jr. -8
Up Next: For what it’s worth, I’ll cover the pitching matchup for the third and final scheduled game of this series. The Cubs will try to win their second straight series to start their home season. The Angels will be looking for their eighth win in nine tries.
The Cubs have Tyler Chatwood filling in for the injured Jon Lester. Tyler has thrown six innings over four appearances so far this year. He’s allowed six hits, five walks and four runs. That follows a 2018 season that saw him go 4-6 with a 5.30 ERA and walk a staggering 95 batters in 103⅔ innings. He lead the majors with that number despite 134 pitchers throwing more innings than he did. Lucas Giolito, who finished second with 90 walks, threw 69⅔ innings more than Chatwood. On a cold day with precipitation expected, what could go wrong? Oh, and six of the Cubs eight relievers threw on Saturday.
Ex-Cub Trevor Cahill will be the opposition. He’s made three starts already for the Angels and he is 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA. He’s struck out 16 batters in 18 innings. Last time out, he threw six innings in a 5-2 win over the Brewers. He allowed two runs on five hits while striking out eight. Trevor has made five appearances in his career against the Cubs including four starts. He is 3-1 with a 4.00 ERA in 27 innings of work. Despite this being a depleted Angels team without Mike Trout, I’m not sure this a game the Cubs want to see played.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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