Wednesday night the Cubs completed a three-game sweep of the Marlins. To be sure, this Marlins team has a very good chance of posting the worst record in the National League. But all a team can do is win the games that were scheduled. Certainly, the Cubs faced a similarly undermanned Marlins team last March/April and split a four-game set.
This Cubs team has now won seven of 10. The three losses were all games that featured a good performance by an opposing starter and a save of more than the usual three outs. The Cubs are in a groove right now. Even when they lose, they are in it down to the end.
All of this is done with nominal contributions from Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester. Of course, if this team is going to compete for a championship that group of players is going to need to be a big part of it. But right now, they are finding ways to win, including flat out dominating the Marlins in this series.
The group of Jason Heyward, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Daniel Descalso is presently carrying this team offensively. On the other side of things, Jose Quintana and Cole Hamels have thrown 29 innings of one-run ball over two starts apiece. If Kyle Hendricks can get locked in and Jon Lester comes back healthy, we can finally see what this rotation can do.
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 17, April 17: Cubs 6 at Marlins 0 (8-9)
- Superhero: Daniel Descalso (.204). In three plate appearances, Daniel collected a single, a double, and three RBI. He started the scoring with an RBI single in the second and the Cubs coasted from there. Over 49 plate appearances as a Cub, he owns a line of .364/.429/.523 (wRC+ 151). If this continues, it’s going to be twice as difficult for Addison Russell to crack the lineup.
- Hero: Cole Hamels (.199). Cole hasn’t walked a batter now since the fourth inning of his start on March 31. You may recall that fourth inning was one in which Cole had two different walks that included a number of close calls that he didn’t get and ultimately ended with a grand slam. That inning lead to two of the three walks Cole has allowed in 26 innings and five of the eight runs. You can’t just remove the one inning that went poorly from someone’s record, but people would be talking about Cole as an early Cy Young candidate without that inning. Last night Cole threw seven innings and allowed only three hits and struck out eight.
- Sidekick: Javier Baez (.095). Javy lost his stretch of three hit games. But he still got two hits. He also drove in two runs and scored two as well. His homer in the eight capped the scoring. That’s 11 hits in his last 18 plate appearances. Included are four doubles, two homers, six runs scored and six driven in. That elevated his season numbers to .324/.351/.635 (wRC+ 152)
- Honorable Mention: Cole Hamels, hitter (-.049). Cole was hitless in three at bats. There wasn’t a lot of negative for the Cubs in this one.
- Billy Goat: Ben Zobrist (-.045). Ben was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice. After a hot start at the plate, Ben is now hitting just .158/.292/.158 (wRC+ 34) over his last 24 plate appearances. He is still looking for his first extra-base hit of the season.
- Goat: Anthony Rizzo (-.028). The struggles continue for Anthony. He was hitless in another four at bats yesterday. He struck out once.
- Kid: David Bote (.000). David struck out in a pinch hit at bat in the ninth.
WPA Play of the Game: Javier Baez batted with two outs and a runner on second in the second inning. The Cubs were up 1-0. He singled in the second run and then advanced to second on the throw home. (.111) He’d go on to score the Cubs third run.
*Marlins Play of the Game: Cole Hamels batted with a runner on first and two out in the second. He flew out. (.044) After Chad Wallach’s homer in Monday’s game, the Marlins offense went MIA.
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
(# = returned to minors)
- Jason Heyward/Daniel Descalso 8
- Javier Baez 6
- Albert Almora Jr./Kyle Hendricks -6
- Kris Bryant/#Carl Edwards Jr. -8
Up Next: The Cubs open a three-game set at home against the Diamondbacks. The Cubs have now won five of six. The D-backs have won three in a row, but it follows a four-game losing streak. They also have a game early this afternoon against the Braves in Atlanta before coming to Chicago.
Kyle Hendricks will be on the mound for the Cubs. He is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA over 13⅓ innings to start the year. In 21 career starts in March/April, Kyle is 5-8 with a 4.18 ERA. So this isn’t exactly uncharted territory. On an even bigger level, Kyle is 21-24 with a 3.59 ERA in the season’s first half. He is 31-12 with a 2.66 ERA in the second half. Kyle is a certified slow starter. He’s faced the D-backs four times in his career and is 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA over 25⅓ innings of work.
Arizona’s team has a team OPS of .804. That’s boosted in small part by a pitching staff that has two homers and a double from Zack Greinke, three hits in nine at bats from Zack Godley and a 1.000 OPS out of Luke Weaver who also has a home run in five plate appearances. Even without Paul Goldschmidt, this has been a dynamic offense (9th in OPS).
Merrill Kelly will be the starter for Arizona. He is 1-1 witha 3.79 ERA in 19 innings of worked. He has a 17/3 K/BB ratio. Last time out, he was a loser after giving up eight hits, one walk and four runs in five innings. He has allowed one homer in each of his three starts so far this year. Kelly is actually a 30-year-old rookie. He’s pitched in Korea for the last three seasons. Before that, he was developed in the Rays system.
19 innings is a very small amount of data, but so far Kelly has allowed a .610 OPS against right-handed hitters and an .840 against left-handed hitters. He’s allowed an identical .689 OPS at home and on the road. The DBacks have a team 5.36 ERA. Oddly, Kelly is their only starter who is off to a good start. Archie Bradley (2.00 ERA, nine innings), Yoan Lopez (1.29 ERA, seven innings), and Greg Holland (0.00 ERA, seven innings, four saves) have all been very good out of the pen. A pair of Matt’s have been struggling out of their pen (Matt Koch 15 ERA over nine innings and Matt Andreiese 4.66 ERA over 9⅔ innings). Yoshihisa Hirano has also struggled with a 6.43 ERA over seven innings.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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