Please try to remember the last 20-plus days whenever you want to jump to conclusions. A week or so ago, the Milwaukee Brewers looked like maybe they could just keep on steam rolling the way they did last year. Then the Cardinals got hot until they ran into the Brewers again. Now the Pirates have cruised out to a lead. But the Cubs have won four in a row and the four teams are right now separated by 2½ games.
The reality is, there is a ton of baseball left to play. If the Reds were the Red Sox, I’d even say they could still get hot and turn a five-game deficit into a five-game lead by the All-Star break. Of course, if you thought the Cardinals and Brewers were much better than the Cubs before any baseball was played, then the Cubs’ slow start only confirmed your fears. That always makes it hard to dismiss. I get it, there is always a natural tendency to do that. I remember late one night in the first week of this season mentally clearing some conflicts I may have in my schedule this October.
It’s always good to just remember, even in baseball, things can change dramatically. Even in a small amount of time this is true. The only thing in the National League I see as even a little scary is the 2½-game lead the Dodgers have behind their 14-8 start. That team has played in consecutive World Series, arguably has the best team in the league on paper, and is off to a hot start. But, injuries and slumps do happen. Even for them, nothing is set in stone.
One week into the season, the Cubs looked like Jon Lester was a one man band in their rotation. But Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana have each now turned in consecutive fantastic starts. Yu Darvish just came off of one of his best starts as a Cub (sadly, low bar) and now Kyle Hendricks had a vintage performance. Now if only big Jon could come back...
The offense continues to score runs. That’s six straight games in which they’ve scored at least four runs. They did only score two in each of the two games before that, but one of those numbers was good enough to win. And the game before that, they had 10. They’ve been fairly consistent, despite early slumps for Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. It’s only a matter of time before those two join the hit parade.
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 18, April 19: Cubs 5, Diamondback 1 (9-9)
- Superhero: Kyle Hendricks (.309). Kyle threw seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and two walks while striking out 11. Next time out, he should face the Dodgers. Let’s hope he can duplicate this one.
- Hero: Kris Bryant (.252). It wasn’t the prettiest two hit game Kris Bryant has ever had. But Kris has squared a number of balls up the last week that found fielders. So he’s certainly not going to throw back a wind-aided two-run double. He also had a walk and a run scored in his five plate appearances.
- Sidekick: Anthony Rizzo (.145). Anthony is getting his chances. This is the sixth time in the last seven games Anthony has been on a podium. This is the second positive showing. Anthony had an RBI triple in the fourth inning and drew two walks and a hit by pitch.
- Billy Goat: Javier Baez (-.125). Javy had a rough day at the plate with three strikeouts in five at bats. He did reach on a fielder’s choice and later scored a run though.
- Goat: Daniel Descalso (-.082). Descalso had just one walk in five plate appearances. He ended up scoring a run though. He struck out once.
- Kid: Brad Brach (-.041). He did record a strikeout. But he also allowed three hits and a run to snap a long scoreless streak for the Cubs.
WPA Play of the Game: Kris Bryant batted with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning. It was still 2-0 at the time. Kris popped a ball up that several Diamondback fielders couldn’t quite get a line on and the ball dropped for a two-run double. (.186)
*D-backs Play of the Game: On a day that nothing really went right for Arizona, their top play ends up being a strikeout of Daniel Descalso with the bases loaded and one out in the second to prove a scoreless game one batter longer. (.077)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3
(# = returned to minors)
- Jason Heyward 8
- Daniel Descalso 6
- Ben Zobrist 5.5
- Albert Almora Jr. -6
- Kris Bryant -7
- #Carl Edwards Jr -8
Up Next: Both teams now sit at .500 on the season. The Cubs will look to win for their fifth time in a row and seventh time in eight games. The snakes will be looking to bounce back after seeing their four game winning streak come to an end.
The Cubs will send Yu Darvish to the hill. He is 1-2 with a 6.11 ERA in 17⅔ innings on the young season. But last time out he threw 5⅔ innings and allowed only two runs on four hits. He did walk four but struck out eight. Each time he’s pitched this year, he lasted longer than the time before. Hopefully he is building up and locking in on the player he can be. Yu is 2-0 with a 2.75 ERA over three starts and 19⅔ innings against the D-backs in his career. The entire current D-backs team has a total of 38 plate appearances against him.
One of those plate appearances was by opposing starter Zack Greinke. Zack has had an uncharacteristically bad start to the season, though he has a 2-1 record. But, he has a 5.79 ERA over 23⅓ innings. He’s already been tagged for eight home runs. Last time out, he had his best start of the year at home against the Padres. He threw seven innings and allowed only four hits, one walk and two runs. Of course, the two runs were both home runs. So it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Zack has been around long enough to make 10 career starts against the Cubs. He is 4-3 with a 4.50 ERA in those 10 starts, so once again a mixed bag. Current Cubs have 117 career plate appearances against him with a combined .717 OPS. Many of you probably remember a two-homer game that Willson Contreras had a couple of seasons ago against Zack. Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist have each had some success at the plate against Greinke. But almost everyone else has struggled.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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