It will always remain amusing to me that even in baseball, seemingly the slowest moving of sports, how fast things can change. After losing on April 5, the Cubs were 1-6 and owned one of the worst records in baseball. Some were already afraid that the Brewers appeared to be such a juggernaut that if the Cubs didn’t bounce back and win two over the weekend that they might never recover.
Jason Heyward was a double play machine. The Jose Quintana trade was a major disappointment. Jon Lester had made two pretty good starts and the Cubs collective starting rotation as a whole had a total of two pretty good starts. The Cubs offense had managed 46 runs in the seven games as pretty much the lone bright spot in the dreadful start.
Jason Heyward is posting MVP-caliber numbers to this point in the season. I’m not even sure he’d win the team’s MVP thanks to all that is Javier Baez (sorry about that pre-season prediction, Javy. I was wrong, can you forgive me?). Jose Quintana has been a dominant pitcher for three consecutive starts. Jon Lester hasn’t started since April 8 when he left his start early with an injury. Yet the Cubs pitchers have held the opposition to a total of two runs or less eight times in the 12 games he missed (which doesn’t include the seven shutout innings by the bullpen in the game he was injured).
That offense? It remains pretty good. At 5.6 runs per game, it’s still one of the better offenses in baseball, even if it slowed down a tick from its impressive start. Anthony Rizzo finally appears to be getting into a bit of a groove and Kris Bryant looked good last night as well. If those two could get going, this lineup begins to look more and more scary by the day. Even with pedestrian numbers from those two, the Cubs boast three of the top 20 players in OPS in all of baseball right now.
As for the standings, the Brewers have dropped seven of 10 and now they are looking up at a red hot Cubs team. Amazingly, there are three teams in the NL that have won eight of 10 games. The Cubs, the Diamondbacks (whose only two losses came at the hands of the Cubs) and the Colorado Rockies (who started even slower than the Cubs and haven’t yet reached .500). The Cubs are now tied for the fifth best record in the National League. The standings don’t particularly matter for a while yet, but it’s fun to see. At this point, you really just want to see your own team taking care of business and not really worry about what goes on around it.
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 22, April 24: Cubs 7, Dodgers 6 (12-10)
- Superhero: Javier Baez (.323). Javy had only one hit in four at bats last night. He also made some good plays on defense last night. Did I gloss over that one hit? We’ll talk about that one in a bit.
- Hero: Jason Heyward (.300). Jason had an identical line to Baez. His one hit was a three-run homer in the sixth inning with two outs (.341).
- Sidekick: Pedro Strop (.158). Strop allowed a lead-off walk after a check swing that reminded me of the Kyle Schwarber one that ended a recent game in controversy. Strop recovered with a strikeout and double play grounder.
- Billy Goat: Steve Cishek (-.096). Steve allowed three hits including a three-run homer in the eighth inning to make this one tense all of the way to the end.
- Goat: Cole Hamels (-.072). Hamels battled his control all night and maybe shouldn’t have tried to pitch the sixth inning. He allowed a two-run homer after a seeing eye single with one in the sixth. In total, he threw 5 1⁄3 innings and allowed only three hits but six walks. He struck out seven and allowed three runs.
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.049). Willson had one walk in four plate appearances. He also struck out once. He did score a run.
WPA Play of the Game: Javier Baez batted with two outs in the sixth inning. He hit the first of two three-run homers to tie the game. (.370). The Play of the Game has been a positive event for the Cubs 10 times. Three of those have been by Javy. He has a knack for the dramatic. No other Cub has even two.
*Dodgers Play of the Game: Cody Bellinger’s two-run homer against Hamels was their big blow. (.192)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
(# = returned to minors)
- Javier Baez 9
- Willson Contreras/Jason Heyward 7
- Steve Cishek/Kyle Schwarber -7
- Yu Darvish/#Carl Edwards Jr. -8
Up Next: The Cubs will seek their fourth straight win, a series sweep and eight wins in nine games. The Dodgers will look to avoid the sweep and losing for the fourth time in five games after a six game winning streak.
Jon Lester returns from the injured list to start this afternoon’s game. Jon is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings of work this season. His last start was that one he got injured in back on April 8. He had thrown two shutout innings. He allowed three hits and a walk while striking out four. Players currently employed by the Dodgers have a total of 209 plate appearances against Jon, lead by David Freese with 41 of them (.779 OPS). Cody Bellinger has only 8 of them, but he has a 1.768 OPS. Justin Turner has struggled against him with just a .249 OPS in 29 plate appearances. Otherwise, there are some very good numbers by Dodgers hitters against him. Lester is 4-3 with a 3.35 ERA in nine career starts against the Dodgers though. I can only assume the bulk of that was done against the current group of dynamic Dodgers hitters.
Ross Stripling is the Dodgers starter. He is 1-1 with a 3.07 ERA in 29⅓ innings of work. Ross is coming off of 4⅔ innings in Milwaukee in which he allowed four hits, three walks and two runs. He struck out eight and didn’t receive a decision. Ross is 0-1 with a 2.12 ERA against the Cubs in five games (two starts) against the Cubs. The Cubs have a total of only 79 plate appearances against him with only Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward having 10 or more. Collectively, current members of the Cubs organization have a .716 OPS against Stripling.
This should be another tough one. Ross has a bit of a reverse split issue for his career. He has allowed a .767 OPS to right-handed hitters and a .637 to lefties. Perhaps David Bote will grab a start at second base over the left-handed Daniel Descalso.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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