It wasn’t the prettiest game on record, but the Cubs kept on rolling on Sunday night. There is no question that the Brewers are a good team. Their pitchers did a better job stifling Cubs hitters than just about anyone else has done this year. And still, the Cubs took two out of three over the weekend. The Brewers aren’t any more dead than the Cardinals were after they lost three straight last weekend here in Chicago. Both teams will bounce back and the N.L. Central race is far from over. But, it sure is nice that as the Cubs head out on the road, they do so with a two game lead in the division.
The Cubs allowed nine hits and two walks, but only allowed a single unearned run on Sunday night. Meanwhile, their hitters turned eight hits and two walks into four runs. That’s what we like to call good sequencing for the Cubs on Sunday. Jon Lester conjured an image for me of walking across red hot coals. There was danger all about him, but time after time he amazingly emerged unscathed.
Lester teamed up with the two offensive stars of the game, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, to get this one done. The duo combined for five hits a walk, three runs, and three RBI. The rest of the team combined for three hits, one walk, one RBI and one run. Two of the Cubs best hitters stepped up their game on a night that the Cubs were playing without Anthony Rizzo . Hopefully, Anthony can get back in the lineup after a scheduled off day Monday as the Cubs hit the road for six starting on Tuesday.
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 38, May 12: Cubs 4, Brewers 1 (24-14)
- Superhero: Kris Bryant (.265). Kris had a monster game with three hits, three runs scored, and two RBI in four at bats. He reached on an error in the other at bat, so he was basically on base all night long. For the season, he is up to 170 plate appearances with a line of .257/.400/.529 (wRC+ 149). His BB% is 16.5 and his K% is 17.1. That would be the highest walk rate of his career and the lowest strike out rate. His ISO is at .258, just a tad below his career high in 2016 (.262). The last number he has to fix this year is his BABIP (.258 versus a career .340). We could actually be looking at the best ever version of KB.
- Hero: Javier Baez (.244). Javy had two hits and a walk in four plate appearances. He drove in a run. Like Bryant, he also reached once an an error. He also added a double, his 14th of the season. He’s carrying a line of (.323/.360/.627 with a wRC+157).
- Sidekick: Jon Lester (.226). 6⅔ innings and he allowed nine hits, one walk and one unearned run. He struck out six. Until Tuesday, he’ll be MLB’s ERA leader at 1.16 (after that, he will no longer qualify due to not meeting the minimum innings requirement). Jon presently has his highest strike outs per nine since 2015, his first year with the Cubs (9.08 versus 9.09). He also presently is walking the fewest per nine in any of his seasons as a Cub (1.86). He’s aided by the lowest HR/FB of his Cubs career (8.6%) and all of this adds up to a FIP of 2.71 that says that even if and when regression occurs, he’ll still be dominating NL hitters.
- Billy Goat: Jason Heyward (-.092). Jason was hitless in four at bats. He struck out once. Things have headed south for Jason and Heroes and Goats has noticed. This is four straight games on the negative side of things with three straight Billy Goats. Overall, six of his last nine games have seen him on the negative side of the ledger.
- Goat: Daniel Descalso (-.085). Daniel returned to the starting lineup for the first time in a while. He was hitless in three at bats.
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.076). Yesterday’s hero finds himself near the bottom today. He was hitless in four at bats, though he did have a productive out in the first inning, driving in a run with runners at second third and one out.
WPA Play of the Game: Javier Baez doubled with two outs and a runner on first in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie. (.169). This is Javier’s fifth positive WPA play of the game, two more than any other Cub (Rizzo, Bryant three each).
*Brewers Play of the Game: Christian Yellich reached on a three base error by Kyle Schwarber (.118).
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Willson Contreras 9
- Jon Lester 8
- Jose Quintana 7
- Carl Edwards Jr. -8
- Yu Darvish -9
- Albert Almora Jr. -11
Up Next: The Cubs have an off day on Monday ahead of a six game road trip. That trip starts Tuesday night with a game in Cincinnati. The Reds are 18-23 overall, but they are 9-8 at home. They’ve split their last 10. They are also off on Monday. They are returning from a six game trip of their own to California. Most recently, they were in San Francisco where they won the first two games before losing on Sunday. They’ll be looking for their fourth win in five games on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Cubs are scorching hot, coming off of back to back wins against the Brewers. They just finished off an 8-2 homestand and have won 12 of 14 overall.
The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks to the mound in the first game. He is 2-4 with a 3.19 ERA in 42⅓innings. He’s coming off of a no decision in a game in which he threw eight innings and allowed one unearned run against the Marlins. He hasn’t allowed an earned run yet in two May starts. He made three starts against the Reds in 2018. He was 1-1 and allowed eight runs (seven earned) in 17⅔ innings. Current Reds have 173 plate appearances against Kyle with a .690 OPS. Tucker Barnhart has the most PA (32, .613 OPS). One Red who has had very good success against Kyle is Joey Votto (29, 1.489). One Red who has struggled against Kyle is Jose Peraza (18 .465).
The Reds will start Tanner Roark. Tanner is 3-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 37 innings. He’s coming off of a win in Oakland when he threw six shutout innings. He only allowed three hits and two walks while striking out three. Tanner is 2-0 in two May starts with two runs allowed in 12⅔ innings. He only faced the Cubs once in 2018, but it was a good one. He threw 7⅔ innings in Wrigley Field and allowed nine hits, one walk and two runs. He struck out seven and picked up a win. Tanner is 5-2 with a 3.77 ERA in eight career appearances against the Cubs (seven starts). Included in that is four wins in his last five starts against them. He recorded a 2.64 ERA in 30⅔ innings over that stretch.
Tanner has allowed a .627 OPS to right-handed hitters on the season as opposed to a .746 against left-handed hitters. Current Cubs have a total of 110 plate appearances against Roark with a .642 OPS. Jason Heyward leads the way with 23 plate appearances (.087 OPS - two walks and a sacrifice fly). One Cub who has had success against Roark is Kris Bryant (1.182 OPS in 11 PA).
This one looks like another pitchers’ duel on paper. Hopefully, the Cubs bats can come through and Kyle Hendricks can keep his hot May start going.
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