Saturday night’s game was a bit of a clunker. With the two losses at the end of the Reds series, the Cubs have now lost three of four. After a blistering hot stretch, the Cubs have now “only” won six of 10. They are a .500 team at 11-11 on the road. Fortunately, they are a 15-6 home team. There are only a few teams better on the road in the National League than the Cubs and none of them are the Los Angeles Dodgers who have the best record in the league. By and large, through the first quarter of the season, the best teams are playing around .500 on the road and then crushing opposition at home. So there’s nothing unusual here.
It was a little unusual to see Jon Lester getting knocked around a bit, particularly knocked around and allowing runs for it. So often this season, even when Jon is allowing base runners, he’s wiggling out of jams over and over. If you follow my Up Next sections though, I did point out that Jon has really struggled against the Nationals. For whatever reason, some pitchers sometimes struggle against one team. That Nats have been a bit of kryptonite to Jon.
The Cubs offense has been a bit sluggish lately, Friday night’s late inning barrage not withstanding. Some of these guys were going to cool off eventually, but some others have been slumping pretty badly and it is starting to catch up with the overall product now. I think we are all unified in wanting Ben Zobrist to take all of the time he needs to deal with the things he and his family are going through off of the field. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this team badly misses a healthy, productive Zobrist. If Ben doesn’t make his way back to the team, they are going to probably eventually need another bat. Maybe Ian Happ can sort things out to the point where he is that guy. That remains to be seen.
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 43, May 18: Cubs 2 at Nationals 5 (26-17)
- Superhero/Hero: Tyler Chatwood/David Bote (.030). Tyler threw two scoreless innings as part of 3⅔ scoreless innings for the collective bullpen. He did walk two and strikeout one. David had a solo home run and a strikeout in three at bats.
- Sidekick: Carl Edwards Jr. (.013). Carl faced two batters and retired them both. He struck out one.
- Billy Goat: Jon Lester (-.256). Jon was charged with 10 hits, a walk and five runs in 4⅓ innings of work. He did strike out three in the loss. His ERA jumps from 1.16 to 2.09 and he for the moment qualifies for fifth in the National League and sixth in all of MLB in ERA. He’ll stay there until the Cubs play today’s game, then he will once again not have enough innings to qualify.
- Goat: Anthony Rizzo (-.071). Anthony was hitless in three at bats. He lands here largely because of the double play he grounded into to end the fourth inning. (-.037)
- Kid: Javier Baez/Kris Bryant (-.055). Javy was hitless in three at bats with one strikeout, Kris was hitless in four at bats. Javy’s hitting streak and Kris’ on base streak have both come to an end.
WPA Play of the Game: Jon Lester had avoided this spot so far this year. When a starting pitcher is here, it is virtually always in the negative direction and Jon hasn’t had much negative yet this year. The solo homer he allowed to Brian Dozier in the second inning landed him here yesterday. (.106)
*Cubs Play of the Game: The Nationals opened the third inning with two singles and a runner advancing to third on an error on the second. With runners at the corners and no outs, Adam Eaton was caught trying to steal second. (.067)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Willson Contreras 11
- Tyler Chatwood 7.5
- Kris Bryant/Javier Baez 7
- Yu Darvish/David Bote -7
- Albert Almora Jr. -9.5
- Carl Edwards Jr. -10
Up Next: The Cubs will look to avoid losing for the fourth time in five games. The Nationals are trying to win for the fourth time in five games. Kyle Hendricks is making the start for the Cubs tonight. Kyle is staking his claim for NL Pitcher of the Month for May already. He’s made three May starts, thrown 25 innings and allowed two runs, one earned. Amazingly, he’s only 2-0 over those three starts. On the year, he is 3-4 with a 2.86 ERA over 50⅓ innings. Last time out he started the Cubs road trip on a high note with a win over the Reds. He threw eight innings and allowed three hits, one walk and one run. He struck out seven. He pitched twice against the Nationals last year and didn’t record a decision in either one. He threw a total of 11 innings and was charged with six runs, but only three of them were earned. He hasn’t beaten the Nationals since May of 2016. Current Nationals have a total of 147 plate appearances against Hendricks with a .555 OPS. Anthony Rendon has the most plate appearances at 25 (.634 OPS). Amazingly, Ryan Zimmerman has 18 plate appearances against Kyle and has yet to reach base and has five strikeouts. Adam Eaton has hit Kyle well (15 PA, 1.169).
Jeremy Hellickson, the 32-year-old right-hander, will be the Nationals hurler. Jeremy has struggled mightily in 2019 after recording a 3.45 ERA in 91⅓ innings in 2018. So far in 2019, he has a 2-2 record but a 6.00 ERA in his first 36 innings of work. He hasn’t won a game since April 17. Last time out, against the Mets, he took a loss after allowing six hits, four walks and five runs in just five innings of work. In three May starts, he is 0-2 and has allowed 13 runs (10 earned) in just 14⅓ innings. He faced the Cubs once last year in Chicago and had a really odd line. He didn’t allow any hits over 5⅔ innings. But he did walk four and allow two runs. He struck out three. He hasn’t beaten the Cubs since 2015 and in three lifetime starts against the Cubs is 1-1 with a 6.06 ERA in 16⅓ innings.
The Cubs have just 52 plate appearances against him, but have recorded a .876 OPS in them. Anthony Rizzo has the most PA at 9 (.556). In very small samples, Kris Bryant, Jaiver Baez and Kyle Schwarber all own home runs against Hellickson. Daniel Desclaso has three hits, including a double in his small sample and so all four of those players are over the 1.000 OPS mark. Overall, Jeremy has gotten hit well, but not crazy by right-handed hitters (.736 OPS). But he has gotten crushed by lefties (1.019).
This is a game the Cubs should win, given this pitching matchup. I try not to throw around “should” too often, because baseball is weird sometimes. But these are two pitchers heading in different directions.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Carl Edwards Jr.
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)