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2019 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 44

The Cubs almost let one get away, but hold on for another 6-5 win

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday’s game took an odd turn. Kyle Hendricks had been rolling right along and the game looked like it might be a blow out. Then the bottom dropped out on Hendricks and things got tense. I imagine that I’m not the only one who was around for the good part but was watching HBO while the bad was happening. Fortunately, the Cubs held on for another 6-5 win.

There’s that score again. 6-5 in a Cubs game. That’s not a particularly common score. Yet the Cubs have had seven of their first 44 games end with that score. A little bit over 16% of their games have ended with that same score. There have been only 29 such games in the majors this year. The Cubs and Mariners lead the way with four wins of 6-5. They are also tied with the Reds for most losses of 5-6 (three). Just a quirky oddity.

It does say something about the Cubs, though. They score a lot of runs, but they’ve also had a good number of games where their pitching has gotten knocked around in. To expand the data a little further, I looked at games in which there were at least 11 total runs scored and the losing team had at least four runs. The Cubs have been in 17 such games or a bit less than 40% of their games. Only four teams have played in more. The Cubs are 9-8 in these games and that is better than all of the teams who are appearing in them more frequently. Sure, some of these games represent ones in which the Cubs built a big lead in and then some low leverage relievers allowed some meaningless runs late. But some of them are more indicative of the larger ongoing problem of not yet having a consistent lockdown bullpen.

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 44, May 19: Cubs 6 at Nationals 5 (27-17)

Source: FanGraphs


  • Superhero: Steve Cishek (.394). Sometimes, particularly in a clunker game, is just a person who produced the only positive in an otherwise lousy game. But sometimes, the person really did have a heroic performance. Steve recorded the final seven outs of the game allowing only one hit to nail down the save.
  • Hero: Albert Almora Jr. (.184). I have to admit, I cringed again seeing Albert’s name in the lineup going into last night’s game. I had profiled the game and that Jeremy Hellickson had really been dominated by left-handed hitters and I was frustrated that the ongoing absence of Ben Zobrist had Albert playing. And then he had three hits, two doubles, a walk, and scored two runs. He has really turned it on since a dismal start to the season.
  • Sidekick: Anthony Rizzo (.114). Anthony had a solo homer in the third inning to make it 2-0. That was his only hit in four at bats. Hopefully, Anthony is settling back in after missing some time with a back injury. His big left-handed bat is an integral part of the success of this team.


  • Billy Goat: Daniel Descalso (-.162). Daniel was hitless in four at bats with a strikeout. He grounded into a bases loaded double play to end a first inning that looked like it could have otherwise blown the game wide open.
  • Goat: Kyle Hendricks (-.046). Kyle’s hitting actually would have come in slightly higher (-.051). Early on it looked like he might have no hit type of stuff. But then the sixth inning happened. All together he threw 5⅔ innings, allowing six hits, two walks and four runs. He struck out four.
  • Kid: David Bote (-.029). David struck out as a pinch hitter in his only at bat.

WPA Play of the Game: Brandon Kintzler is in a bit of a rut after a strong start to the season. He allowed a solo homer to Howie Kendrick to start the seventh inning. (.145)

*Cubs Play of the Game: Albert Almora’s double with no outs in the second inning with Jason Heyward on base. (.095)

Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:

  • Willson Contreras 11
  • Tyler Chatwood 7.5
  • Kris Bryant/Javier Baez 7
  • Albert Almora Jr. -7.5
  • David Bote -8
  • Carl Edwards Jr. -10

Up Next: The Phillies come in for a four game set starting tonight. The Phillies are 6-4 over their last 10 games. They reached that mark in an odd way. They just swept a three-game set at home from the Rockies. Before that, they lost the final three games of a four-game set against the Brewers. They won the first game of that set and the final two of their previous set, so the Phillies have alternated winning three, losing three and winning three. I’ll take it if they want to continue that pattern and the Cubs winning the next three and then dropping the final game of the set.

The Phillies are 13-7 in their last 20, so they’ve been playing good ball for a little while now and they sit atop the National League East. This is an early chance to have a postseason preview matchup between two teams that look like their built for making playoff runs.

In the first game of the set, the Cubs will send Yu Darvish to the mound. Yu is 2-3 with a 5.14 ERA in 42 innings of work. Yu has had some decent starts and some bad starts. His biggest problem has been that he’s had more of the bad ones than the decent ones. Last time out, he threw 5⅓innings in a no-decision in Cincinnati. He allowed five hits, two runs but, importantly, no walks. He struck out 11. Hopefully, Yu can build on that outing. One thing I’ve been keeping an eye on is that Yu is 0-2 with a 6.38 ERA (opponent OPS of .936) at home and a 2-1 with a 4.18 (.717) on the road.

Yu made two starts against the Phillies in 2017, the only two of his career. He was 1-0 with an 0.73 ERA in 12⅓ innings. Current Phillies have just 36 lifetime plate appearances against him. No player has more than six, so none of the sample sizes are meaningful. He has allowed a .725 OPS against them.

Jake Arrieta will be the opposition. Jake is 4-4 with a 4.02 ERA in 56 innings. He has lost his last two starts and hasn’t had a win yet in the month of May. His last outing was against the Brewers and he allowed five hits, four walks and five runs (four earned) in six innings of work against them. He did strike out five. Jake has never faced the Cubs as a starter. Current Cubs have only 39 plate appearances against Jake and five of those belong to starting pitchers. That leaves all of the rest of the plate appearances belonging to two men. One has done quite well, Jason Heyward: 21 plate appearances with a 1.000 OPS, and one has done quite poorly, Daniel Descalso: 13 plate appearances with a .154 including five strikeouts and no hits.

This doesn’t look like a favorable matchup on paper. Let’s hope Yu can keep it close or some Cubs hitters can beat up on an old friend.


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    Steve Cishek
    (160 votes)
  • 9%
    Albert Almora Jr.
    (19 votes)
  • 1%
    Anthony Rizzo
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Kyle Hendricks
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    Kyle Schwarber
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Jason Heyward
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    (2 votes)
192 votes total Vote Now