For the second straight night, the Cubs played a game that can effectively be split into two parts. In the first part, Jose Quintana outdueled Zach Eflin through six innings. Q looked very good, as he basically has with the exception of his very first start against the Brewers. That start is looking more and more like an aberration as the season wears on. Be it the voodoo magic that turns the Brewers from ordinary hitters to demi-gods when playing at home or be it something related to Q’s rhythm being thrown off by an extended relief outing in the first series of the year against the Rangers. Either way, he wasn’t himself that night. Since that start, Q has thrown 50⅓ innings and is 4-2 with a 2.32 ERA (3.12 FIP). He has a K/9 of 7.69 and a BB/9 of 2.15. His numbers are aided a bit by a BABIP of .248 which will almost certainly creep up as the season goes and a strand rate of 83.7% which is elevated. But he’s also helped by a 51% ground ball rate.
Seemingly every night the Cubs are facing an extremely talented starting pitcher and Eflin was no exception for the Phillies. The Cubs were unable to really cash in on some very uncharacteristic wildness in the first inning when they were issued three walks. They were only able to score one run out of that and the Eflin shut them down for the other five innings he threw.
A note about the one run they did score and then a larger note. Kris Bryant was running on a 3-2 pitch to Willson Contreras and never stopped. He scored from second on a ground out for that first run. Kris also made an excellent break on an Albert Almora Jr. bases loaded tapper in the bottom of the ninth. KB has a very strong argument for player of the game off of his baserunning alone.
The Cubs bullpen surrendered two runs in the seventh inning. The runs were charged to Carl Edwards Jr. who allowed hits to two of four batters he faced. Brandon Kintzler was summoned with two outs and two on and promptly allowed a two run single. It’s hard to look at Carl in a vacuum and say that at 9.82 K/9, that he’s having strikeout issues. But bear in mind, his career number is 12.17. Carl has only been below 10 in his 2015 cup of coffee when he averaged 7.71 in 4⅓ innings. It’s not clear if he’s giving up velocity to try to improve control, but even if that is the case, that isn’t working either. At 6.14 BB/9, this is the highest walk rate at the major league level that Carl has experienced.
The good news is that the Cubs put together a nice rally in the ninth inning and plated two runs to steal victory from the jaws of defeat. The team’s biggest players were all in the middle of the rally with Kris Bryant leading the way with a walk to go with three earlier hits. Anthony Rizzo followed with a double. One out later Jason Heyward was intentionally walked. Albert Almora Jr. then tied the game with a tapper to the mound on which KB beat the throw home. Then Javy Baez limped to the plate and lined a single on the first pitch he saw to walk it off (literally).
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 46, May 21: Cubs 3, Phillies 2 (28-18)
- Superhero: Jose Quintana (.363). Jose threw six shutout innings and allowed only two hits and three walks. He struck out four.
- Hero: Anthony Rizzo (.282). In five plate appearances he had a walk and a very key double.
- Sidekick: Albert Almora Jr. (.270). Albert had a hit and a walk of his own in five at bats. Still, he lands here because of the fielder’s choice grounder he hit in the 10th inning (.300) to tie the game (thanks Kris!)
- Billy Goat: Brandon Kintzler (-.275). Brandon stayed in the game after allowing the two runners he inherited to score. He retired the last four batters he faced or this WPA would have been worse.
- Goat: Willson Contreras (-.191). Willson had one hit in five at bats. He also had the RBI ground out in the first on which Kris Bryant scored from first. He then hit a weak fly after the first two batters had reached in the ninth (-.183).
- Kid: Kyle Schwarber (-.183). Kyle had one walk in five plate appearances. He probably should have had a second one, but he had a ball four called a strike that the ESPN broadcast pretty clearly had as a ball.
WPA Play of the Game: Following Kris Bryant’s lead off walk in the bottom of the ninth, Anthony Rizzo came to the plate. He lined a double into the right field corner that maybe could have tied the game. The Cubs opted for prudence and didn’t send KB, but if this was an early inning play, I have to imagine he would have went. Still, it set the table for the dramatic finish. (.392)
*Phillies Play of the Game: Brandon Kintzler was summoned with runners on second and third and two outs with the Cubs clinging to a 1-0 lead in the seventh. Andrew McCutchen promptly hit a ground ball through the infield that plated two runs. (.350).
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Willson Contreras 9
- Tyler Chatwood 7.5
- Javier Baez/Jose Quintana 7
- Yu Darvish -7
- David Bote -8
- Carl Edwards Jr. -10
Up Next: The Cubs will seek a third win in their last four games while the Phillies will seek their fifth win in their last six. The Cubs will have Cole Hamels on the hill. Cole is 4-0 with a 3.13 ERA in 54⅔ innings. Cole won his last start even though he only survived five innings. He allowed seven hits, three walks and two runs in that one. That was his first win since April 17. Cole will be making his first ever start against his old team. Current Phillies have a total of 126 plate appearances against Cole and a .661 OPS. Bryce Harper has the vast majority of those (43 with a .660 OPS). Sean Rodriguez has 14 of them (.452). J.T. Realmuto only has nine of them but sports a .944 OPS.
The Phillies counter with 25-year-old left-hander Cole Irvin. Cole is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings of work. He’s won both of his big league starts. The last one was at home against the Rockies. In that one he threw six innings and allowed five hits, one walk and four runs (three earned). He struck out two. Clearly, no Cub has seen him and his major league splits aren’t very meaningful. In a very small sample, he’s been brutal on righties (.470 OPS in 41 PA) and lefties have a .764 OPS in just 11 PA. It seems unlikely those numbers will sustain.
Historically the Cubs have struggled against guys they’ve never seen before. I have a feeling this Cubs team is different and with Cole (Hamels) on the mound, I think they can make it two in a row.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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Albert Almora Jr.
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