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2019 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 54

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Kyle Hendricks stops Cubs slide with strong performance in 2-1 win

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The last couple of nights felt just the slightest bit like a passing of the torch to me. For a few years now, Jon Lester has been the guy the Cubs looked to when they needed a big start because the team had been back-sliding a bit. Certainly Jon’s start on Tuesday night was one of those opportunities, but he just couldn’t get the job done against a potent Astros lineup. Instead, it was Kyle Hendricks who was finally able to apply the brakes. That put an end to a streak of three straight losses and five losses in six games.

That’s one heck of an Astros team the Cubs shutdown last night. Obviously, they are even more formidable when they aren’t playing without three of their top stars in Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa. The Cubs also missed having to face Justin Verlander in the series. Of course injuries run in both directions by this point in the season. Javier Baez has been a bit limited with a heel injury, Kris Bryant missed the first two games of the series. Pedro Strop hasn’t returned. On top of all of that, the Cubs were at the tail end of 16 straight games without an off day.

Neither of these teams has anything to apologize for. Those were three very good baseball games. Three total runs over three games separated the two teams. That was a lot of fun to watch. With the only real downsides to the series being the unfortunate foul ball incident in last night’s game and the unsurprisingly inconsistent umpiring that reached a fever pitch in the later stages of last night’s game. Major League Baseball is going to have to address both of those problems more and more as time goes by. There is no reason for either of those problems to keep occurring.

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 54, May 29: Cubs 2 at Astros 1 (31-23)


Source: FanGraphs

THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero: Kyle Hendricks (.500). The number three positive WPA of the season to date. Kyle threw eight innings allowing only four hits, one walk and one run. He struck out seven. I would suspect that will be one of the top performances by any pitcher against the Astros this season. Kyle made six May starts. He was 4-0 with a 1.81 ERA (2.96 FIP) in 44⅔ innings. He struck out 37 and walked only five. I haven’t looked around to see other possibilities, but Kyle Hendricks will absolutely receive consideration for Pitcher of the Month in the NL.
  • Hero: Steve Cishek (.190). Steve finally got a few days off and he looked very sharp. He faced three batters in nailing down his fifth save (in seven tries). Steve has filled in very capably for Pedro Strop during his absence.
  • Sidekick: Kyle Schwarber (.124). With a little bit of frustration yesterday, I expressed some disappointment in Kyle. Last night he had a solo homer, a walk and two strikeouts in four plate appearances. From April 27 to present, Kyle has 127 plate appearances with a line of .235/.378/.500 (wRC+ 122). He’s got a BB% of 18.9 and a K% of 29.1. The walk rate is increasing (18.9 v 14.6 year to date) and the strikeout rate is fairly static (29.1 v 28.3). That’s a pretty valuable bat. He has four homers in his last seven games.

THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat: Addison Russell (-.086). A rough night at the plate for the previously hot Addison Russell. He struck out twice in four hitless at bats.
  • Goat: Jason Heyward (-.079). Jason did have a single in this one, but also grounded into a double play in four at bats.
  • Kid: Willson Contreras (-.070). The mini-slump continues for Willson with just one walk in four plate appearances. He struck out twice.

WPA Play of the Game: With two outs in the third inning and the Cubs leading 1-0, Kris Bryant hit a solo homer in his first game back from missing a couple of games. (.112)

*Astros Play of the Game: Tyler White doubled leading off the fifth inning in a 2-1 game. (.095) He’d be erased on a fielder’s choice grounder one batter later.

Cumulative Standings: I’ll have a full look at the standings later today.

Up Next: The Cubs have an off day before facing the Cardinals on Friday in St. Louis. The Cardinals are in Philadelphia finishing off a quick three game trip. Heading into Thursday’s game, the Cardinals have lost three straight and seven of 10. The Cardinals have had a very rough May. After winning 18 of 25 in April, they have reversed course losing 18 of 25 so far in May. On April 30, they were 19-10 on the season and three game in front of the National League Central. They won on May 1 in Washington, but lost the next day in Washington. Then they flew to Chicago where they were swept by the Cubs, falling out of first in the process. They’ve had that four game losing streak and two other three game losing streaks this month, including the current one.

The Cubs will send Yu Darvish to the mound. Darvish is 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA in 55 innings on the season. Interestingly, Yu hasn’t had a decision in the month of May. Last time out, he threw seven innings to save the Cubs bullpen. He allowed 12 hits, two walks and six runs. He struck out five. Over his last seven starts, he is 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA in 37⅓ innings. He’s struck out 49 over that time. Yu made his first ever start against the Cardinals in that series in May. It didn’t go so well. Yu allowed six hits, five walks and five runs in just four innings of work. Current Cardinals have a total of 44 plate appearances against Yu with a .780 OPS. They are lead by Paul Goldschmidt who has 11 at bats and eight strikeouts against Darvish (.000 OPS). Marcell Ozuna has done quite a bit better (9 PA and 1.194 OPS).

Miles Mikolas has struggled this year coming off of an All-Star campaign in 2018. Miles is 4-5 with a 4.76 ERA in 62⅓ innings. Last time out he lost against the Braves. In that one, he threw seven innings and allowed seven hits, no walks and three runs while striking out nine. He’s lost his last three starts including a 1⅓-inning start against the Rangers in which he allowed nine hits and seven runs. Despite that rough outing, Mikolas has been trending in the right direction. He is 3-4 in his last seven starts with a 4.14 ERA over 41⅓ innings. In 2018, he started against the Cubs four times and was 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in 26 innings of work. He did not start in the series at Wrigley.

Current Cubs have 92 plate appearances against Mikolas with just a .600 OPS. Jason Heyward has the most PA with 13 (.585 OPS). Anthony Rizzo (12 - .780) and Javier Baez (11 - .818) have done quite a bit better with Javy owning the Cubs lone homer against Mikolas. The 30-year-old right-hander has been very tough on fellow right-handers (.629 OPS). He’s struggled though against lefties (.963 including eight of the 12 homers he’s allowed). He’s also been significantly better at home (.588 OPS) than he has on the road (1.057).

This one certainly doesn’t look favorable on the pitching matchup. Hopefully the Cardinals woes continue through this series.

Poll

Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 93%
    Kyle Hendricks
    (172 votes)
  • 0%
    Steve Cishek
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Kyle Schwarber
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Kris Bryant
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    Other (please leave suggestion in the comments)
    (7 votes)
183 votes total Vote Now