The Cubs right now are guilty of something that sports on television can do. They make the very difficult look very easy. The Cubs dismantled the Mariners on Wednesday night when we last saw them. They scored six runs in the second inning off of a good pitcher in his home park who had been 5-0 already on the season. They went on to win 11-0 while Jon Lester and two Cubs relievers were holding them to just one hit and one walk.
Today, the Cubs blanked the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals do not have the offensive pedigree (to date) of say the Los Angeles Dodgers (or even those Mariners, for that matter). But, they are a capable offensive team. And, they have been the best team in the National League over the first month-plus of the season.
Kyle Hendricks relentlessly attacked them and then battered them into submission. It shouldn’t look easy, because that’s a good team. The Cardinals always fight the Cubs tough, even in the worst of times. These are far from the worst of times for a Cardinals team. Even a Cardinals team that uncharacteristically hasn’t found its way into the playoffs since 2015. But this is a better bunch. There will be tough games this year against the Cardinals. I imagine there will be one or two still this weekend. But this was not one of them.
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 29, May 3: Cubs 4, Cardinals 0 (17-12)
- Superhero: Kyle Hendricks (.366). Kyle flat-out dominated in this one. He went the distance and allowed four hits and no walks. He struck out three. Kyle faced three batters over the minimum and only allowed one runner to reach second. That was Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty after he stole second.
- Hero: Anthony Rizzo (.259). Rizzo is on fire right now. He had three hits and an intentional walk in four plate appearances. He scored a run, and drove in three. Despite his slow start to the season, Anthony now has a line of .252/.386/.551 (146 wRC+).
- Sidekick: Daniel Descalso (.015). Those two really did virtually all of the work. Descalso had a walk and a run scored in four plate appearances.
- Billy Goat: Jason Heyward (-.052). Jason had a rough day at the plate, going hitless in four at bats.
- Goat: Ben Zobrist (-.047). Ben had one walk and one strikeout in four plate appearances.
- Kid: Javier Baez (-.011). Javy did make the Cardinals pay for intentionally walking Rizzo in the seventh inning with an RBI single.
WPA Play of the Game: This game was as quiet as it gets for WPA. There was only one play that resulted in more than a 10% swing in the game. That was a 24% swing when Anthony Rizzo hit a three-run homer with one out in the third inning.
*Cardinals Play of the Game: Kolten Wong’s single leading off the third inning and Harrison Bader’s single leading off the sixth both register at (.041).
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
(# = returned to minors)
- Javier Baez 8.5
- Jon Lester 7
- Willson Contreras 6
- Yu Darvish/Kyle Scwharber -6
- Albert Almora Jr. -7.5
- #Carl Edwards Jr. -8
Up Next: The Cubs seek their sixth consecutive win. The Cardinals look to snap a mini-two game skid. The Cubs will have Yu Darvish on the mound. Yu is coming off of one of his best starts as a Cub. He threw six innings and allowed two hits, four walks and one runs in Arizona. He struck out eight. On the season, Yu is 2-3 with a 5.02 ERA in 28⅔ innings of work. Oddly enough, Yu has never started a game against the Cardinals. Accordingly, only four Cardinal hitters have ever faced him. Paul Goldschmidt has the most plate appearances (8), but he’s struck out seven times(!). Marcell Ozuna is in fact the only player on the Cardinals roster who has any hits against Yu. Marcell has a single, a double and a triple in six plate appearances against Yu.
The Cardinals will have 27-year-old right-hander Michal Wacha on the hill. Michael is 2-0 despite a 4.78 ERA over 26⅓ innings of work. He’s won his last two starts though, so he’s moving in the right direction. Last time, he threw five innings and allowed four hits, three walks and three runs while striking out five at Washington. Both of his wins were on the road with the other coming in Milwaukee. Wacha faced the Cubs twice last year and was 0-1 with 11 runs (nine earned) in just 9⅓ innings of work. In fact, over his last five starts against the Cubs, he is 0-4 with a 7.33 ERA in 27 innings of work. Cubs hitters have 235 plate appearances against Michael. Anthony Rizzo leads the way with a 1.194 OPS in 49 plate appearances. Five players on the Cubs MLB roster have an OPS over 1 against Wacha and two more Iowa Cubs as well. Jason Heyward is just about the only Cub with subpar numbers against him (.375 in 16 PA).
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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