I hope there is no question (there is always question) who the Cubs Player of the Game was in this one. Yu Darvish threw six innings allowing only one run. And he drove in the Cubs only run in the game. Yu closes the book on May having allowed 18 ER in 32⅓ innings (5.01 ERA). It’s not great and in fact is only a slight bit better than April (5.02 ERA). If I pull back three more starts though, over his last nine starts, he is at 24 ER in 49 innings (4.41 ERA). I realize that for the kind of money he’s being paid, everyone is hoping for more. The problem is, that Reds start is in there from his last time out. Six runs in seven innings. I really want to just drop that game from his record. All of those numbers would look much better without that game. I’m not wanting to drop the five runs in four innings against the Cardinals. In that one, he simply got knocked around (and then bailed out by his offense). But the Reds game was different. He was asked to go very deep in the game and he did exactly that, but at great expense to his season line (he allowed six runs and 12 hits).
I know, I’ve moved into the Yu apologist territory. I’m not afraid to be there. I’ve been there for Jason Heyward and taken a bit of abuse here and there. These guys are human being and these guys are busting their butts trying to get the job done in part for us, the fans of their team. I get as irritated or even more irritated when a guy is just mailing it in. But Heyward has shown up to spring training a few years running getting in extra work and we heard the same stories about Yu this year. I’m just going to keep saying it. Don’t sleep on Yu. I believe he’s about to take off.
The rest of this game? Meh. The offense sputtered. The long ball abandoned the Cubs, at least for a day. If you are prone to believing in such things you can blame Al for cursing them. Or you could tip your hat to Miles Mikolas who is a very talented pitcher who has really righted his ship after a tough start to the season. That Hicks kid ain’t bad either.
Unfortunately, what I’ll remember about this game was umpiring. In the Cardinals half of the ninth inning, a fair ball down the line was called foul. That would have undoubtedly been a leadoff double for Paul Goldschmidt. That would have been a tall order to avoid a ninth inning loss after that. Instead, Goldschmidt struck out. In the top of the 10th, that same third base umpire called a checked swing on Descalso that I was pretty certain was a swing. And then the last straw was a Dillon Maples pitch that was well within the strike zone on a 3-2 pitch to Harrison Bader. You pretty much knew it was over after that walk. That was a tough one for Maples who unraveled after that. He still has all of the talent to be a closer, but he is going to need a few breaks. Still, no one puts the ball on play against him, let alone actually get hits against him.
I will say this after watching a whole game of Victor Caratini behind the plate. I miss having a David Ross-like catcher. One thing about the unfortunate Maples walk. Caratini moved his glove more than a few inches on a pitch that was in the zone. My catching days ended very, very far away from a big league field, but I always believed you never try to move it more than an inch. I wanted to move it a fraction closer to the center of the plate on pretty much every pitch and then I wanted to hold it still and let the umpire make his call. I always feel like the wild movement of the catcher’s glove leads to the impression that it was not a strike. If I were an A.L. GM for a contending team, I’d be trying very hard to pry Vic Caratini away from the Cubs. I’d be offering my defense-first catcher and a very strong prospect to try to get him. His ability to capably field the position and have a decent bat from both sides of the plate is quite an asset. It would be a better asset for an AL team where he could also get some time at DH and maybe some starts at first.
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 55, May 31: Cubs 1 at Cardinals 2
- Superhero: Yu Darvish (.233). Six innings, three hits, three walks, one run. He struck out six. Two first inning walks put him behind the eight ball early. Other than that, he was fantastic.
- Hero: Brandon Kintzler (.130). The going rate for a scoreless inning in a tie game in a decisive inning is .130. Brandon threw a perfect ninth (perhaps aided by a bad call). He struck out two.
- Sidekick: Daniel Descalso (.117). His pinch hit walk in the tenth nudges out a single and two walk performance for Jason Heyward.
- Billy Goat: Kyle Schwarber (-.188). Hitless in five at bats with two strikeouts.
- Goat: Steve Cishek (-.170). This was much earlier, but reminds me of Brandon Morrow in the opening series against the Marlins last year. Steve warmed in the eighth, warmed in the ninth, sat down in the tenth, then was rushed into the game after Dillon Maples walked consecutive hitters to load the bases. Steve was thrown into a no-win situation and it went exactly as was expected.
- Kid: Dillon Maples (-.138). Dillon would be greatly aided by robot umps. His pitches have a lot of movement. Laz Diaz appeared to call two different pitches in the zone balls in the same plate appearance. Given the horrible probability of getting out of the jam once Carpenter got to the plate, I’d have actually just let Maples pitch. Carpenter virtually never hits the ball on the ground, so you had to get a strikeout or pop up. Maples, shaken confidence and all, was your best bet to do that. I visit the mound, remind him how awesome his stuff is and let him know that I believe in him.
WPA Play of the Game: The Matt Carpenter single to end the game was the play of the game. (.170)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Addison Russell followed a Jason Heyward single with one of his own in the fourth inning to put runners at first and second with no outs. (.067). A short fly out from Victor Caratini and a double play ball off the bat of Albert Almora Jr. killed that very promising scoring chance.
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 14.5
- Willson Contreras 9.5
- Tyler Chatwood 8.5
- Jason Heyward/Yu Darvish -7
- Carl Edwards Jr. -10
- Kyle Schwarber -11.5
Up Next: The Cubs will be trying to avoid back-to-back and five of six and eight of ten losses. The Cardinals will be seeking a third straight win. They haven’t done that since April 29-May 1. Those games were part of the series just before the Cubs swept the Cardinals at Wrigley Field to start their tailspin. You just know they’d love to return the favor.
The Cubs will have Jose Quintana on the hill. Jose is 4-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 62⅔ innings on the year. Last time out he was hit hard by the Reds, allowing 12 hits and six runs (five earned) in 5⅓ innings. He struck out only two and walked one. Jose did face the Cardinals in that series in April and he was very good in that one, throwing six innings and allowing eight hits, two walks and two runs. His results against the Cardinals are a mixed bag. Over his last five starts against them, he is 2-3 but has a 4.32 ERA in 25 innings. He’s allowed three runs or less in four of the five starts and in the one where he allowed three runs, all of them were unearned. Current Cardinals have 174 plate appearances against Q with a .920 OPS. Dexter Fowler has the most PA at 27 and has a 1.277 OPS in those at bats. Paul Goldschmidt has also hit Q hard (1.765 in 12 PA, including two HR). Even opposing starter Jack Flaherty has a hit in his only career at bat against Jose.
Flaherty is just 23 years old, but this is already the third different big league season he’s appeared in. Jack is 4-3 with a 3.77 ERA in 59⅔ innings. Last time out, he received a no decision despite allowing three hits, no walks and no runs over six innings against the Braves. He struck out seven. Over his last seven starts, he is 3-2 with a 3.24 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 41 2⁄3 innings of work. He faced the Cubs in the series in Wrigley Field and lost a game started by Kyle Hendricks (the 81 pitch game). He threw 5⅔ innings and allowed four hits, four walks and three runs (two earned). He struck out nine. In four career starts against the Cubs, he is 1-2 with 3.93 ERA in 18⅓ innings (with 28 strikeouts).
Flaherty, a right-handed pitcher, has allowed a .631 OPS against right-handed hitters but a .734 to lefties. These will be the kinds of games where you’d love to see if Carlos Gonzalez has anything left in the tank (but instead you’ll see Daniel Descalso this weekend). Current Cubs have just 78 plate appearances against Flaherty. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo each have 12 of those. KB has a .542 OPS (just one hit in 12 PA, with three walks and a HBP) while Rizzo has a 1.667 (five hits, including a double and a homer, two walks and a hit by pitch).
This matchup ain’t pretty on paper. Let’s hope the Cubs can get back on the winning track.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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