The Braves have now won four of the first five games in the season series. That’s a little uncomfortable against a team that is the most likely first-round opponent should the Cubs hang on to win their third NL Central crown in four years. They are a talented young team with a really long lineup and strong starting pitching. That’s a good recipe for success.
Adbert Alzolay had a decent first major league start against the long lineup. He allowed a homer to the first batter he faced, but through 8⅔ innings, he’s allowed only two hits (both homers). However, he’s also walked six hitters. To say that all of his data through his first two appearances is a mixed bag would be fair. It’s important to not read too much into the first couple of appearances, but it does appear that Adbert is capable of making contributions to this team.
With Craig Kimbrel likely to arrive soon and the eventual returns of Kyle Hendricks and Carl Edwards Jr. from the injured list, things are going to get crowded in the Cubs bullpen. Certainly, Mike Montgomery has struggled the most, but the Cubs don’t have a lot of left-handed options (ignoring that Montgomery has some pretty strong reverse splits this year after largely being split neutral). Kyle Ryan and Adbert Alzolay have options remaining, but both appear to have intriguing arms and strong results to date. Tony Barnette was the last one in, but it’s far from certain that he’d be willing to return to the minors at this point in his career. Brad Brach is another Cub who’s struggled on the mound. Some of his peripherals suggest that perhaps he’s gotten a bit unlucky. Brad threw two scoreless innings last night to attempt to give the Cubs a chance at a comeback.
This is one of those times that I’m glad I’m not the one having to make this decision. To be sure, problems like this often sort themselves out. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one does too. Right now, the moral of the story is that there is a lot of shifting to happen with the roster, even before the trade deadline which is now only a little over a month away.
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 79, June 25: Cubs 2, Braves 3 (43-36)
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.227). Willson swings a hot bat for the second straight game. He accounted for both runs last night with a two-run double. He also drew a walk in four plate appearances.
- Hero: Kyle Schwarber (.090). Kyle singled in the eighth inning after Albert Almora Jr. had lead off the inning with a single. (.141). Unfortunately, Kris Bryant grounded into a double play.
- Sidekick: Brad Brach (.085). Two innings, just one walk allowed and three strikeouts. Brad needed that one, maybe it’ll launch him onto a little bit of a roll.
- Billy Goat: Kris Bryant (-.256). As noted above, Kris grounded into a double play in the eighth inning (of a one-run game). That play alone was worth -.279. Kris had one walk in four plate appearances.
- Goat: David Bote (-.186). David had a rough night at the plate, striking out three times in four trips to the plate. One of those times ended the game, another had runners on first and second with no outs and a third had a runner on second with one out. The other out was a ground out leading off the inning.
- Kid: Javier Baez (-.178). Javy actually had a hit, a walk and a run scored. That day might have even landed him on the hero side of things some nights. But Javy’s base-running adventure in the second inning lands him here. With the bases loaded and one out in the second inning, Adbert Alzolay was at the plate. Adbert failed to get a bunt down and Javy was caught off of third. In the resulting chaos, Willson Contreras was also out trying to advance to third, resulting in one of the weirder double plays you’ll ever see. (-.168)
WPA Play of the Game: Ozzie Albies (.372). That’s some bottom of the order hitter the Braves have (Ozzie has batted seventh and eighth in the first two games of the series). Ozzie followed a one-out single by Brian McCann with a two-run homer to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead.
*Cubs Play of the Game: With one out in the third inning, Willson Contreras batted with runners on first and second and the Cubs trailing 1-0. He doubled, scoring both runs. (.236)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 16
- Kris Bryant/Willson Contreras 11
- Carl Edwards Jr./Yu Darvish -9
- Jason Heyward -17
Up Next: Game three of the four game set tonight. The Cubs will have Yu Darvish on the mound. Yu is just 2-3 on the season with a 4.75 ERA in 85⅓ innings. Over his last seven outings, Yu is 0-0 with a 4.36 ERA that remains inflated because of a start against the Reds where he was sent out to go as deep as he could to rest a badly depleted bullpen and allowed six runs on 12 hits in seven plus innings of work. Last time out Yu struggled a bit, allowing four runs in six innings against the Mets. He allowed four hits, two walks and two homers while striking out six. Yu did face the Braves back in April and took a loss in a game where he lasted only four innings. He allowed five hits, four walks and three runs in that one. He only struck out two.
Current Braves have 112 plate appearances against Yu. Josh Donaldson leads the way with 26 of them (.443 OPS). Brian McCann has a decent sample (16 PA) with more success (.822). Yu has only three career starts against the Braves and they’ve all happened in the last two years (0-2 with a 5.68 in 12⅔ innings).
The Braves will start newly acquired Dallas Keuchel. Dallas is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA after his first start as a Brave. The Cubs have not seen the 31-year-old lefty since 2013. For his career, Keuchel has been hit harder by righthanded hitters (.714) than lefthanded ones (.612). Current Cubs have a total of just seven plate appearances against Dallas, with five of them being by Anthony Rizzo and the other two by Daniel Descalso. Rizzo does have a homer against Kuechel, but again that was a very long time ago.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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