Finally! The Cubs end their skid with an 8-1 win. Unless you retroactively place this game back in April where this series occurred... thus making that Angels series into a win... and thus, the Cubs won their first seven home series, including one three-game sweep and one three out of four. Either way, it remains no matter how you consider it, the Reds are the only team to win a series at Wrigley Field this year other than the Cubs. Wait, what year is it? The Reds? Eh, let’s not talk about it.
Jon Lester was superb, only getting into a little bit of trouble in the seventh inning as he crossed the 100 pitch mark and after a never ending bottom of the sixth in which the Angles used
17 three pitchers to get three outs. That seventh inning was aided by a tremendous diving catch by Carlos Gonzalez.
Retire today Carlos, then you’ll never hear the other shoe drop during your time as a Cub. Another player who was deemed washed up was picked up off the scrap heap, had a single and a walk, and made a beautiful diving catch to rob the Angels of at least one run and very likely two. Not a bad Cub Debut. I don’t know how much Carlos has left in the tank, but the Cubs needed another bat from the left hand side with Ian Happ’s struggles and Ben Zobrist away from the team for an indefinite amount of time.
This was a nice team win. Lester held the Angels until the bats got going. The gloves added a couple of decent plays behind him. The offense got contributions from just about everyone who started. The bullpen breezed through the six outs they were asked to get. Hopefully, this lets some of the stress and tension out of the balloon ahead of a rough stretch of games.
Either way, as I head to a two-week hiatus, this was a heck of a going away present from the Cubs. Hopefully, the Cubs can build on this game and the recent strong pitching performances and when I next write for you, I’m recapping a very positive stretch of play against some of the better teams in the National League.
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 58. June 3: Cubs 8, Angels 1 (32-26)
- Superhero: Jon Lester (.359). Jon ends a string of three straight Billy Goat outings with a Superhero outing. He threw seven innings of one run ball, walking one and striking out six.
- Hero: Javier Baez (.108). The man says he’s fine, who are we to argue? Javy returns to the Hero side of the equation for the first time in a week. He does it in typical Javy fashion. A hustle two-run double and a beautiful home run. Two hits, two runs, and three RBI in four at bats.
- Sidekick: Kris Bryant (.096). Location, location, location. Kris had just one hit and one walk in five plate appearances. But, his bunt single in the fourth inning was one of the higher WPA events of the game (.068). I’m not sure I’d ever seen Kris even try to bunt a ball before, but it was a pretty good lucking bunt.
- Billy Goat: Anthony Rizzo (-.065). Anthony was hitless in four at bats. We just can’t have nice things. All of the big four are never productive in the same game. I guess someone has to make the outs.
- Goat: Addison Russell (-.028). He drove in a run during the five-run sixth inning with a sacrifice fly. When WPA is thinking big inning, sacrifice flies don’t generate a lot of positive WPA. (.005)
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.023). Like BABIP luck, WPA can be a fickle mistress. Willson had two hits, two runs a solo homer in four at bats. Yet he lands here. I bet Willson would make a deal with the devil and take this outcome every single day. Because just about every time Willson has that line and he ends up here, the Cubs won pretty easily.
WPA Play of the Game: When a Cubs pitcher lands here, it is usually for negative reasons. Not this time. Jon induced a double play ball off the bat of old nemesis Jonathan Lucroy after hitting the first batter of the fifth inning. (.107)
*Angels Play of the Game: David Fletcher singled on the first play of the game and then went to second on
Addison Russell forgetting that he can move to catch a throw from the outfield a Kyle Schwarber throwing error. (.060). If I were keeping track of both sides of the equation, I could tell you that it is an exceedingly uncommon occurrence for one player to be credited with both the positive and negative play of the game.
Cumulative Standings Top Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 11.5
- Willson Contreras 7.5
- Kris Bryant 7
- Jason Heyward/Yu Darvish -7
- Carl Edwards Jr. -10
- Kyle Schwarber -11.5
Up Next: The Cubs will look to run their winning streak to... two games. Meanwhile, the Colorado Rockies have won eight games in a row to eliminate the stink of their own very slow start to the season. They just won nine of 10 on a homestand that included two wins against the Orioles (that’s the one team that beat them?!?), a four-game sweep over the Diamondbacks and a three-game sweep over the Blue Jays. The Rockies are only 13-15 away from home while the Cubs are now 19-10 at Wrigley.
The Cubs will have Kyle Hendricks on the mound to start the series. Kyle is 5-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 70 innings. He’s coming off of a brilliant start last Wednesday against the Astros. In that one, he picked up a win after throwing eight innings and allowing four hits, one walk and one run. He struck out seven against one of the fiercest lineups in baseball. He faced the Rockies twice last year and had a 1-1 record. He threw a total of 12⅔ innings and allowed six runs. Interestingly, he pitched longer in the game in Wrigley but lost. Current Rockies have a total of 132 plate appearances against Kyle. Daniel Murphy is tied for the most PA and has a 1.417 OPS in those 24 PA. Nolan Arenado has the same number of PA but a much lower OPS (.813). Overall, the current Rockies have a .964 OPS against Kyle with 11 homers.
On the other side, Jeff Hoffman is making the start. Jeff is just 1-1 with a 7.20 ERA in 15 innings of work on the year. He’s made three starts of exactly five innings each. One of those was in April and then one each in the last two times through the rotation. He allowed five runs in five innings against an Orioles team that I didn’t even think was still trying. But I guess everyone loves to try to hit at Coors. For the 26-year-old right hander, this is first start on the road since August 12, 2017. He lost that one. He did win a start in Wrigley Field in June of that year. Unsurprisingly, current Cubs have just 39 plate appearances against Hoffman. Kris Bryant leads the way with seven of them. Two of those seven were long balls and thus Kris owns a 2.514 OPS. I think there may be a very slight small sample size alert there.
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