It certainly doesn’t make sense to draw conclusions from any one game at any time. Ironically, people do draw a lot of conclusions after Opening Day, but quite a bit less so when it is the first game of the second half of the season. Still, the Cubs have been a strong second half ballclub for a number of years. They weren’t world beaters last year, but they were still 40-30 in the second half. So, seeing the Cubs win the first game coming out of the All-Star break was definitely a good sign.
There were other good signs too. This game was scoreless through six innings. Yu Darvish was largely untouchable through four innings. He was decent through two more but was clearly running out of gas when he left for a pinch hitter (Daniel Descalso. Ugh.) A strong second half from Yu would be enormous for the Cubs. This was a good start. Let’s see if he can string two good starts together.
Jason Heyward chipped in a couple of hits on the day, including the one that ended up as the game winner. Kris Bryant had a homer and a walk and scored the winning run. The Cubs offense strung together a really nice seventh inning, started with the Bryant homer and ultimately tallied three runs. There were contributions by a number of players.
Today’s oddity: the Cubs held their opponents to exactly three runs for the fourth straight game. Their record in those four games? 2-2. The Cubs haven’t won a series since June 7-9 here at Wrigley. They’ll now have two shots to record a series win.
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 91, July 12: Cubs 4, Pirates 3 (48-43)
- Superhero: Yu Darvish (.349). Yu had one of his best starts as a Cub. He threw six innings of two hit, one walk, no run baseball. He struck out eight.
- Hero: Jason Heyward (.289). J-Hey had two hits, including the eighth inning RBI-single that ended up being the winning run. Jason now has a line of .270/.357/.457. The .270 matches his number from last year, the other two would be his best numbers as a Cub. He’s up to 336 PA on the season.
- Sidekick: Kris Bryant (.211). Kris scored the first run with his solo homer in the seventh. And the last run in the eighth, following a walk. He ultimately scored from first on a single with the winning run. Kris has a .297/.404/.559. For him, that would be the highest batting average of his career, the second highest OBP, the second highest SLG, and the highest OPS.
- Billy Goat: Pedro Strop (-.355). It was not a good start to the second half for Pedro. He allowed two hits, a walk and three runs out of five batters he faced. If Pedro doesn’t get very hot, this will be his worst season as a Cub. He has allowed 12 runs in only 21⅓ innings of work. That’s good for a 5.06 ERA and 4.84 FIP. His highest ERA in a full season for the Cubs was 2.91 in 2015.
- Goat: Kyle Schwarber (-.104). Kyle was hitless in four at bats, struck out once and grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning rally.
- Kid: Robel Garcia (-.050). Robel had a tough day at the plate with two strikeouts in his first two at bats. He did drive in a run in the seventh inning via a sacrifice fly. But because that play actually reduced the probability of an even bigger inning, even while driving in a run, that was a negative WPA.
WPA Play of the Game: Starling Marte homered off of Pedro Strop with two on and two outs in the top of the eighth inning to tie the score at 3-3. (.-356) In another oddity, this is the second time Pedro has had a -.356 event this year. Those two plays tie for the Cubs eighth largest negative events of the year.
*Cubs Play of the Game: Jason Heyward’s single with two on and two out in the eighth inning gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead. (.280)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 18.5
- Anthony Rizzo 16
- Willson Contreras/Javier Baez/Cole Hamels 8
- *Carl Edwards Jr. -9
- Yu Darvish/Jason Heyward -11
Up Next: Game two of a three game set this afternoon. The Cubs will look for a second straight win and as noted above, their first series win since June 7-9 when they swept the Cardinals. The Pirates will look to avoid a second straight loss and to take back the lead in the season series, as the Cubs win evened the series at 4-4.
Jon Lester will get the start for the Cubs. Jon is 8-6 with a 3.72 ERA in 94⅓ innings on the season. Over his last seven starts, Jon is 5-2 with a 3.89 ERA in 41⅔ innings. The last time out, he picked up a win for 6⅓ innings against the White Sox. He allowed six hits, three walks and three runs, though only one was earned. He struck out three. Jon has only one start at Wrigley Field and that was in early April when he left after two innings due to an injury. Before he left, he allowed three hits, one walk and no runs. Prior to that, Jon had won three of his four previous starts against the Pirates from June until the end of the season. In each of the three wins, he allowed no runs. He allowed four of them in the loss. Current Pirates have 238 plate appearances with a .693 OPS. Melky Cabrera has the most PA (54) and has a .699 OPS. No Pirate with any meaningful number of PA has good numbers against Jon.
Jordan Lyles is 5-5 with a 4.36 ERA in 74⅓ innings. Over his last seven starts, Jordan has really struggled. He is 2-4 with a 6.81 in 35⅔ innings. His last start was July 4 against the Cubs. In that one, he was hit hard. He threw four innings and allowed 10 hits, one walk and seven runs while taking a loss in the only game the Cubs won in Pittsburgh. He does own one very good start against the Cubs in Wrigley Field earlier this year, the only win the Pirates have in Wrigley Field this year. In that one, he threw six innings, three hits, one walk and one run while striking out 10.
Jordan has been crushed by left-handed hitters this year (.926 OPS as opposed to .650 vs RHH). But, he’s been better on the road (.655 OPS as opposed to .855 at home). In 101 PA against Lyles, the Cubs have a .903 OPS. Interestingly, Anthony Rizzo has the largest number of PA (20) but has struggled (.450). Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward, Albert Almora Jr., Willson Contreras, and Addison Russell each have a homer against Lyles while also each having fewer than 10 PA against him.
This looks like a good time to pick up a series win.
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