On a day where the offense plated seven runs in the first inning, it would probably be easy to use a picture of one of the offensive players. Wait. I did. Jon Lester had a two-run single in the first inning. For good measure he added a solo homer in the third. He also threw 6⅔ innings, allowing eight hits and three runs. He also did what a veteran does with a big league. He threw strikes and didn’t make it easy for the Pirates to slug their way back into the game.
The Cubs have opened the second half with back-to-back wins. They’ve finally won their first series in more than a month. That series win was a sweep and on Sunday, they’ll have a chance to match that result. On Friday, the other four teams in the National League Central lost. There aren’t a large number of days where you gain on the entire division. But, as long as the Cubs win, they’ll keep the entire division at arm’s length. The longer they do that, the more encouraged Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and the Cubs front office will be to make a key addition or two to help this team try to get back to another World Series. To be sure, the Dodgers are a very good team and they will be a very tough out in the playoffs. But, that’s been true for a few years now and they’ve yet to win a World Series, so it can be done.
This one felt like a full team effort. The Cubs plated seven runs in the first. They sent 12 men to the plate. Pirates starter Jordan Lyles failed to escape the first inning, recording only two outs while being charged with seven earned runs. His ERA climbed from 4.36 to 5.16. That number was 3.71 before his start against the Cubs on July 4. I’m guessing he’s not overly anxious to see the Cubs again. But there are still a pretty good number of games left against the Cubs, so it wouldn’t be surprised for them to see him again.
Five Cubs, including Jon Lester, had multi-hit games. Seven Cubs had at least one hit. Seven Cubs had at least one run. Five Cubs drove in at least one run with three Cubs accounting for eight of the runs. Only one Cub starter didn’t at least reach base. It was that kind of day. Let’s hope the Cubs can keep it rolling.
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 92, July 13: Cubs 10, Pirates 4 (49-43)
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.154). Willson had just one hit in four plate appearances, but it was a three-run homer. He also had a walk and scored two runs.
- Hero: Anthony Rizzo (.119). Rizzo had two hits in five at bats. He scored once and drove in one.
- Sidekick: Jon Lester (.076/.080). The first number is the official one, for his pitching. The second is for his hitting. As noted, three runs allowed in 6⅔ innings on his way to another win. Jon is now 9-6 and hasn’t had a no decision in over two months (May 7). Jon had two hits, three RBI, a homer, and two runs scored in three at bats.
- Billy Goat: Albert Almora Jr. (-.018). Albert was the one Cub who really didn’t do anything Saturday. He was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice.
- Goat: Javier Baez (-.012). Tough crowd. Javy did have two hits, including a two-run double in the seven-run first inning. The problem is, his strikeout was the first out of the inning. The strikeout was a larger negative than the double was positive at that point.
- Kid: Robel Garcia (.000). Robel gets the last spot with a strikeout in his only at bat.
WPA Play of the Game: Willson Contreras (.156). His three-run homer in the first inning blew the game wide open, making it 4-0. And HA! all of those people who say a three-run homer is a rally killer. The Cubs added three more runs on three hits and two walks after the homer.
*Pirates Play of the Game: For one shining moment, this one was going well for the Pirates. Kevin Newman lead off the game with a single. (.036)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 18.5
- Anthony Rizzo 18
- Willson Contreras 11
- *Carl Edwards Jr. -9
- Yu Darvish/Jason Heyward -11
Up next: The Cubs will look for a sweep and their fifth win in six games. The Pirates will try to avoid a third straight loss. The Cubs have Jose Quintana on the mound. Jose is 6-7 with a 4.19 ERA in 101 innings. Over his last seven starts, he is 2-3 with a 4.93 in 38⅓ innings. He’s won two straight starts, including the last one when he beat these Pirates on July 4 in the last game where the Cubs beat up on Lyles. In that one, Jose threw seven innings allowing six hits, one walk and three runs while striking out six. Overall, Q is 2-0 with only three runs allowed in 14 innings against Pittsburgh. Current Pirates have 117 plate appearances against Q with a .644 OPS. Starling Marte has the most PA (20) and a .417 OPS. Corey Dickerson has hit Jose well with a 1.273 in 11 PA.
Trevor Williams gets the start for the Pirates. Trevor is 3-2 with a 4.54 ERA in 71⅓ innings on the year. Over his last seven starts, he is 2-1 despite a 6.08 ERA in 40 innings. Last time out, he beat the Cubs. He threw 5⅔ innings in that one and allowed nine hits, three walks and five runs. That line shouldn’t get it done, but that was the game the Cubs lost 18-5. The Cubs beat Williams twice in three starts last year.
Williams has been pretty equal against right-handed hitters (.745) and left-handed hitters (.795). He’s been a bit better on the road (.714 as opposed to .831 at home). The Cubs have 159 PA against Williams with an .817 OPS. Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo are tied for the most PA at 20 and both have been very successful (.911 and 1.215 respectively).
This feels like a game where the Cubs can complete the sweep. Certainly, the Pirates are a potent team but after losses the last two days, they are 22-26 on the road while the Cubs are 31-16 at home.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Jason Heyward (three hits)
Kyle Schwarber (four times on base)
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)