Jason Heyward hasn’t gotten a ton of the cover photo treatment in the history of this series. Generally, the player who was the Superhero gets that spot and let’s face it, Jason Heyward hasn’t felt too much like a Superhero very often in his time as a Cub. Sure, he made a couple of catches here and there (surely more than a couple) to save a game. But his bat has always lagged a bit.
Until this year. With his two-run homer Sunday, he now has a line of .275/.359/.474. All of those numbers are bests as a Cub. He’s now only a few points behind his highest OPS of his career, way back in his rookie season when he put up a line of .277/.393/.456. He appears to be a shoo-in to reach 20 homers for the first time since his second season, 2012 when he had 27. He’s got a lot of work to do if he’s going to reach that total, but even without it, this season has been an unqualified success. His wRC+ is up to 115 and his fWAR up to 1.6, despite still registering a negative number on defense.
I will point out statistical or numerical quirks at times in this space. Particularly when the same number keeps coming up. In this instance, I’ll point out that the Cubs allowed three runs for the fifth time in their last six games. They have won four of those five games and five of six overall. The one game they didn’t allow three runs was Saturday when the Cubs had built a 10-0 lead and Jon Lester was pounding the strike zone to make a comeback extremely difficult for the Pirates. Even then, a couple of really close plays could have gone the other way and limited the damage.
Sometimes a number is just an oddity. And to be sure, that the number is precisely three is a bit of random luck. But that they’ve allowed four or fewer runs in six straight games, is not entirely coincidence. As the weather reached sweltering, some pitchers started to show some fatigue and the games were piling up heading into the break, the Cubs gave some of their pitchers extra rest even ahead of the break. The pitching has responded very favorably.
Once again, the Cubs look poised for a strong post All-Star break surge. Three straight wins coming out of the break is a great start. Suddenly, they’ve matched their largest divisional lead of the season at 2½ games. Six games remain on the homestand, maybe the Cubs can put a bit more distance between themselves and the rest of the division. Just the kind of incentive Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have to think big in adding to this team.
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 93, July 14: Cubs 8, Pirates 3 (50-43)
- Superhero: Jason Heyward (.136). Only one hit in four at bats on the day, but that hit was a big one. Jason hit a two-run homer that gave the Cubs a 5-3 lead and they never looked back afterwards.
- Hero: Robel Garcia (.126). Robel had two doubles in four at bats. The other two at bats were strikeouts. He drove in a run and scored one. As long as there is feast, the famine is pretty easy to swallow. So far so good for one if the really neat stories of the year.
- Sidekick: Anthony Rizzo (.116). Anthony had two hits in four at bats as well. Both were singles, but both times he ultimately came around to score. He drove in one run.
- Billy Goat: Javier Baez (-.086). Javy had one hit in five at bats. He scored a run. He struck out once. He lands here largely because this was a very positive game for the Cubs.
- Goat: Jose Quintana (-.051). After the Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second, Jose was tagged for three runs in the top of the third. He stayed around and completed a minimum qualification quality start. That is six innings and three runs allowed. He allowed a total of six hits, two walks and struck out four.
- Kid: Kyle Schwarber (-.003). Tough crowd with a game that ended up lopsided. Kyle had a solo homer and drew a walk in four plate appearances. With a couple of good games already since the break, he’s moved back into positive territory with his bat (wRC+ 101). His line now reads .229/.325/.465. His slugging percentage is pretty much where it always is (.467/.467/.465 the last three years).
WPA Play of the Game: Jason Heyward batted with two outs and a runner on first, the score tied at three in the fifth inning. He had a two-run homer to give the Cubs the lead for good. (.265)
*Pirates Play of the Game: Bryan Reynolds batted with one out and runners on first and second with the Pirates trailing 1-0 in the third inning. His RBI single tied the game at one. (.147)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 19
- Kris Bryant 18.5
- Willson Contreras 11
- Albert Almora Jr. -8.5
- *Carl Edwards -9
- Yu Darvish -11
Up Next: The Cubs open a three game series with the Reds tonight. The Reds started their post All-Star break action by losing two out of three games at Colorado. The Reds have won five of their last 10 and 10 of their last 20. They are just 18-27 away from Cincinnati. Of course, this is still the only non-Cubs team to win a series at Wrigley Field this year.
The Cubs send Kyle Hendricks to the mound in the first game of the set. Kyle is 7-7 with a 3.49 ERA on the season in 95⅓ innings . Over his last seven games 3-3 with a 3.89 ERA in 39⅓ innings. He’s lost three straight starts and hasn’t been the same since his start in Los Angeles when he left with shoulder issues. He’s made two starts against the Reds so far this year. One was very good, eight shutout innings, and the other good three runs in six innings. He has a 3.13 ERA over his last five starts against the Reds. Current Reds have 264 plate appearances against Kyle with only a .637 OPS. Scooter Gennett has the most PA (39) and has struggled (.567 OPS). Joey Votto crushes Kyle (35, 1.457).
The Reds have their ace Luis Castillo on the hill. Luis is 8-3 with a 2.29 ERA in 106 innings of work. Over his last seven outings, he is 3-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 41⅔ innings. He’s faced the Cubs twice this year, and is 1-1. He’s thrown 12⅓ innings and allowed only three runs. Dating back to last year, Castillo is 2-2 with a 4.10 ERA against the Cubs over his last five starts.
The 26-year-old right-handed pitcher has been dominant against right-handed hitters (.487) and is still tough on lefties (.627). He’s not quite as good on the road (.725) as he has been at home (.441). Current Cubs have 169 plate appearances and a .698 OPS. Anthony Rizzo has the most PA (19) and has struggled (.388). Kyle Schwarber has great numbers against the young righty (15, 1.376).
Hopefully, Kyle can match the performance of Castillo and the Cubs can sneak one out.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Victor Caratini (two hits and a sac fly)
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments below)