I’ll start with the off the field news. Mike Montgomery was traded last night for Martin Maldonado (keeping the balance of M’s on the team the same). I’m fine with the trade, all the details of which you can read here.
I’m of course sad to see Montgomery go because he was part of such an important moment in the history of the franchise. Everyone moves on eventually and this was the time for Mike. Sure, you’d like to be omnipotent and trade him retroactively to last year when he was having a nice little run as a fill-in starter for the Cubs. But, they needed him then. He never really answered the bell for the 2019 season. There has been no stretch where he has been even consistently average. I know he always wanted to start, but I don’t believe this was that. I think he got hurt in spring training and he never really got fully in gear for some reason. He’ll get a chance now to go and start for the Royals and rebuild his value before he starts looking for a contract in free agency. Mike hasn’t really made a ton of money yet in his career and hopefully he can position himself to get one decent contract.
Martin Maldonado is a defense-first catcher. The Cubs haven’t really had one of those since David Ross retired. I like that addition. Both Victor Caratini and Willson Contreras are capable of playing in the field and both have bats that play. Plus, with Contreras heading to the IL, you do hold your breath a little bit. He is so important to this team that there’d be trouble if the injury lingers at all. Also, this is a really important stretch of games, a duo of Victor Caratini and Taylor Davis just isn’t really adequate. I don’t think Caratini is the type who is going to catch almost every inning of every game like Willson did while Caratini was hurt earlier. And I think Caratini’s bat would get exposed a bit if it had to play day in and day out.
Turning to the on the field action, this one got away. The Cubs were able to build a 3-1 lead against Luis Castillo. But the usually reliable Steve Cishek was touched for two runs, one earned, to cough up the lead. The duo of Randy Rosario and Brad Brach coughed up two more runs and then the Cubs failed to cash in on a bases loaded one out situation in the eighth inning against Reds closer Raisel Iglesias.
Every other team in the NL Central has a young, hard-throwing closer who has gone more than an inning to close out a game this year. Of course, the Cardinals saw theirs go down to injury, but every time one of these guys records four or more outs throwing bullets, I’m a little bit jealous at one shiny toy that this front office really hasn’t been able to add to the arsenal. It’s a powerful weapon, even if it can be fleeting.
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 95, July 15: Cubs 3, Reds 6 (50-45)
- Superhero: Anthony Rizzo (.293). Rizzo had two doubles and was also hit by a pitch in four plate appearances. He scored one run.
- Hero: Kyle Hendricks (.108). Kyle left the game with the lead against one of the game’s best young starters. He allowed two runs on four hits and two walks over six innings. I thought it might be enough.
- Sidekick: Kyle Schwarber (.062). Schwarber is in a little bit of a groove right now. He had two hits including a solo homer (his 20th) in five at bats. Since becoming the primary lead-off hitter on May 16, Kyle has a line of .236/.318/.527 (wRC+ 113). The line is plenty good... but it does feel like it would be better served in the middle of the lineup.
- Billy Goat: Steve Cishek (-.349). Steve blew the hold with the solo homer he allowed leading off the seventh. He followed that by allowing a line-drive single. It then took until the third ground ball to an infielder to get out of the inning. That one was a double-play ball (and there was a fly out in the middle) thanks to two defensive miscues behind him.
- Goat: Victor Caratini (-.210). Vic was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice. He left five men on base in three at bats including a second and third no outs situation in the fourth inning. The Cubs did plate those two runs, but that was the big negative for him. Also, that was the kind of situation where you had a young pitcher on the ropes and had a chance at a big inning and knock him out of the game.
- Kid: Brad Brach (-.109). Brad pitched in a game that wasn’t out of reach for some reason. He faced four batters and allowed two hits. Both of those hits drove in runs and a 4-3 deficit grew to 6-3 and that was all she wrote.
WPA Play of the Game: Curt Casali’s solo homer off of Steve Cishek in the seventh inning to tie the game at three. (.201)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Kyle Schwarber’s solo homer in the third inning tied the game at one. (.129)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 22
- Kris Bryant 18.5
- *Willson Contreras 11
- Albert Almora Jr. -8.5
- *Carl Edwards Jr. -9
- Yu Darvish -11
Up Next: The Cubs will look to bounce back Tuesday night. They’ll have Alec Mills up from Iowa to take the start. Alec has only started two games in his MLB career and one of them was against the Reds. He threw well in that one but got a no decision in 5⅔ innings last August. Alec has an 0-1 record as a starter. In 10⅔ innings, he has allowed five runs. Of course, all of that happened last year. He did get called up once this year, but didn’t pitch. For what little it is worth, current Reds have just 13 plate appearances against Alec with a .724 OPS.
The Reds will counter with Anthony DeSclafani. Anthony is 5-4 with a 4.26 ERA in 86⅔ innings. Over his last seven outings, he is 3-2 with 3.32 ERA in 38 innings of work. He’s faced the Cubs twice already this year and is 1-0. He allowed four runs in 9⅔ innings. Last time out, he worked against the Indians and got a no decision. He worked six innings and allowed seven hits, two walks and two runs. He struck out six.
DeSclafani has been hammered by left-handed hitters (.967 OPS as opposed to .612 v RHH). He’s been pretty neutral home versus road (.824/.782). Current Cubs have 157 PA against him with a .774 OPS. Anthony Rizzo has the most PA (32 and a .733 OPS). Kyle Schwarber has good numbers against the Reds hurler (17, 1.042).
Let’s hope the Cubs hitters can give Mills some support early to work with so the Cubs have a chance to win this series against the Reds. Something they’ve not yet done this year.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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