Finally! Yu Darvish got his win at Wrigley Field. Certainly, the start to Yu’s Cubs career didn’t go the way anyone anticipated. However, slowly but surely, things have been turning. Yu’s looked better for a while now. There wasn’t necessarily a place where there was a huge ah-ha moment. Over his last nine starts, Yu’s starts don’t scream Cy Young, but they do look pretty good.
54 innings, 59 K (9.83/9), 12 BB (2.00/9), 3.50 ERA (4.14 FIP). He’s had three game scores in that time period in the high 70’s, including his last two starts where he’s allowed no runs, and another start in the high 60’s.
Things are looking up for Yu. With Cole Hamels working his way back from injury, it couldn’t happen at a better time. The Cubs have gotten good starting pitching in all six starts to open the second half. With the extra rest, this is quite a reminder that this staff can be formidable.
The offense hasn’t been in full gear, but with Javier Baez slumping a bit and Willson Contreras hurt, that isn’t the world’s biggest surprise. But they’ve done enough to win five of the first six. The National League Central has perked up a bit these last few days with the Cardinals and Brewers winning some games. So far, the Cubs look up for the challenge.
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 96, July 18: Cubs 5, Reds 2 (52-44)
- Superhero: Yu Darvish (.327). I’ve been to two games at Wrigley this year. I saw Hendricks throw nine scoreless and now I’ve seen Yu throw six scoreless. More unusual than the 2-0 when I’ve been at Wrigley (not all that surprising for a team that is 34-17 at home), but that in 15 innings of work by the starters, 0 runs have been allowed is fun. More importantly, Darvish has gone two starts without allowing a run. He’s really set the tone for the second half.
- Hero: Kris Bryant (.137). Kris stays hot, reaching base three times in four plate appearances. Included was a solo homer. He scored two runs. In any normal year, KB would be an MVP candidate. There is still a lot of baseball to be played. His season numbers are great, but April 26 to present, they are even better: .320/.422/.629 (wRC+ 169). Combine that with a walk rate of 12.9% and a strike out rate of 18.5%.
- Sidekick: Addison Russell (.087). Addison had a solo homer in three at bats.
- Billy Goat: Victor Caratini (-.054). Sigh. A few days ago, I wondered if Caratini’s bat would be exposed if he played more. I’m hoping that’s not what we are seeing and this is just a rough couple of days. Vic was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice.
- Goat: Albert Almora Jr. (-.046). Every time I see a lineup card with Albert’s name at the top, I want to scream. He was hitless in four at bats and struck out three times. Aside from about a month’s worth of this season, Albert has done next to nothing offensively.
- Kid: Javier Baez (-.026). His two out single in the eighth inning was the first of three straight singles leading to what felt like an important insurance run after the Reds had just scored two in the top of the inning.
WPA Play of the Game: With one out and the bases loaded, Phillip Ervin stepped to the plate against Brandon Kintzler. Brandon had allowed a couple of runs and four hits already in the inning. The situation screamed for pulling Kintzler out, but then he is often the guy Joe turns to when he needs to get out of a situation like that. So he let Kintzler work through it and he got exactly what he needed, a double play grounder (.174)
*Reds Play of the Game: Yasiel Puig batted just in front of Ervin. With runners on first and second and one out, Puig lined a single, scoring the Reds second run and putting the tying run on first. (.117)
A separate standings piece will be released before the Cubs play again.
Up Next: An off day Thursday should help keep the team fresh (particularly on an afternoon where it is expected to be blazing hot). The Cubs get their first look of the season at the San Diego Padres (46-49). They’ve slumped a bit of late, losing six of 10 and 12 of 20 heading into a Thursday morning game in Miami. The Padres won last night’s game, marking their first win since the All-Star break. The Marlins were the first stop on a road trip for Padres. The Cubs won’t see them again until a four game set in early September. By that time, it will be very possible that the Padres have traded a few players as this team continues to build to what looks like a brighter future. The Cubs won five of seven from the Padres last year. The Padres are one of the few teams in the National League with a winning road record (23-22), but the Cubs will look to change that.
Jon Lester gets the opener against a Padres team that is 7-9 versus left-handed starters. Jon is 9-6 with a 3.74 ERA in 101 innings of work on the year. Over his last seven starts, he is 5-2 with a 4.35 ERA. Last time out, he was the winner against the Pirates. He threw 6 ⅔ innings against the Pirates allowing eight hits, no walks and three runs. He struck out six. Over his last five starts against the Padres, he is 3-0 with a 4.45 ERA in 28⅓ innings, dating back to 2016. Current Padres have 145 plate appearances against Lester with a .786 OPS. Ian Kinsler has the largest number (40) and moderate success (.811). Eric Hosmer has hit Jon really well (27, 1.053).
24-year-old lefthander Eric Lauer gets the assignment for the Padres. Lauer is 5-7 with a 4.04 ERA over 91⅓ innings. In his last seven starts, he is 2-3 with a 3.08 ERA in 38 innings of work. Last time out, he pitched in Los Angeles against the Dodgers and got a no decision. He pitched very well, allowing two runs (one earned ) in six innings of work. He only walked one and struck out six while keeping the ball in the park.
Lauer has just one career start against the Cubs last July 15. He lasted only two innings and allowed five hits, five runs and one walk. Lauer has been very split neutral (.710 v RHH and .713 v LHH). He’s been a bit better at home (.671) than on the road (.759). Current Cubs have just 12 PA against Lauer with no player having more than two. The Cubs had a 1.183 OPS in those 12 PA. Ironically, one of those 12 PA was Jon Lester, so these two pitchers have faced each other, just about a year ago. The Cubs did that damage with just one extra base hit (a double) and one walk, at least among current Cubs.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)