On two very warm days on the North Side of Chicago, some very sloppy baseball has been played. Fortunately, the Cubs are catching the Padres during a downswing in their metamorphosis into a competitive team. That team on the other side has quite a bit of talent and I’m seeing a team that will be a force to be reckoned with, probably sooner than later.
Alas, two games in, the Cubs have two wins. That runs them up to a four game winning streak, seven of eight coming out of the break and nine of 11 dating back to before the break. They are back to 10 games over .500 which is just one shy of their high water mark of the year. They were last 11 above on May 22. If they win today, it will have been two months to the day to get back to that point.
From the world of odd, the Cubs have now won consecutive games 6-5. This is not even the first time they’ve accomplished that feat (April 28 and 30). But, that marks 13 times already they’ve registered one side or the other of that score (10-3 record). Four teams have done it more. I don’t think there is any special significance to it, but just something I noticed way back when it happened the first time.
Overall, the Cubs are now 16-15 in one run games. They are 36-17 at home. Things are clicking relatively well. The division lead has reached three games, the largest of the season.
This weekend has seen big contributions from Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. With a tough stretch of games coming up, getting those two in gear would be huge. If Willson Contreras returns immediately following a 10-game IL stint, he would be activated during the upcoming Giants series. Certainly, it would be huge to have him before facing the Brewers and Cardinals. It might be time for Ian Happ to join the team as well. The time to win is now.
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 98, July 20: Cubs 6, Padres 5 (54-44)
- Superhero: Javier Baez (.426). Three’s were wild for Javy Saturday. Three hits, three runs, three RBI in just four at bats. All three RBI came on one gigantic home run. He also had a double. Javy has been just ordinary for a while, but he was superhuman on Saturday. He also had a gorgeous tag at second base on a caught stealing in the ninth inning.
- Hero: David Bote (.195). Bote also had a three hit game in his four at bats. Just the kind of game he has needed for a while now. He had two singles and a double. All three came with a runner on base, though oddly none of them drove in any runs.
- Sidekick: Craig Kimbrel (.158). As Kimbrel continues to work on getting back into a groove, he’s checked off four games in six days on the check box. He walked two batters, but the caught stealing helped minimize the trouble.
- Billy Goat: Jose Quintana (-.324). For the second straight day, the Padres knocked around a Cubs starter. Jose allowed eight hits, a walk, and five runs in five innings of work. Three homers was his undoing. He did record his fourth win in his last four starts as a consolation.
- Goat: Albert Almora Jr. (-.228). June 1 to present, Albert has 112 PA with a line of .215/.241/.299 (wRC+ 38). That includes four hitless at bats yesterday. I might be off a bit in my math, but I believe to justify regularly playing that line, Albert would roughly have to cover the whole outfield perfectly all by himself. Albert ranks 213th out of 223 hitters with 250 or more PA by wRC+ at 69. (New teammate Martin Maldonado matches that wRC+)
- Kid: Jason Heyward (-.072). Jason entered the game late and was hitless in two at bats.
WPA Play of the Game: Javier Baez batted with two outs and two on in the fourth inning. The Cubs were trailing 4-3 at the time. He homered, the final three runs of the day for the Cubs. (.356)
*Padres Play of the Game: Manny Machado hit a two-run homer in the third inning to give the Padres a 3-2 lead. (.163)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 25
- Kris Bryant 22.5
- Willson Contreras 11
- Jason Heyward/Pedro Strop -11
- Albert Almora Jr. -14.5
Up Next: The Cubs seek a sweep of the Padres, a fifth straight win, and an 8-1 homestand. The Padres, are hoping to avoid the sweep and fourth straight loss. They’ve lost seven of eight.
The Cubs send Kyle Hendricks to the mound. Kyle hasn’t won since before his injury June 14 in Los Angeles. He is 0-2 since he returned from the IL. Oddly, he has allowed exactly four hits and two runs in each start since he got back. He has thrown three innings, four innings and six innings respectively in those starts. He is 7-7 with a 3.46 ERA on the year in 101⅓ innings. He faced the Padres twice last year and beat them both times. He threw a total of 10⅔ innings and allowed six run. He walked no one. He’s 3-1 with a 4.76 ERA in 28⅓ innings over the last three seasons against the Padres. Still, current Padres only have 50 plate appearances against him with a .751 OPS. 14 of those belong to Wil Myers (.714). No other Padre has even 10 PA against Kyle.
On the other side, the Padres have 20-year-old left-handed pitcher Adrian Morejon making his major league debut. The Cubs will be seeing their fourth lefty in their last four games. Clearly the Padres were aware of the Cubs struggles against lefties. Of course, with three wins in the first three games, the Cubs are now 9-10 on the year against them.
Morejon has made 16 starts for the Padres Double-A affiliate in Amarillo this year. He is 0-4 with a 4.25 ERA. He’s only thrown a total of 36 innings and has never thrown more than 65⅓ innings at any level in his career. He does have 44 strikeouts in 36 innings which is very good, but he’s also walked 15, hit three batters and thrown two wild pitches. All of the major publications had Morejon as a top 100 prospect before the 2019 with a few of them showing him in the top 50. So he has that going for him.
Let’s hope for some vintage Kyle and some hot bats on a more tolerable Sunday afternoon weather-wise.
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