My glass is feeling really empty this week. I want to be excited by the resurgent Jason Heyward. But I’m really getting an uncomfortable feeling about the fifth straight game in which I thought the team really didn’t look sharp. For the fifth straight game, the team has allowed exactly five runs. The team is 2-3 over those games. The Cubs have allowed exactly five runs 17 times on the season (they allowed 21 all of last year). All National League teams have a .383 winning percentage in games in which they allow exactly five runs. The Cubs have won 7 of 17 (.411). They are a good team, so they do better than the average. But even at better than average, they are still losing basically three out of every five.
Simply put, this isn’t good enough. Sure, the Cubs are catching the Giants at the absolute worst time. The Giants are red-hot. The Cubs had Cole Hamels miss his second straight start in this series. Willson Contreras still isn’t off the Injured List. The Giants, once left for dead, are now sitting fifth in the wildcard race and only two games back of the last playoff spot. Simply making the playoffs isn’t great. Playing a win or go home wildcard game for the right to have to deal with the Dodgers isn’t an exciting prospect. But the Giants are a team that likely at least kept its management group from a wholesale selloff. They are as good as any of the teams hovering around the wildcard spot.
Madison Bumgarner is as tough as it gets. It’s great that the Cubs battled, that they were still in position for him to win. It was great that the Cubs bullpen threw six scoreless innings after Yu Darvish allowed four runs in six innings. It was unfortunate that there was a seventh inning. I wrote in a comments section yesterday that the one thing Brad Brach had done well this year was keep the ball in the park in a year when most pitchers are struggling mightily at doing that. Then he allowed a home run in the 13th inning in one of the tougher parks to homer in across all of baseball.
I love advanced metrics. They tell us that sometimes things are better (or worse) than the basic statistics might seem. Brad Brach now has a 6.05 ERA across 38⅔ innings. That’s the 10th-worst ERA in baseball among relievers with over 30 innings this year. At what point does a bad number just become a bad number? The guy might be the unluckiest man in all of baseball. Knowing that doesn’t make me cringe any less every time he gets up in the bullpen or feel that doom is coming when he enters a game.
This is the part where I remind you that things are never as good as they are when your team is winning seven of the first eight games out of the All-Star break. And they are never as bad as they seem when you have lost three straight following that and diminishing the value of that initial streak. This is also where I note that this team is on pace to win only 32 road games. Of course they are on pace to win 54 home games. But this team should be so much better than an 86 win team. Might 86 be enough? Yep. I’d hoped this team would have had better than just a puncher’s chance. That is not looking likely.
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 101, July 23: Cubs 4, Giants 5 (54-47)
- Superhero: Jason Heyward (.270). Four different Cubs had multiple hits in yesterday’s game. That’s a good thing. Sadly, only four Cubs had any hits at all. Jason had two hits in five at bats. He scored the third run and then drove in the fourth run as the Cubs tied the score at four.
- Hero: Kris Bryant (.188). Kris’ night was a mixed bag. He had three hits in six at bats. He also struck out three times. Kris now has an 1.193 OPS in 63 plate appearances batting third. It’s a small sample and they put him there right in the middle of an upswing. But, so far that’s a spot he seems very comfortable in.
- Sidekick: Brandon Kintzler (.165). After Rowan Wick walked the first batter of the eighth inning, Brandon was summoned. He was the recipient of a nice defensive play by Kris Bryant in right field (KB also played third and left yesterday), then induced a double play. It can be argued that Kintzler has been the most consistently good Cubs reliever this year.
- Billy Goat: Yu Darvish (-.266). After back-to-back scoreless outings to start the second half, Yu was knocked around a bit by the Giants. He allowed four runs on six hits in six innings of work. He only walked one and struck out six.
- Goat: Brad Brach (-.245). Brach threw a scoreless 12th inning, facing only four batters and walking one. He then retired the first batter in the 13th inning before allowing the walk-off homer.
- Kid: Robel Garcia (-.200). If memory serves, this is the first real world-class pitcher Robel has seen. He had just one walk in five plate appearances and struck out three times.
WPA Play of the Game: Pablo Sandoval delivered the walk-off homer off of Brad Brach. (.427) That qualifies as the second worst WPA event of the season by a Cubs player.
*Cubs Play of the Game: Jason Heyward singled in the eighth inning with runners on first and third (off of a left-handed pitcher) to tie the game at four with two outs in the eighth inning. (.260)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 26
- Kris Bryant 25.5
- *Willson Contreras 11
- #Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Pedro Strop -14
- Albert Almora Jr. -14.5
Up Next: The Cubs will hope to avoid a sweep and a fourth straight loss. The Giants will look to run their winning streak to four in a row. They have now won 17 of 20 and are the hottest team in baseball.
The Cubs send their ace Jon Lester to the mound. Jon is 9-6 with a 3.87 ERA in 107 innings of work on the year. He is 4-2 with a 4.35 ERA over his last seven starts, covering 41⅓ innings. He’s coming off of a no decision against the Padres. In that one, he allowed 12 hits and four runs in six innings of work. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out six. He hasn’t started a game against the Giants since 2017, but in his last two regular season starts against the Giants he has thrown back-to-back complete games. He allowed one run in each. Current Giants have a total of 164 plate appearances against Jon, but almost half of that is on the injured list with Evan Longoria. After that, it is Buster Posey with 23 PA and a .893 OPS. Brandon Belt has just one walk in 13 career PA against Jon.
Tyler Beede, the 26-year-old right-handed pitcher is 3-3 with a 4.70 ERA in 59⅓ innings. Over his last seven starts, he is 3-1 with 3.24 ERA in 41⅔ innings. Last time out, he got a tough luck no decision after throwing eight scoreless innings against the Mets. He allowed three hits and one walk while striking out five. Beede has never faced the Cubs.
Beede has allowed a .658 OPS to right-handed hitters and an .831 to left-handed hitters. He’s only allowed a .631 OPS at home, though he’s only made four starts (out of 12) at home. Daniel Descalso is the only Cub who has ever batted against Beede and he had one walk in two plate appearances.
This is the first righthanded starter the Cubs have faced in their last six games. Let’s hope that’s the recipe for success (along with the expected return of Willson Contreras).
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