Saturday night in Milwaukee the Cubs game was like a story in three parts. The first part was a dominant outing by Jon Lester. That coupled with a two-run homer by Anthony Rizzo seemed like it had the Cubs propelled onward to victory. The second part was the eighth inning. A slow-moving train wreck. From that, a hero emerged from the shuffle, but he got lost in the shuffle of this one and Heroes and Goats missed him from the hero podiums. The third act saw Albert Almora Jr.’s titanic 10th inning blast to give the Cubs the lead only to set up a second blown save.
Lester was terrific. For a guy recovering from illness who told reporters in the post game that he had just finished his last round of medicine, he gave everything he had. The Rizzo homer gave him a little bit to work with in this one and that was all Jon needed through seven scoreless innings. Against a potent Brewers offense, particularly at home, this was a reminder of just how good Jon can be.
The eighth inning was hard to watch. The two runs allowed was the least of it. Derek Holland’s debut notwithstanding, I couldn’t understand almost any of the rest of the decision making. That goes all of the way down to Keston Hiura’s game-tying double that capped the inning while I was screaming at the TV to just intentionally walk him, particularly after Tyler Chatwood had fallen behind 2-0 and then 3-0. Not withstanding that the Brewers lineup is very potent and the next guy up is usually a pretty professional hitter, I have a pretty firm policy against facing guys with an OPS over 1,000 with first base open and the tying or go ahead run in scoring position in the eighth inning or later.
The overall reliever usage in the eighth inning was atrocious. Obviously necessitated because the generally reliable Steve Cishek got ambushed by both of the first two batters he faced. Bringing Chatwood into a one run game to face two batters in the eighth inning is fairly crazy. If last night’s game had gone long, the talk had been of a depleted bullpen. Unless he was only available for a couple of batters, it just doesn’t make sense. The only good thing that came out of the eighth inning and then spilling over to the ninth was Rowan Wick. The staff, the announcers and the beat writers in Iowa have been effusive in their praise of Wick for a while now. He’s been used pretty sparingly at the MLB level. But he now reaches the 10-inning plateau at the MLB level with a 2.70 ERA and 3.42 FIP. With so many around him struggling, I want to see much more of Wick down the stretch.
The final act was the 10th inning. I often use the Lucy moving the football away from Charlie Brown analogy for those moments when the Cubs and their fans end up on their collective fans on their butts again, trying to understand what just happened and why they believed that this time would be different. There was the joy of Albert Almora Jr., the beleaguered regular center fielder of the Cubs, and his teammates when he lead off the 10th inning with a homer. Then there was Craig Kimbrel facing three batters in the bottom of the inning. The result? Homer-walk-homer.
Early in the year I said often that I didn’t believe that Kimbrel would magically cure what ails the Cubs. Then I did get behind the signing when they finally made it. For money only, and not putting the team over budget, the signing did make all of the sense of the world. Despite the whispers around baseball at the end of 2018 that Kimbrel was slowly declining. He too has recently passed the 10 inning mark as a Cub (of course, not last night as he didn’t record any outs). Kimbrel in 10⅔ innings has a 6.75 ERA and an 8.01 FIP. He is allowing a home run on more than 30% of the fly balls he allowed (30.8 to be precise). Of course, on a signing like Kimbrel, if he records the last out in some playoff victories, that’s what really matters.
Is this team actually headed to the playoffs? One has to start to wonder.
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 104, July 27: Cubs 3, Brewers 5 (55-49)
- Superhero: Jon Lester (.436). Seven shutout innings, four hits, three walks. Five strikeouts. All while trying to just survive a night in a week when he’d been under the weather.
- Hero: Albert Almora Jr. (.328). He came into the game late, got two at bats. Struck out the first, hit what was hoped to be a game-winning 10th-inning homer in the other.
- Sidekick: Anthony Rizzo (.249). His two-run homer early looked to be the difference for a while. He also walked in four total plate appearances.
- Honorable Mention: Rowan Wick (.216). Six batters faced, four retired. Two walks. It was a bit of a high wire act, but got the job done.
- Billy Goat: Craig Kimbrel (-.802). He’s actually seven of nine in save situations. Feels much worse, doesn’t it? By WPA, this is the second worst Cubs game score of the season, behind his own July 3 performance.
- Goat: Steve Cishek (-.314). When the dependable one allows a homer and a double to the first two men he faces, that feeling of doom doesn’t even have the chance to really set in.
- Kid: Tyler Chatwood (-.133). Tyler faced two batters with the first lead on the line. The first was retired. The second was a game-tying double bounced down the first baseline. Modern defensive positioning in almost all situations is better than things used to be. But this one would have been at least knocked down years ago. The ball bounced right down the line in a position that the first and third baseman used to stand to try to prevent doubles late in the game.
WPA Play of the Game: The Christian Yelich homer leading off the 10th inning to tie the game at 3-3 allowed by Craig Kimbrel. (.438) For Kimbrel, the third worst individual WPA event by a Cub this year.
*Cubs Play of the Game: Albert Almora Jr.’s solo homer in the 10th (.339).
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 29.5
- Anthony Rizzo 25
- Willson Contreras/Kyle Hendricks 11
- Jason Heyward/#Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Albert Almora Jr. -12.5
- Yu Darvish -17
Up Next: The Cubs will once again try to avoid a road sweep. They’ve lost five of their last six, to largely erase the 7-1 coming out of the All-Star break. They’ll turn to Jose Quintana. Jose is 8-7 with a 4.42 ERA in 112 innings on the year. He’s won his last four starts and is 4-2 with a 5.68 ERA in 38 innings. Last time out he was actually hit fairly hard, allowing eight hits, a walk and five runs in just five innings of work. He struck out seven and allowed three homers. Historically, Jose has dominated the Brewers, but he now is 0-2 in his last three starts against them dating back to the one game playoff in October. In 9⅔ innings against the Brewers this year he’s already allowed 11 runs against them. Current Brewers have a whopping 319 plate appearances against Joe with a .650 OPS. Lorenzo Cain has the largest number of PA (92) and a .740 OPS. Ryan Braun is one Brewer who has hit Jose well (38, .901).
The Brewers turn to Zach Davies who is 8-3 with a 3.17 ERA in 113⅔ innings. Over his last seven, he’s slumped a bit. He’s just 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 34 innings. The last time out, he was hit hard. He allowed nine hits, one walk and seven runs (six earned) in just four innings of work against the Reds. He took a loss for those efforts. The Cubs haven’t beaten Zach since last April. They’ve faced him three times since then, twice this year, and he is 1-0 with just four runs (two earned) in 17 innings of work.
Davies has allowed a .708 OPS to right-handed hitters and an .816 to left-handed hitters. He’s allowed an .801 OPS in 10 starts at home. Current Cubs have 275 PA against Davies with a .706. Kris Bryant has both the most PA (43) and highest OPS among players with more than 10 PA (1.005). He has two doubles, a triple and two homers among 15 lifetime hits against Davies.
If this team is going to get to the playoffs and do any damage, the bats are going to propel them. Any time those bats would like to get back into gear would be fantastic.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Albert Almora Jr.
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)