The Cubs have led in every game since the All-Star break. That’s the good news. The bad? With last night’s loss, the team is just 9-7 since the break. The Cubs have been a second-half team through the whole Joe Maddon tenure. But if this year’s version can’t figure out how to win on the road, it just isn’t going to happen. The 7-2 homestand was great. The 2-5 start to this road trip? Not so much. After dropping the first game in this series, it feels very likely that the Cubs will continue their streak of not winning road series. The last one they won was in mid-May against the Nationals.
Certainly, the bullpen has been a cause of the losing. A number of late leads were blown including two in the previous road loss on Saturday. On Tuesday night, the Cubs bullpen threw two scoreless innings. That’s now 6⅓ innings with no earned runs over the last two games. Small sample, but encouraging. Yu Darvish allowed two runs over six innings. Better than the minimum definition of a quality start. Teams across all of the major leagues are at an .884 winning percentage when they hold their opponent to two or fewer runs, including the A’s who are a perfect 33-0 in those games.
The Cubs lost for the fourth time in a game where they held their opponent to two or fewer runs in 2019. Only six teams have lost more such games, though those six do include last night’s opponent and the Indians. So it isn’t like this is some highly predictive statistic. It is an enigma how this team’s offense just disappears, particularly on the road. We’ve heard it talked about that this team is susceptible to power pitchers. But this was Adam Wainwright shutting down the Cubs last night.
The Cubs did manage to get six hits and six walks. They parlayed that into just one run. There has been a ton of talk about lineup construction. On a dynamic offensive team, lineup construction doesn’t really matter much. Everyone is getting on base, everyone is driving runs, then you are only just trying to squeeze out the run that puts the cherry on top. An an anemic offensive team, lineup construction is extremely important. When only four different players on the team get hits in the game, it’s going to be difficult to score runs unless you correctly predict which ones might get hits and group them together. To that end, Jason Heyward batted second and had three of the team’s six hits. The three most consistent hitters were lined up behind him and had just two hits and one walk in 12 plate appearances.
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 106, July 30: Cubs 1, Cardinals 2 (56-50)
- Superhero: Javier Baez (.079). Javy had the lone Cubs RBI in the game on a fourth inning single. He also drew an intentional walk.
- Hero/Sidekick: Rowan Wick/Victor Caratini (.039). Wick threw a perfect eighth inning with two strikeouts. Caratini drew two of the Cubs six walks in four plate appearances.
- Billy Goat: Robel Garcia (-.193). It still may work out for Robel, but he’s hit a walk in the major leagues. He struck out four times in five at bats last night. He now has a K% of 41.3 and a line of .220/.254/.525. You still have to love that slugging number, but he’s struggling deeply at the plate.
- Goat: Kris Bryant (-.162). Kris was hitless in four at bats last night and struck out once.
- Kid: Kyle Schwarber (-.113). Kyle didn’t have much of an encore to his massive Sunday game. He had one walk in four plate appearances. It’s really hard to provide value as a bat-first player when you are as inconsistent at the plate as Schwarber is.
WPA Play of the Game: Paul Goldschmidt continued his push for Player of the Month in the NL with a homer with one out in the sixth inning. (.190) That gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead and sent the Cubs on to yet another road loss.
*Cubs Play of the Game: Javy Baez singled with a runner on third and two outs in the fourth inning to drive in the lone Cubs run. (.120)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 27.5
- Anthony Rizzo 22
- Kyle Hendricks/Javier Baez 11
- Jason Heyward/#Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Albert Almora Jr. -12.5
- *Pedro Strop-17
Up Next: The Cubs will desperately be trying not to lose yet another road series. The Cardinals will be looking to run their record to eight wins in their last 10 games including a recent five game road winning streak.
The Cubs send Kyle Hendricks to the mound. Kyle finally looks to be getting back into his groove after an injury caused him to miss starts in June. He is 7-8 with a 3.26 ERA on the season in 113⅓innings. Over his last seven starts, he is just 1-4 despite a 3.47 ERA in 36⅓ innings. His last win came on June 9 against the Cardinals. Kyle was very good in that one. He allowed one run on eight hits and no walks in seven innings of work. He’s faced the Cardinals twice this year, and won both. He’s allowed only 1 run in 16 innings of work. But, both games were at Wrigley Field. Current Cardinals have 276 plate appearances against Kyle. But, three of the top four Cardinals in PA against him are on the injured list (Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Marcell Ozuna). That leaves Kolten Wong with 33 PA and an .864 OPS. The Cardinals will certainly miss Ozuna and his 1.124 OPS in 32 PA.
The Cardinals will have Miles Mikolas on the hill. Miles has come down to Earth a bit after last year’s 18-4, 2.83 ERA season. This year he is just 7-10 and has a 4.19 ERA in 120⅓ innings. Over his last seven, he’s gotten it going a bit at 3-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 42 innings. In his last outing, he beat the Pirates. He threw six innings and allowed five hits, one walk and three runs in picking up the win. He’s faced the Cubs twice and is 0-1 allowing four runs in 11 innings. Mikolas has allowed a .680 OPS to right-handed hitters and an .857 to lefties. He’s also been really tough at home with a .599 OPS. Current Cubs have 133 PA against him with a .661 OPS. Jason Heyward has the most PA (18) and an .802 OPS. Javier Baez has had pretty good success with a .979 OPS in 16 PA.
This one looks like a pitchers’ duel on paper. Let’s hope the Cubs bats get it in gear.
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