Heavy sigh. This one, I don’t even want to write. This one almost made me decide not to look up the oddity of how many times the Cubs have been involved in 6-5 games (11 now). Man, I was hoping this was going to be one of those wacko games where guys who are sometimes counted out came through in big ways. Yu wasn’t great, but left with a chance to win. Victor Caratini hit two homers for the first time in his young MLB career. Addison Russell with another hit and an RBI. The narrative was all there.
Alas, the Cubs patchwork team couldn’t get across the finish line. Many of us wondered just why the Cubs lineup was so late to get released for this one. Well, the answer was a sad one. Robel Garcia wasn’t at the park early enough for Joe to insert him straight into the lineup like he usually does with callups. Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward were scratched due to injuries. That left only nine options to play. Wait, Daniel Descalso is basically something akin to a mascot. So that left eight.
Joe rolled with that eight and the Cubs lead a seesaw affair into the ninth inning and then turned it over to the man, the myth, the legend, Craig Kimbrel. I was told he was ten feet tall and hurled lightning bolts at opposing hitters. Argh. I can’t even really whole-heartedly get on his case. Willson Contreras certainly misplayed one ball. That can’t be a double in that spot. If you can’t catch it, you’ve got to keep it to a single. Then Addison Russell made an aggressive play when the passive one was the right choice. As the only living member of Team Russell, I’m going to wear this one. Man, that was just the wrong play at the wrong time.
It didn’t work. The Cubs did lose one batter later. For what little it’s worth, the Brewers lost again as the NL Central continues to implode. The entire division is now separated by less than five games and literally and of five teams could get hot and win a division. The most likely two are still the two at the top who were the two favorites. But I’m sure as heck not writing any of the five teams off as badly as the Cubs and Brewers are playing right 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 87, July 3: Cubs 5 at Pirates 6 (45-42)
- Superhero: Victor Caratini (.389). Two homers in four at bats, three RBI. Thanks to having only 94 PA on the season, Vic now has a season line of .298/.372/.524 (wRC+ 133). Pretty good season for a backup catcher. Despite being “bat-first” he’s far from an embarrassment behind the plate. Without looking around, I’ll guess he grades out as one of the best backup catchers in baseball this season.
- Hero/Sidekick: Pedro Strop/Javier Baez (.135). Pedro had an odd inning, allowing three hits and no runs. He was aided by both a pickoff at first and a runner gunned down at the plate on a throw from Willson Contreras. Javy had three hits including a solo homer. He also struck out twice in a mixed bag night.
- Billy Goat: Craig Kimbrel (-.813). In his first ever appearance in Heroes and Goats, Craig immortalizes himself. And not in a good way. This is the largest negative WPA day for a Cubs player since September 23, 2017. That was by Wade Davis in his only blown save as a Cub. Craig allowed a walk and a single. Both came around to score. One of the great strikeout relief pitchers could not come up with one to either of the two batters to which he desperately needed one.
- Goat: Yu Darvish (-.214). 6⅔ innings, seven hits, no walks, four runs. He allowed two homers and struck out six. He could have won this one...
- Kid: Albert Almora Jr. (-.119). Albert actually came into this one with a mini five game hitting streak. His season line has dropped to .250/.287/.388 (wRC+ 73). Among NL center fielders, only Steven Duggar has a lower wRC+.
WPA Play of the Game: Victor Caratini (.400). A two-run homer, down one with two outs in the seventh inning. The second homer of the game. The stuff legends are made of.
*Pirates Play of the Game: Jung Ho Kang doubled to right in the ninth inning off of Craig Kimbrel with one out and a runner on first. (.333)
Up Next: The Cubs look to avoid a four game sweep. If they do lose, that would make five of six and eight of 10. The Pirates will look for their fourth straight win, seven of nine and nine of 12. They would also reach the .500 mark.
The Cubs start Jose Quintana. Jose was the last Cub to win. He is 5-7 with a 4.21 ERA in 94 innings of work. Over his last seven, he is 1-4 with a 5.65 ERA in 36⅔ innings. But, that last one was a thing of beauty. Six hits, no walks, no runs in six innings. He struck out four. He beat the Pirates earlier this year right after Jon Lester got hurt. His Reds win was right after Cole Hamels got hurt. In the Pirates game earlier this year, he threw seven scoreless. He allowed four hits, one walk and struck out 11. He started two games against the Pirates last year and didn’t factor into a decision in either. He allowed only three runs over 10 innings. Current Pirates have 89 PA against him. Starling Marte has the most (17) but has struggled (.369 OPS). Corey Dickerson has done well (11, 1.273).
Jordan Lyles is the opponent. Jordan is 5-4 with a 3.71 ERA in 70⅓ innings on the season. Over his last seven starts, he is 3-3 with a 5.02 ERA in 37⅔ innings, so he is moving in the wrong direction. He lost his last start against the Brewers. In that one, he went six innings and allowed five hits, two walks and three runs. He struck out five. He faced the Cubs in April and won that one. He threw six innings and allowed three hits, one walks and one run. He struck out 10 in what has been one of his best starts of the year. Before that, he hadn’t started against the Cubs since 2015.
The 28-year-old righty has dominated right handed hitters (.546 OPS) but struggled against lefties (.898). He’s been a bit better on the road (.655) than at home (.732). Current Cubs have only 78 PA against him. Anthony Rizzo has the most (17, .332), but has struggled. One Cub who has hit him well is Jason Heyward (7, 1.286).
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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