Okay, it really hasn’t been that long. But it sure felt like it had been a long time since the Cubs won. And so it is that this one felt really great. Of course, it usually does when you win 11-3. This team needed this. A shot in the arm ahead of the break. If the baseball gods wanted to shine on this team, it could go to the south side over the weekend and win two more games and then for the 22 Cubs who get four days off, they could rest and heal up for the stretch run with happy thoughts. Of course, the baseball gods actually already have shined on this team. Despite a 17-24 record over their last 41 games, they head into today’s action tied for first place. Not because they built a massive lead in their first 47 games, but because the Milwaukee Brewers have also struggled.
Robel Garcia is the newest hype train to reach the Cubs. I love his story and have gushed about it to my family members. It is a really neat story that he was re-discovered, crushed his way through two levels of the minors and got this shot. It took one day for me to see guys suggesting on Twitter that he immediately become the Cubs everyday second baseman. Let’s just take a breath. I try to let my enthusiasm be a slow build. I hope that Robel can hit enough to man the Mark Zagunis position from earlier this year. Sit on the end of the bench, get a regular mid-game at bat and maybe an occasional start. If he blows the doors off of that and forces more playing time, great! But I don’t like to decide someone is the next big thing only to watch them struggle mightily as major league pitchers and major league pitching coaches find holes in his game and exploit them like they do to every hitter.
Jose Quintana is quite the enigma. He has a rather pedestrian ERA (4.19) but his FIP is better (3.98), but both are a bit below his career numbers (3.64 and 3.65 respectively). But, he’s had 13 starts where he allowed three runs or less. Really, three starts suppress his numbers. In those three starts, he’s thrown a total of 12⅔ innings and allowed 23 runs (21 earned). Of course, actually understanding the way numbers work, I can confidently guess that in virtually every case, if you lopped off a pitcher’s three worst games, you’d dramatically improve their numbers. I think with Q, you find out pretty quickly if he has it or not. You’d have to think that ideally, you’d get him out of these starts where he just doesn’t have it.
I’ve seen more than a handful of people suggesting the Cubs part ways with Kris Bryant either via trade now or in the off season ahead. Kris has the second highest walk rate of his career (12.0), the second lowest strikeout rate of his career (19.4), both behind his 2017 campaign (14.3 and 19.2 respectively). He has a slash line of .294/.399/.548. He’s beaten that mark in average once (2017), on base once (2017) and slugging once (2016). His wRC+ is 146, he’s matched that once (2017) and beat it once (2016). Kris is once again poised to finish this season as one of the game’s best players. This morning he sits 12th in all of baseball in wRC+ (just ahead of teammate Willson Contreras). By fWAR, he sits eighth among hitters. Yeah, I’m still team Kris forever.
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 88, July 4: Cubs 11 at Pirates 3 (46-42)
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.280). Willson had three hits in five at bats as part of a 15 hit Cub attack. Willson had a two-run homer and drove in three runs total.
- Hero: Kris Bryant (.215). Kris got the scoring started with a first-inning homer. He ended up with four hits and three runs in five at bats. Kris has scored 66 runs in 87 games and is on pace to score 123 runs.
- Sidekick: Anthony Rizzo (.063). Anthony had two hits, two runs scored, a walk, and an RBI in five plate appearances. One of those hits was a triple. Anthony Rizzo hitting a triple is good TV.
- Billy Goat: Jose Quintana (-.097). He allowed three runs on six hits over seven innings. This was a game where Q settled down after a rough start. He lands here for the three runs he allowed in the first three innings. But after a fourth inning one out double, he retired the final 11 hitters he faced (and the Cubs retired the final 17).
- Goat: Javier Baez (-.021). Someone had to make all of the outs while the offense was battering Pirate pitching. Javy had just one hit in five at bats. He did manage to drive in two though.
- Kid: David Bote (-.003). David had it even rougher. Not only was he hit in the head by a pitch, he was hitless in his other four at bats (all strike outs). He did manage to drive in a run with his hit by pitch and then came around to score in the inning.
WPA Play of the Game: Willson Contreras (.209). His third inning two-run homer with two outs gave the Cubs the lead for good.
*Pirates Play of the Game: Jung Ho Kang’s second inning RBI-double (.126). That came after the only walk Q issued in the game with one out in the second. He struck out six.
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 16
- Kris Bryant 14
- Willson Contreras 12
- *Carl Edwards Jr. -9
- Jason Heyward -10
- Yu Darvish -14
Up Next: The Cubs have an off day on a Friday. I honestly cannot ever remember a scheduled Friday off day. The Cubs now get one just a few days before they get four days off for the All-Star break. Super helpful. Hopefully, it allows a couple of banged up Cubs to show up rested and ready to go against the White Sox in a two game weekend set. The Cubs have a nine-games-in-10-days homestand coming out of the break, so the Cubs don’t leave Chicago until July 22.
The Cubs will look to make it two straight after four straight losses. The White Sox will look to avoid a second straight loss after three straight wins and five of six wins. At 41-43, they’d be very much alive for the N.L. playoffs, but in the A.L., they are six back of the second wildcard spot with six teams ahead of them for two spots.
This game will be a rematch from June 19 when the Cubs won 7-3. Jon Lester is the Cubs starter. Jon is 7-6 with a 3.89 ERA in 88 innings of work. He is 4-3 with a 5.27 ERA over his last seven starts. Last time out he allowed four runs (three earned) in 5⅔ innings. He struck out eight and only walked two while allowing five hits. In an era where pitchers are increasingly not getting the decision in their starts, Jon has 13 in 16 starts. One of those that he didn’t get was one he left with an injury. In his last 10 starts, he is 5-5. Jon has four starts against the White Sox 2017 to present and has won them all. He’s thrown 23⅓ innings across those four start and has allowed nine runs (eight earned). Current White Sox have 109 plate appearances against Jon with an .858 OPS. Jose Abreu has the most PA (19) and a very good OPS (.924). Former Cub Welington Castillo has hit Jon well (12, 1.000) as has fellow catcher James McCann (9, 1.319).
The White Sox send their ace to the hill in Lucas Giolito. He is 11-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 96 innings. His June 19 start against the Cubs was his worst of the season. In that one, he allowed six runs on seven hits in just 4⅓ innings. Despite that start, Lucas is 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA over 44 innings of work. Last time out, he beat the first-place Twins with five shutout innings. He allowed only one hit in that one. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out four. That team has been bludgeoning people, so that’s one heck of a start.
Lucas has made three career starts against the Cubs and is 1-2 with a 7.56 ERA. Lucas has been tougher on left-handed hitters (.506 OPS) than right-handed (.636). He’s been about the same at home (.562) as on the road (.584). Basically, he’s been very good in every possible situation. Current Cubs have 70 PA against Giolito with an .863 OPS. Javier Baez has the most PA (10) and great success (1.250 OPS). Kris Bryant has struggled mightily (9, .222).
Two good pitchers, but two teams with surprisingly good numbers against them. This should be an interesting one.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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