I wish I could say that the 2019 Cubs are unprecedented in team history. Unfortunately, I’ve been a Cubs fan long enough that I just can’t say that. The Cubs keep on losing. They have the weapons to compete, but they just can’t keep them all pointed in the right direction. To be fair, the Cubs probably deserved to lose this game. They managed just two hits over the first seven innings and five for the whole game. But, they were able to plate two runs in the eighth inning, including a two-run triple against Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez.
When a team is falling apart (or has fallen apart), even when you get seven shutout innings and bring your closer in to quell an uprising, things can get sideways in a hurry. Of course, in this instance I’m talking about the Pirates. Their ship is taking on water even faster than the Cubs’ own ship is. Tony Kemp was an unlikely source of offense, but he came through with that two-run triple against Vazquez.
The Cubs then sent Kyle Ryan out to start the ninth inning. He retired the first batter he faced, then allowed a single. At that point, Brandon Kintzler was summoned to close it out. For the second straight game, the Cubs pen just couldn’t close it out. He too retired the first batter he faced. He then walked three straight (one intentional) before allowing a single for a Pirates walk-off winner.
With the fourth straight loss, the Cubs dropped to 2-6 on the trip. A winning trip is no longer possible and the Cubs are no longer in first place. The Cubs need to circle the wagons, try to escape with another win or two and then hope coming home and then getting a few more live bodies back can right the ship. The Cardinals just dropped a double digit night on the Reds in a game started by Reds ace Luis Castillo . The Cardinals smell blood in the water. I’m not sure they are a good enough team to run away with things, but I’m always going to worry about a Cardinal team that hangs around too long. I’ve seen this show too many times.
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 122, August 16: Cubs 2, Pirates 3 (64-58)
- Superhero: Tony Kemp (.361). Kemp had one hit in three at bats, a two-run triple to give the Cubs a lead in the eighth inning.
- Hero: Kyle Hendricks (.186). Kyle was quite good again in this one. He threw seven innings, allowed three hits, one walk and one run. He did only strikeout one.
- Sidekick: Ian Happ (.158). Happ had a pinch hit single in the eighth inning and came around to score on the Kemp triple.
- Billy Goat: Brandon Kintzler (-.802). Brandon joins Craig Kimbrel for the second largest negative WPA game of the year (Kimbrel also has the largest at -.813). Cubs relievers are now responsible for the nine worst WPA games of the year and 10 of the “top” 11. Kintzler faced five batters in this one, walked three, allowed a single and retired one.
- Goat: Nicholas Castellanos (-.165). Castellanos was hitless in four at bats on the night with two strikeouts.
- Kid: Kyle Schwarber (-.141). Schwarber was hitless in four at bats with two strikeouts.
WPA Play of the Game: Tony Kemp (.409). The eighth largest positive WPA play of the game goes to waste in the loss. Kemp’s two-run triple in the eighth inning.
*Pirates Play of the Game: Cole Tucker’s base loaded walk is actually the largest one in the game. It tied the score at 2. (.391). The walk-off single was worth (.346). The walk was the seventh largest negative WPA play of the year.
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 30.75
- Anthony Rizzo 25
- Kyle Hendricks 13
- Jason Heyward/!Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Pedro Strop -19.5
Up Next: Another game between the two cratering teams. The Cubs will look to snap a four-game losing streak with Jon Lester on the hill. Jon is 9-8 with a 4.43 ERA in 128 innings. He is 2-2 over his last seven with a 5.63 ERA in 40 innings. Last time out, he allowed three runs on five hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out seven. He didn’t get a decision. He’s faced the Pirates twice this year. He is 1-0 and has allowed only three runs in 8⅔ innings (he left one after two innings with an injury). He actually allowed zero runs in his last two starts against the Pirates last year too. Current Pirates have 200 PA against Lester with a .679 OPS). Melky Cabrera leads the way with 57 PA (.662). Josh Bell has performed better (.815 OPS, 25 PA).
The Pirates counter with lefty Steven Brault. Brault is 3-1 with a 4.33 ERA in 70⅔ innings this year. Brault’s last start that resulted in a decision was June 14 in Miami. Still, over his last seven starts he is 1-0 with a 3.25 ERA. Last time out, he pitched in St. Louis. He allowed four runs on five hits and three walks in just 4⅔ innings. He has made one start in 2016, one in 2017 and one in 2018 against the Cubs. He’s never received a decision and has thrown only 14 innings allowing 10 runs (nine earned). Current Cubs have 122 PA against Brault with a 1.028 OPS. Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Javier Baez have all mashed against Brault. Bryant (1.667 in 15), Heyward (1.082 in 15), Baez (1.556 in 12). Rizzo also has 12 PA, but only a .250 OPS.
A lefty on the road. What could possibly go wrong?
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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