Finally. Everyone breathe a sigh of relief. For one day at least, everyone can dial it back one notch. Present company included on that one. Of course, this doesn’t fix anything. The Pirates are who we thought they were. They’ve scored three runs total in the first two games of this series and the two the plated in the ninth inning on Friday were aided significantly by Brandon Kintzler being off after missing more than a week. But, you can only win the game on the schedule. The Cubs did win the scheduled game on Saturday.
Again, we don’t want to read too much into a performance against a flopping team, but Jon Lester threw six scoreless innings. He did walk five, but he only allowed four hits while pitching into the seventh inning. After a couple of very bad starts, something closer to vintage Jon was just what the doctor ordered.
I did say I’d dial it back a notch. But I’m not going to dial it all of the way back. Joe Maddon built his reputation, at least in part, on using his whole roster and putting people into a spot to succeed. One of my biggest problems with the 2019 Cubs is the unwillingness to flip the script. Saturday’s win was great. One of the best parts of it was Tyler Chatwood throwing two scoreless innings with the game very much in question. Another was Rowan Wick nailing down a save. Finally.
Why has it taken so long to put those two and Kyle Ryan consistently into higher leverage situations? Why is it that if Craig Kimbrel, Pedro Strop, Brandon Kintzler, Brad Brach and Carl Edwards Jr. at different times this year have been given a chance to work out of trouble when Ryan, Chatwood and Wick always seem to be out after the first sign of trouble? For the most part, the first group has earned it in the past, but not in 2019 while the second group has earned in 2019. Past success is a thing and shouldn’t be dismissed. But recent success is probably twice as important and shouldn’t be dismissed either.
Don’t even get me started on the Cubs making the wrong decision nearly every day on the lead-off spot. Jason Heyward makes a lot of sense leading off, against right-handed pitching. He struggles against lefties. Virtually every day the Cubs go against the matchups with the lead-off position. It just doesn’t make sense. The Cubs have a .284 on base percentage and a .676 OPS out of the first position. The eighth position in the lineup (which has had a not totally insignificant number of PA by pitchers) boasts a .350 OBP and .795 OPS (admittedly boosted by eight intentional walks).
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 123, August 17: Cubs 2, Pirates 0 (65-58)
- Superhero: Tyler Chatwood (.291). Tyler threw two innings, allowed only one walk, hit a batter and struck out two. Overall, he retired six of the eight batters he faced. Tyler has a 3.79 ERA. Tyler has allowed two runs in nine innings of work in August, allowed one run in 6⅓ innings in July, allowed five runs in 14 May innings, allowed four runs in 14⅓ innings in March/April. He had a horrible month of June, but otherwise has been somewhere between effective and dominant in all of the other months.
- Hero: Kris Bryant (.221). Kris had a solo homer, a hit by pitch and a walk in four plate appearances.
- Sidekick: Rowan Wick (.171). Rowan retired all three batters he faced after Tyler Chatwood walked the first Pirate batter in the ninth.
- Billy Goat: Javier Baez (-.150). Javy was hitless in four at bats.
- Goat: Jason Heyward (-.087). Jason was hitless in four at bats. He struck out once.
- Kid: Nicholas Castellanos (-.071). Nick was hitless in four at bats. He struck out once.
WPA Play of the Game: Bryant’s homer lead off the seventh inning and broke a scoreless tie. (.206)
*Pirates Play of the Game: After Jon Lester walked the first Pirate up to bat in the fifth inning, Kris Bryant followed with a two-base error to put runners on second and third with no outs. (.137)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 32.75
- Anthony Rizzo 25
- Kyle Hendricks 13
- !Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Jason Heyward -14
- Pedro Strop -19.5
Up Next: The Cubs will look for their first series win on the road in more than three months as the Cubs and Pirates play from the site of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. The Cubs will have Jose Quintana on the mound. Jose has been one of the more consistent Cubs of late. He is 10-7 with a 4.11 ERA in 135⅔ innings. Over his last seven starts he is 5-0 with a 3.89 ERA in 41⅔ innings. He has not recorded a loss since June 22, almost two months ago. Last time out he got a very tough no decision when he allowed two runs (one earned) over six innings. He allowed five hits, one walk and struck out 14. Jose is a perfect 3-0 in three starts against the Pirates this year. He’s allowed six runs in 20 innings. Current Pirates have 113 PA against Jose with a .556 OPS. Starling Marte has the most PA (23), but has struck out seven times and only has three hits (.367 OPS).
The Pirates have 23-year-old right-hander Mitch Keller on the hill. Mitch is 1-1 with a 7.94 ERA in 17 innings of work. This will be his fifth major league start, spread out over May 27 to present. Last time out, he had his best start to date. In that one, he allowed five hits, two walks and two runs (one earned) against the Angels in Los Angeles. He has insignificant splits in such a small sample and has never faced the Cubs. So this is a fresh face.
Q’s been hot. I think the Cubs bats will break out against the rookie and the Cubs finally win a road series, though of course it is the weird one that takes place in two different parks.
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