And so the trip ends on a high note. Technically, the Cubs finally win a road series. This one is a little odd, given two different sites for the games. At this point, we’ll all certainly take it. The Cubs finally win a road series for the first time in three months. Of course, that comes against the coldest team in the N.L. Baby steps.
Jose Quintana had a very nice start and that makes four good starts in a row to finish out the road trip. If one can say it, the pitching staff wasn’t all that bad on this trip except for the two thrashings they took. The bullpen definitely had some pretty rough spots, but in eight of the 10 starts, the starters were somewhere between passable and good. Of course, when you get trounced in two games, you are already only playing with a chance to win eight of 10 games on the trip. For a team that has struggled, that’s a pretty big give away.
Q will now have completed two months without a loss. He’s dropped his ERA on the year to 3.91 and his FIP to 3.71. Even before last night’s seven scoreless innings, Q had a 6-0 record and a 3.40 ERA (2.98 FIP) over the eight starts since his last loss. Obviously, those numbers are going down even further. Q also had 2.8 fWAR before last night’s start. That was already a top 30 number among pitchers and again, that’s heading in the right direction after this start.
Anyone who is still fretting over what the Cubs gave up for Jose is really missing out on what he’s been for the Cubs. Yes, he was less than what was expected in 2018. But he was very good down the stretch in 2017. The Cubs almost certainly don’t win the division that year without that acquisition. We’ll see what the rest of August and into September bring for Q, but it looks like that statement could be true again in 2019. He almost certainly won’t finish the year as a top 10 starter, but he very well might finish it as a top 20 starter by fWAR. I have trouble understanding how that receives so much ire and scorn.
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 124, August 18: Cubs 7, Pirates 1 (66-58)
- Superhero: Jose Quintana (.213). Q threw seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits, no walks and striking out seven. Jose has 33 strikeouts and 1 walk in August. He had 20 strikeouts and six walks in July. Combined, over eight starts, that is a 53:7 split. His 2.27 BB/9 is over 1 walk per game better than 2018 and more than a quarter walk per inning better than his career average (2.54).
- Hero: Jason Heyward (.111). Jason had a very good night at the top of the Cubs lineup. He had two hits and a walk in five plate appearances. One of those hits was a solo homer. He scored twice. He did also strikeout twice.
- Sidekick: Nicholas Castellanos (.101). Nick also had two hits in four at bats. He also had a solo homer.
- Billy Goat: Tony Kemp (-.035). Tony was hitless in four at bats and struck out once.
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.001). Tough crowd. Ian gets one at bat late in the game and lands here. He did strikeout in his only at bat.
- Kid: Craig Kimbrel/Mark Zagunis tie (.000). Addison Russell also had .000, but he had one plate appearance and drew a walk. Kimbrel faced three batters, struck out two and allowed a solo homer. Mark Zagunis was hitless in one at bat with a strikeout. One of three had what would normally be deemed a positive contribution while the other two had a negative contribution.
WPA Play of the Game: Jason Heyward’s solo homer with two outs in the third made it 2-0 Cubs (.113)
*Pirates Play of the Game: Bryan Reynolds reached on a two base error by Kris Bryant in the second inning (.070). The score was only 1-0 at the time. He advanced no further.
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 32.75
- Anthony Rizzo 25
- Kyle Hendricks 13
- !Carl Edwards Jr. /Jason Heyward -12
- Pedro Strop -19.5
Up Next: The Cubs will enjoy an off day on Monday before opening a six-game homestand on Tuesday. The Cubs come in having won two in a row. The Giants are once again hot ahead of meeting the Cubs. They’ve won seven of 10 after having lost on Sunday to snap a string of three straight wins they had in Arizona to start their road trip. At 63-62, the Giants are 3½ games out of the last wild card spot. There are three teams between the Giants and the second wild card which presently would go to the loser of the division race between the Cardinals and Cubs.
Cole Hamels will look to bounce back from a rough start in the opener. Cole is 6-4 with a 3.69 ERA in 109⅔ innings. Over his last seven starts, dating back to June 12, he is 1-2 with a 4.78 ERA in 32 innings. Last time out, he lasted only two innings in Philadelphia. He allowed nine hits, two walks and eight runs. Cole hasn’t started a game against the Giants since 2015. To say the Giants have changed in that time is an understatement. Still, current Giants have 153 PA versus Hamels with an .801 OPS. Pablo Sandoval leads the way with 36 PA (.763), but Buster Posey has excelled against Hamels (28, 1.352). Both men have two homers against Hamels.
The Giants start Tyler Beede. Tyler is 3-7 with a 5.77 ERA in 82⅔ innings. He’s only 1-4 with a 5.92 ERA over his last seven starts (38 innings). He did face the Cubs back on July 24. In that one, he allowed 10 hits, one walk and four runs in 5⅔ innings. He struck out seven. He was victimized by the long ball, allowing three homers. Last time out, he faced the A’s in a game played in San Francisco. He got the loss in that one, allowing eight hits and four runs in just four innings. He struck out five and didn’t walk anyone.
The 26-year-old right-hander has just the one career start against the Cubs. Beede has allowed an .823 OPS against right-handed hitters and .889 against lefties. He’s allowed an .818 at home and an .878 on the road. Current Cubs have just 29 PA against Tyler with a 1.155 OPS. Javier Baez and Kris Bryant each took Beede deep in that game (as did Albert Almora Jr.). Eight different Cubs had at least one hit in that game.
Let’s hope that the Cubs continue to hit Beede well and Hamels gets back in a groove. The Cubs are going to need Hamels if they are going to do any kind of real damage in the playoffs.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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Anthony Rizzo (three BB, HR, 2R, 2RBI)
Other (please leave suggestion in the comments)