Night and day. It’s a phrase we use a lot. So much that it is kind of cliche. But the last two Cubs games were literally as different as night and day. On Wednesday night, the Cubs won 12-11 in dramatic fashion with a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth. There were lead changes, a whole barrel of homers and it was generally a wild affair on a night when the ball was really carrying. On Thursday afternoon, it was almost a bit cool. The wind was blowing in and the ball, it was not really carrying too well. Sure, there were a couple of well struck balls, including one late in the game that Pat Hughes’ radio call really sounded like it was going to leave the yard.
The best part of this is that cliche or not, the Cubs won both of the two games in question. They’ve now won five in a row and once again they’ve reached 11 games over .500. They first reached that mark on May 14, just 39 games into the season. A win on May 22 put them back to 11 over. Finally on August 8, they got back there again. Will this be the time when they finally break on through to the other side?
Home has been where it’s at for the Cubs. They have moved their record to 44-19 at home. It definitely feels like a shame that there are only 18 home games remaining. This team has been really special to watch at home. There are three games remaining in this homestand, against the Washington Nationals. The Nationals are one of the few teams the Cubs have won a road series from, taking two out of three in May. The Nationals are a better team now than they were then, but then so are the Cubs.
I’ve talked about certain players lately and suggested that maybe we should stop spending so much time worrying about the things they aren’t and rather just enjoy the things they are. I’m coming around to the idea of feeling that way about these Cubs. It’s certainly frustrating to the point of being maddening the way that the play on the road. But it is also blissful to watch them winning so consistently and in so many different ways at home. Yes, this is another flawed team, but it is getting increasingly difficult to imagine this team not being in the post season for the fifth consecutive year. Who grew up as a Cub fan in the 70’s 80’s or 90’s and ever believed that would be a thing?
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 127, August 23: Cubs 1, Giants 0 (69-58)
- Superhero: Kyle Hendricks (.452). Kyle was fantastic, throwing seven scoreless innings. He allowed three hits, on walks and struck out seven. This drops his ERA to 3.20 (FIP 3.76). He picked up his ninth win. He came into the game with a 2.7 fWAR. That number will continue to rise as he and Jose Quintana yo-yo for who has the highest number.
- Hero: Kyle Ryan (.163). Other Kyle came into the game following a Brandon Crawford two-out triple in the eighth inning and struck out pinch hitter Austin Slater for one of the most important outs of the game. He stayed in and recorded the first out of the ninth inning as well.
- Sidekick: Anthony Rizzo (.071). Anthony had one of the Cubs only two hits. It drove in a run with two outs in the fourth. It ended up being the only run of the game.
- Billy Goat: Kris Bryant (-.102). He did draw a walk, but he hit into a double play just in front of the Rizzo RBI-single.
- Goat: Javier Baez (-.080). Javy was hitless in three at bats.
- Kid: Ian Happ (-.049). Ian was also hitless in three at bats. This game saw all five of the top five in the year to date (prior to this game) appear on one side of the ledger or the other. With Castellanos avoiding the negative side, he sneaks past both Baez and Happ now.
WPA Play of the Game: Anthony Rizzo (.120). I’m not sure I’ve had to utilize author’s discretion before on WPA Play of the Game. Two plays registered at .120. I’m giving the nod to the decisive single with two outs in the fourth as the top play.
*Giants Play of the Game: Kris Bryant grounded into a double play with runners on first and second and no outs in the fourth. (.120).
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 31
- Kris Bryant 29.75
- Kyle Hendricks 16
- !Carl Edwards Jr./Jason Heyward -12
- Pedro Strop -19.5
Up Next: The Nationals are next up for the Cubs. They are coming off of a four-game set in Pittsburgh where they won three of four, all three in blowout fashion. The Nationals have won nine of their last 11 and are 13-6 in August.
The Cubs will look for a sixth straight win (they’re 12-8 this month) and they’ll turn to Jon Lester to do it. Jon is 10-8 with a 4.23 ERA in 134 innings. Over his last seven starts he is only 2-2 with a 5.45 ERA in 39⅔ innings. Last time out, he won in Pittsburgh to start this streak. He threw six scoreless innings, allowing four hits, five walks and striking out only three. Not his best, but definitely good enough. Jon faced the Nationals earlier this year and was a loser in a game where he allowed five runs. He pitched only 4⅓ innings and allowed 10 hits, one walk and only struck out three. He also lost a start to the Nats in 2017 and another back in 2015. He has two no decisions over that time, but no wins. Current Nationals have 283 PA against him with a .670 OPS. Howie Kendrick leads the way with 55 PA but only a .507 OPS. Ryan Zimmerman is one National who has done some damage with two homers in 25 PA (.939 OPS).
I learned today that Anibel Sanchez is still pitching. That guy has been around forever. He’s starting for the Nats (and is the same age as Jon Lester, so not THAT old really). Anibal is 7-6 with a 3.99 ERA in 121⅔ innings. Over his last seven starts, he is 2-0 with a 4.74 ERA in 38 innings. Last time out he got a no decision against the Brewers in Washington. He allowed eight hits, four walks and five runs in just four innings while striking out three. He pitched once against the Cubs in 2018 and was a winner. He threw six scoreless innings, allowing only three hits, and one walk while striking out six. That start was for the Braves.
Sanchez has been tough on right-handed hitters (.661) but susceptible to lefties (.819). He’s been almost identical at home (.733) as on the road (.730) as far as OPS. But he does have a 3.74 ERA on the road and a 4.29 at home. Either way, the veteran is very good on the road. Having only made one start against the Cubs since 2015, they only have 85 total PA against him. A huge portion of that belongs to Jason Heyward (15, .955) and Anthony Rizzo (12, .533). Jonathan Lucroy has two homers in just nine PA (1.556) and Nick Castellanos has a homer in just three AB (2.333).
This should be a tough one. Sanchez has generally pitched very well against the Cubs even though the huge majority of that dates back to the first half of this decade. But, the Cubs have momentum and the Nats had to travel after a night game. Hopefully that will give the Cubs an edge.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
"Not Kyle" Rizzo
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)