Baseball is a funny sport. Or maybe it is fan perception of baseball is a funny thing. A few days ago, the Cubs looked dead in the water. They’d lost three straight at home. Winning at home had literally been this team’s calling card. They were winning more than two out of every three games at home (and still have won exactly two thirds of their home games). Only the best teams can usually win home games at that rate. But this team hasn’t been one of the best teams. That’s because they’d been losing more than three out of every five road games.
Fast forward to the present, the Cubs win last night game and now have won four straight on the road. Those last two have come against talented Mets starters. We’ll talk about it more later, but they have one more very talented starter to face. Then they come home for three with the struggling Brewers and two with the “didn’t realize the season continued after April” Mariners.
The Cardinals lost the finale of their three-game set with the Brewers yesterday. That dropped the Cubs deficit down to two games in the division. That’s basically the farthest you ideally want to stay out in the division with six games remaining against a team. That would mean that if you play even with them the rest of the year, you can win four out of six and take care of getting into a tie yourself. As we learned last year, ties aren’t ideal. So we’ll have to hope that A) the Cubs do better than play even with the Cardinals in the remaining head-to-head games. Or as plan B) the Cubs win more than four of the remaining six against the Cards. Obviously the perfect scenario is you get one game ahead of them in the non head-to-head and have to just split the six games to win the division.
These last five games are important to keep in perspective when you think about the Cardinals or the Nationals. Both of those teams have looked unbeatable at times lately. But for almost every team, there are ebbs and flows. The Cards and Nats are both likely to still see some struggles between now and the end of the year. The Nats are certainly better than their overall record, and I definitely like their odds to hold onto that top wildcard spot, if not run down the division title. Are the Cardinals actually better than their record talent-wise? I’m not so sure. I don’t see them running away and hiding despite their very admirable recent stretch.
Very little that’s happened with the Cubs this year would be labelled as ideal. Winning two games in New York while facing two good starters, without Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo on the roster no less, that has been ideal. I do believe the Brewers trimmed five games off of the Cubs lead last September. I certainly believe the Cubs can trim two off of the Cardinals.
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 132, August 28: Cubs 10, Mets 7 (71-61)
- Superhero: Kyle Schwarber (.131). Kyle had two hits and a walk in five plate appearances. He scored two and drove in three. There will always be a lot of debate about Kyle as long as he is here in Chicago. This month, he’s been fantastic: .250/.357/.583 (wRC+ 138) in 84 PA. He’s scored 10 runs and driven in 18.
- Hero: Javier Baez (.123). One of the weirder lines you’ll see up here... Javy was hitless in five at bats and struck out twice. We’ll talk more about this in a minute and it will make more sense.
- Sidekick: Addison Russell (.076). Russell had a two-run single in the first inning. That was his only hit in five at bats. He also struck out twice.
- Billy Goat: Kyle Hendricks (-.043). Kyle unraveled in the fifth inning, falling short of picking up his 10th win. He’ll get a handful of other chances to do that. In this one, he allowed eight hits, a walk, two homers and six runs. He struck out three. Not vintage Kyle.
- Goat: David Phelps (-.039). Phelps came in to try to get out of the fifth inning and immediately allowed a two-run single. He then did get the final out, but stayed in to start the sixth and allowed another single.
- Kid: Jason Heyward (-.024). Heyward had one walk in five plate appearances. He scored once and struck out twice.
WPA Play of the Game: With runners on first and second with one out in the first inning, Javy Baez stepped to the plate. He grounded a ball to short and rather than turn an inning-ending double play, Amed Rosario threw the ball away. A run scored and the runner on first made it to third. (.133)
*Mets Play of the Game: Rajai Davis drew a walk with a runner already on first in the ninth inning to bring the tying run to the plate. (.088)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 34
- Kris Bryant 29.75
- Kyle Hendricks 13
- !Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Jason Heyward -14
- Pedro Strop -20.5
Up Next: The Cubs will look to complete the three game sweep and to pickup their eighth win in 11 games. The Mets will hope to avoid a sixth straight loss. They have an odd last ten that consists of five straight wins and then five straight losses. They will be trying to avoid falling five games behind the Cubs for the last wildcard spot. As it is, there are now two teams between them and the Cubs and they are in danger of falling behind the Diamondbacks.
Jon Lester starts for the Cubs. Jon is 10-9 with a 4.49 ERA in 138⅓ innings. Over his last seven starts, he is 1-3 with a 6.51 ERA in 37⅓ innings. Last time out he got hit hard by the Nationals. He threw 4⅓ innings and allowed nine hits, a walk and six runs. He struck out only two. He started two games against the Mets last year and was 1-0, allowing three runs in 13 innings of work. He is 4-0 with a 1.87 ERA in his last five starts against the Mets (dates back to July of 2016). Current Mets have a .735 OPS in 228 PA. A large portion of those PA belong to two guys who are unlikely to play in the game. Robinson Cano is out for sure with an injured list (85 PA) and Rajai Davis (64 PA, .835 OPS) doesn’t play a lot in general.
Jacob deGrom is on the mound for the Mets. Jacob is 8-7 with a 2.56 ERA in 162 innings pitched. deGrom is back on a really dominant stretch, going 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA over his last seven starts (47 innings). He started against the Cubs in the series at Wrigley in June. He threw six innings and got a no-decision. He allowed eight hits, no walks and two runs. He struck out nine. Over his last five starts against the Cubs (dates back to July of ‘16), he is 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in 35 innings.
Jacon has been tough on both right-handed hitters (.591) and left (.616). He’s been almost identical in 13 home starts (.603 OPS) as 13 road starts (.601). No matter how you slice it, he’s been pretty dominant. Current Cubs have 173 PA against deGrom. They have a combined .699 OPS. Unfortunately, one of the most effective hitters against him is unlikely to play. Anthony Rizzo has the most PA (28) and has a 1.041 OPS. Kris Bryant has also been very good though. He’s hit two homers in just 19 PA and has a 1.074 OPS. Javy has struggled though. He has eight strikeouts in just 14 PA. He has two hits and a walk for a .368 OPS.
The Cubs have actually done a really good job of staying even with the Mets while deGrom pitches and then beating them after he leaves the last couple of times. Hopefully they can pull that trick off one more time.
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