The Cubs returned home on Friday to start a five game homestand. They won in impressive fashion against a fading Brewers team, 7-1. Just five days ago, the Cubs seemed left for dead after being swept by the Nationals. A sweep in New York and now a win at home and the Cubs are back within one game of first place.
The theme of the week has been rotating heroes. Friday, Nicholas Castellanos was the offensive force and Jose Quintana was getting it done on the mound. It’s hard to imagine that Castellanos was a largely unwanted player at the trade deadline. I’m sure the baseball analysts know what they are saying with his defense, but I still haven’t seen it. I also know that he came into Friday’s game with a .352/.386/.685 (wRC+ 172) and then hit two more homers. He has nine doubles and 11 homers so far with one game to go in August. Quite simply, he’s had an MVP caliber month in his Cubs debut.
Jose Quintana picked up yet another win against the Brewers. With the win, he is 8-4 in 16 career starts against them. On June 22, Jose finished a stretch of five consecutive starts that the team lost. He allowed nine runs, eight earned in 4⅓ innings that day. Since then, he is 8-1 (and the team 9-2 in his starts) and has allowed only 24 runs (22 earned) in 64⅓ innings (3.08 ERA). Of course, some of fWAR is related to quantity. But, Jose came into this game in the top 25 and with another good outing, that’s continuing to trend upwards.
Four straight wins, none of which Anthony Rizzo or Willson Contreras appeared in. Today, there was no Kris Bryant in the lineup. Right now, this team is getting production from a large number of people. The team is playing well and the results are coming. Four wins in a row. Nine wins in the last 12 games. None of that can erase the struggles this team has had. But, this team remains supremely talented and now it is red hot at a very good time. On Sunday, it seems extremely likely that Ben Zobrist, Albert Almora Jr. and Daniel Descalso will arrive with the expanded rosters. Contreras will likely return some time next week and any day now Rizzo’s back issues will clear up.
Given the return from injury of Contreras, the return from off-field issues of Zobrist and a plethora of Iowa players who have contributed at various times to the Cubs this year, the Cubs are likely to add more quality talent than any other team over the next week or so. The Cubs have reached 12 games over .500 for the first time this year. Things are looking up.
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 134, August 30: Cubs 7, Brewers 1 (73-61)
- Superhero: Nicholas Castellanos (.228). As has been noted, Castellanos has 11 homers now in his first month with the Cubs after having exactly that number in 100 games as a Tiger this year. He had two hits, both homers and drove in four runs in four at bats.
- Hero: Jose Quintana (.176). Q has had quite a few dominant starts against the Brewers. This one probably didn’t make it all of the way to what one would qualify as dominant. But, he was very good. He shut the Brewers out for 5⅔ innings, allowing four hits, two walks and struck out three. That was more than enough to earn the win. As noted above, he has an 8-1 record since falling to 4-7 on June 22. Q also had an RBI double and a sacrifice bunt. His hitting was worth .069.
- Sidekick: Ian Happ (.036). Happ had a double, reached on an error and scored two runs on the day in four at bats.
- Billy Goat: Addison Russell (-.040). Russell was hitless in four at bats and struck out once.
- Goat: Jonathan Lucroy (-.023). Lucroy was also hitless in four at bats and struck out once.
- Kid: Victor Caratini (-.012). Vic actually had two hits and an RBI in four at bats. He was out try to stretch a single into a double his first time up (-.015), and that basically landed him here.
WPA Play of the Game: Nicholas Castellanos hit the first of his two, two-run homers in the first inning. After Ian Happ opened with a double, Nick followed with a homer. (.132)
*Brewers Play of the Game: Yasmani Grandal walked with one out to load the bases in the fourth inning. (.030)
Cumulative Standings Top 3/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 34
- Kris Bryant 29.75
- Kyle Hendricks 13
- !Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Jason Heyward -15
- Pedro Strop -20.5
Up Next: The Cubs will look for their second five game winning streak in the month of August. The Brewers will look to avoid losing for the fifth time in six games. The Cubs have Cole Hamels returning to the team after the birth of his fifth child. Cole is 7-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 120⅔innings. Over his last seven, he is 1-2 with a 6.52 ERA. He was a little bit better the last time out, but still allowed a lot of hits. He allowed seven hits, a walk and two runs in five innings. He struck out three. He’s faced the Brewers three times this year, winning the one start in Milwaukee and getting no decisions in the other two. He’s allowed only three runs in 18 innings against them. Current Brewers have 204 PA against Cole with a .666 OPS. Ryan Braun has the most PA (49, .765). But Hernan Perez is one hitter who has crushed Cole (17, 1.404).
The Brewers have Zach Davies on the hill. Zach is 8-7 with a 3.90 ERA in 131⅔ innings. Over his last seven starts, things have gone very wrong for him. He is 1-5 with a 6.17 ERA in 37 innings of work. He’s lost his last four starts and hasn’t recorded an out in the sixth inning since July 18 when he beat the Diamondbacks in Arizona. Last time out, he allowed four runs in four innings against those same D-backs. Two of the losses in those last seven starts are to the Cubs. He’s actually faced them four times total. The first two he did well (1-0, three runs, one earned in 12 innings), the last two he got hammered (0-2, 11 runs in nine innings).
Davies seems like one of those guys who has been around forever, but he is only 26. The right-hander has been better against righties (.720 OPS) than lefties (.827). He’s also been better on the road (.739) than at home (.814). Current Cubs have 321 PA with a .745 against Davies. Kris Bryant has the most PA (49) and very good success against the Brewers starter (.921, including two doubles, a triple and two homers). Kyle Schwarber has four homers against Davies in just 31 PA (.976).
This looks like another pretty interesting matchup with two starters who haven’t been pitching very well, but Davies has been much worse than Hamels. Hamels has usually been pretty effective at Wrigley Field. Hopefully the Cubs can make if five straight and continue to pressure the Cardinals, who with a rainout Friday night must now play back-to-back doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday.
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