I love the picture with this article. Lord knows I’ve been hard on Albert Almora Jr. these last two years. But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy for the guy when he succeeds. Albert has always seemed like a good guy, a good teammate and is certainly a talented outfielder. His bat has never really been able to consistently stack up at the major league level. Certainly, for a really nice stretch in 2018, when the Cubs were able to pick and choose his spots, he was able to put up very good numbers. That was due in large part to his strong performance against left-handed pitching.
That strong performance has been absent in 2019. Albert came into today’s game with a line of .202/.237/.281 against left-handed pitching. For that reason, I think I’m happier about the singles Albert had in the second and the fourth innings against Brewers starter Gio Gonzalez. Sure, the homer in the seventh was a big one and broke a 1-1 tie. But with the addition of Nicholas Castellanos and the imminent return of Ben Zobrist (not to mention the return of Ian Happ), at-bats are going to be hard to find, particularly early in games, for Almora. If he could provide reasonable production against left-handed pitching, that would be a big boost down the stretch.
The return of Cole Hamels, both healthy and effective will also be a big boost. Cole has been nothing short of ace material in a Cubs uniform. He’s enjoyed a late career renaissance since coming over. So much so, that I have to wonder if the Cubs will get together with him in the offseason and maybe come up with an incentive laden season that allows him to get back to a salary like this year, but only if he is able to be healthy and pitch 180+ innings. Something with a low-ish base that wouldn’t feel like an albatross if the clock were to strike midnight abruptly on him. But Cole certainly doesn’t seem like a pitcher at the end of the line.
One thing that appears to have the other kind of impact is Willson Contreras leaving with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. The Cubs will now hold their collective breath. Victor Caratini may not be completely ready to be the guy day-in day-out at catcher. If Contreras is out for a significant amount of time, it could really be a problem for the Cubs who already had a razor thin margin in their quest for another National League Central title.
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 110, August 3: Cubs 4, Brewers 1 (59-51)
- Superhero: Cole Hamels (.283). Cole was fantastic in his return from the IL. Five innings, four hits, no walks, six strikeouts. That makes five consecutive games in which a Cubs starter didn’t walk anyone. The Cubs have dropped their BB/9 to a season low 3.3 and are dropping down towards 3.2.
- Hero: Albert Almora Jr. (.272). To echo a recent debate here on BCB, I wouldn’t argue with anyone who calls this the Albert Almora game. Almora had three hits, including a solo homer that broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning. He added a sacrifice fly in the eighth. One of the finest games of Almora’s career between the production and the impact.
- Sidekick: Javier Baez (.170). Javy had two hits in four at bats on the day. He got the scoring started for the Cubs with a triple followed by a wild pitch in the second inning.
- Billy Goat: David Phelps (-.158). Phelps came in following Hamels and threw the sixth inning with the Cubs leading 1-0. He allowed a single and a walk to the first two batters he faced. He retired the next two, including a strikeout. But then Ryan Braun singled to tie the game at one.
- Goat: Kris Bryant (-.110). KB continues to slump. He was hitless in four at bats, including another strikeout on a ball that landed short of the plate.
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.100). Willy was hitless in three at bats before leaving the game with an injury. Get will soon buddy, we’ll miss you.
WPA Play of the Game: Albert Almora Jr. hit a solo homer with one out in the seventh inning, right after Contreras came up lame. (.229)
*Brewers Play of the Game: Ryan Braun’s game-tying RBI-single in the sixth inning off of Phelps came with two outs. (.167)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 23.5
- Anthony Rizzo 20
- Javier Baez 14.5
- Jason Heyward/Yu Darvish -11
- !Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- *Pedro Strop -17
Up Next: The Cubs will look for a series sweep. The Brewers will hope to not only avoid the sweep but also their fifth loss in six games. They will fall four games behind the back in first place Cubs if they get swept with 50 games left in their season. Of course, we shouldn’t count them out even if they do. Last year, they were six games out on August 28 before finishing the season out by winning 23 out of 30 games.
Yu Darvish starts for the Cubs. Yu has only a 3-5 record with a 4.46 ERA in 121 innings. Over his last seven starts, he’s headed in the right direction, with a 1-2 record and a 4.10 ERA. He’s only walked six batters while striking out 50 in 41⅔ innings. Last time out he recorded a loss despite only allowing two runs on six hits in six innings in St. Louis. He walked none and struck out nine. Darvish has yet to face the Brewers this year. He did face them twice last year before his injury and they were a team he had very good success against. He had no record but allowed only two runs (one earned) in 12 innings while striking out 17 and walking only three. Unsurprisingly, current Brewers have only 78 plate appearances against Yu with a .550 OPS. Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas, two former American League players lead the way with 15 and 13 PA respectively. Cain has struggled (.343 OPS) while Moustakas has done well (.891).
26-year-old right-hander Adrian Houser makes the Brewers start. Adrian is 4-4 with a 3.99 ERA in 58⅔ innings. Over his last seven starts, dating all of the way back to April 22, he is 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA. He’s got a season high pitch count as a starter of 62 pitches. So don’t expect him to get too deep into this one. He’s never faced the Cubs as a starter in his career. His last start came on July 30 against the A’s in Oakland. He pitched well in that one, throwing five innings and allowing three hits, one walk and one run. He struck out six.
Houser’s splits are relatively small samples, but he has been tough on righties (.611) and pounded by lefties (.947). He’s also been much better at home (.655) than on the road. (.826). The Cubs have a total of only 27 plate appearances against Houser with a .686 OPS. Kris Bryant has a homer and a walk in two PA. Ironically, in the small sample, all five hits and both walks the Cubs have recorded against Houser were by right-handed hitters. Jason Heyward has yet to record a hit against him in five PA.
Yu’s been throwing very well. This looks like a good possibility for the sweep with an opposing starter who appears unlikely to get deep into this game. I’d love to see the Cubs make a concerted effort to run up his pitch count early and get into the bullpen early on.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Albert Almora Jr.
Rowan Wick (another scoreless inning)
Nick Castellanos (two more hits)
Other (please leave suggestion in the comments)