In so many ways, I felt like Ian Happ was the missing link for the 2019 Cubs. When I felt that, I was mostly thinking he might be the best suited to leading off and because he allows Albert Almora Jr. to be used more sparingly when the matchups are favorable and for a defensive boost. But I also think he brings a different energy to the team. He’s certainly not the only one, but if memory serves he was part of the mock dugout interviews last year, he was definitely the one with the waffle maker and last night it was a rotary phone. The kid has fun. Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy the guys who are business-like and just do their job. But sometimes, a little fun and games can help keep the atmosphere a little lighter in the dugout.
As for the game itself, Kyle Hendricks was superb through six plus innings. He ran out of gas towards the end, but that was certainly understandable on a summer night when he threw over 100 pitches. He allowed just one hit in 6⅓ innings. That hit was, unfortunately, a two-run homer. I swear the baseball gods have a sense of humor. Kyle issued the first walk by a Cubs starter in their last seven starts and then it was followed by a two-run homer (that may have been aided a bit by the wind). He’d issue a second walk before departing, but three base-runners in 6⅓ innings will play almost every time.
The offense piled up a ton of base-runners, but had trouble pushing runs across early. Nicholas Castellanos hit his first Cubs homer in the first to get the Cubs out to another early lead. After the homer allowed by Hendricks, the Cubs trailed 2-1 until Javier Baez hit a long homer in the bottom of the sixth. I won’t say it wasn’t wind aided, but it didn’t need it as the ball landed near the back of the left-center field bleachers. An inning later Happ had his first MLB homer of the season. It traveled even further than Baez’ blast and gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead. After Castellanos added an RBI-double, Baez hit a second homer to give the Cubs a 6-2 lead.
Yay! An easy game, the first one out after Craig Kimbrel went to the Injured List. Only not. Steve Cishek was the second Cubs reliever into the game after Rowan Wick got a double play to get out of the seventh for Hendricks. Cishek faced four batters and allowed a double, recorded a strikeout, then allowed back-to-back homers to cut it to 6-5. Brandon Kintzler got out of that inning.
That left Kyle Ryan for the ninth inning. He faced four batters and retired two before leaving with runners on first and second. The fifth Cubs reliever closed out the win successfully. It can be tough to win pretty against a good team and the A’s are that. Sure, they are now only a game over .500 on the road. But they’ve been an excellent team at home and they absolutely gave the Cubs everything they could handle and more.
Still, the Cubs come away with a four game winning streak, matching a streak they had on the first homestand after the All-Star break. They haven’t won more than four in a row since a seven game streak April 27 to May 5. The Cubs are 10 over .500. They haven’t been that far over since June 9 when they finished off a sweep of the Cardinals. They then left on a seven game road trip and won only two games (and lost eight of 10 overall).
The formula remained mostly the same. The starting pitching was fantastic. The offense scored six runs (despite leaving a number of runners on base). The big difference here was that the bullpen work was shaky due to a rough Steve Cishek outing. Still, once again I’ll say that against these good teams, I’ll take what we can get.
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 112, August 5: Cubs 6, A’s 5 (61-51)
- Superhero: Javier Baez (.261). Javy had two homers and a walk in four plate appearances. He drove in three runs. Javy has his line back up to .290/.323/.563 (wRC+ 123) with his recent hot streak. With 28 HR, 76 RBI, 79 runs, he’s having another MVP-caliber season and will surely receive some down ballot votes.
- Hero: Nicholas Castellanos (.215). Nick had three more hits in four at bats. He had a double, a homer, two runs scored, and two RBI. The bat certainly plays.
- Sidekick: Ian Happ (.202). He hit a pinch homer leading off the seventh and finished out the game, getting a second at bat. Small sample, but he has a line of .211/.400/.368 (wRC+ 114) over his first 25 PA. He has six walks and six strikeouts.
- Billy Goat: Steve Cishek (-.221). Steve faced four batters, struck out one, allowed a double and back-to-back homers. This is the third time in his last five outings that he’s been scored upon.
- Goat: Victor Caratini (-.135). Vic had one walk in four plate appearances.
- Kid: Kris Bryant (-.130). Kris looks fine on defense, but he looks lost at the plate. There is a growing voice that suggests he should have been put on the IL after tweaking his knee in San Francisco recently.
WPA Play of the Game: A whole different tough crowd than we usually see. Kyle Hendricks allowed just one hit and it is the play of the game. Marcus Semien’s two-run homer in the third inning came with a runner on second and two outs and gave the A’s a 2-1 lead. (.217)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Ian Happ’s homer in the seventh inning broke a 2-2 tie. The Cubs would tack on three more runs to temporarily bust the game open. (.209)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 22.5
- Anthony Rizzo 18
- Javier Baez 17.5
- Albert Almora Jr. -10.5
- !Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- *Pedro Strop -17
Up Next: The Cubs will seek a fifth straight win. The A’s will look to get back in the win column. They had won six of seven coming in. Jon Lester makes the start against one of his former teams. Jon is 9-7 with a 3.86 ERA in 119 innings. Over his last seven starts he is 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 42⅔ innings. Last time out he lost in St. Louis. In that one he allowed nine hits and five runs in just five innings of work. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out six. He hasn’t started a game against the A’s since August of 2016. In that one, he was the winning pitcher with seven innings, six hits, no walks and two runs allowed. He struck out eight. Current A’s have just 59 plate appearances against Jon with a .648 OPS. Almost half of those belong to Stephen Piscotty from his days with the Cardinals (27, .697).
The A’s likewise have a former Cub pitching. Brett Anderson is 9-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 127 innings. Over his last seven starts he is 2-3 with a 4.79 ERA in 41⅓ innings. He has lost his last two starts including his most recent one against the Brewers. In that one he allowed three runs on eight hits and no walks over seven innings. He only managed three strikeouts. He had just 64 strikeouts in 127 innings on the season, so he generally pitches to contact. He hasn’t started a game against the Cubs since 2014.
The 31-year-old left-hander has allowed a .734 OPS to right-handed hitters and a .664 to lefties. He has actually been better on the road (.657) than at home (.782). Current Cubs only have 22 PA against Anderson (.586) OPS. The team has no extra base hits and no walks among those PA. Castellanos has the largest sample. He has two hits in six at bats.
Jon generally pitches well in big games. Let’s hope that is the case here and the Cubs can add another win. With the Cardinals getting battered by the Dodgers, the Cubs now have a 2½-game lead in the division.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Kyle Schwarber (2-4, should have had a walk)
David Phelps (1 batter save)
Rowan Wick (1 batter - 2 outs)
Other (please leave suggestion in the comments)