I’ve said it once already, but it is great to see Ian Happ back with the Cubs and having fun. That and the production of Nicholas Castellanos, along with being back at home, seem to have the Cubs back in full gear. The A’s are a good team, but the Cubs just returned the favor from Tuesday night and delivered their own butt kicking. With the 10-1 win, the Cubs are once again 10 games over .500. Al posted it earlier, the Cubs are 0-5 the last five times they’ve tried to get back to a season high 11 games over. So this then, essentially becomes the high water mark.
To be hanging out at or near the season’s high water mark despite a myriad of injuries is an exciting thing, even in a year that has otherwise been at least a little disappointing. Certainly, one can look forward and without a whole lot of squinting, can see the markings of a really loaded ball club that the Cubs could potentially put on the field for a post season run. To be sure, there are way more ifs and buts than one would normally like. But this team is a talented bunch, despite all of the ups and downs.
None of this is to say that I’ve allowed myself to be too swayed by this homestand. Make no mistake about it, this team needs to go out on the road and play .500 ball. That isn’t a ton to ask, but it just has to start happening. Until that happens, I’m going to continue to have serious reservations as to what this team can accomplish.
With all of that said, I’m also not going to completely dismiss this homestand either. The Brewers are a good team. They came in struggling a little bit after dropping two of three to the A’s and then the Cubs pounced all over that. The Brewers are dealing with their own mountain of injuries and it has taken a bite out of them for sure. But they did bounce back against the Pirates and I’m sure we’ve not heard the last of a team that carries the memory of a 23-7 finish last year to steal the NL Central title out from under the Cubs.
The A’s are an even better team than the Brewers. They play their best ball at home, but they do play .500 ball on the road. The Cubs had an odd series with them, holding on to win Monday night in a game that went from pitcher’s duel to what looked like it could be a lopsided win for the Cubs to a nail-biter that came down to the last out. Then last night they lost an 11-4 game that really wasn’t as close as the score would seem to indicate. Now they jumped all over the A’s in this one. They scored early and often and cruised to victory. Those are quality wins.
This team is certainly capable of great things. More importantly, capable of being better than they have been. I’m hoping that this time, finally this time, they will carry the momentum of one of these really positive homestands on the road with them and have a decent road trip.
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 114, August 7: Cubs 10, A’s 1 (62-52)
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.213). Ian had two more hits in four at bats, including the grand slam that busted this one open. That moves his season line to .320/.452/.600 (wRC+ 173) in 31 PA.
- Hero: Javier Baez (.179). Javy had two RBI-singles in four at bats. His first tied the game at 1-1. He scored two runs. If the season ended today, Javy would finish with career highs in batting average (.293) and slugging percentage (.562). Was I the only one who thought he wouldn’t be able to build off of last year?
- Sidekick: Jose Quintana (.109). Q allowed two hits, no walks and one run over seven innings of work. He struck out seven.
- Billy Goat: Jason Heyward (-.064). Jason was hitless in four at bats.
- Goat: Nicholas Castellanos (-.035). Someone had to end up in these spots. Nick had yet another double and scored a run in four at bats.
- Kid: Albert Almora Jr. and Pedro Strop (.000). Two guys who have had some struggles at times this year. But this time they are here basically because they came in after the game was already way out of hand. Albert was retired in his only at bat. Pedro pitched a scoreless inning, despite allowing a single and hitting a batter.
WPA Play of the Game: Ian Happ’s grand slam in the fourth inning gave the Cubs a 5-1 lead. (.238).
*A’s Play of the Game: Marcus Semien had a double to start the fourth inning for the A’s. (.075)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 22.75
- Javier Baez 19.5
- Anthony Rizzo 16
- Jason Heyward -11
- !Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Pedro Strop -17.5
Up Next: The Cubs head to Cincinnati for four games. The Reds had Wednesday off after sweeping a two game set from the Angels. They’ve won three straight and seven of 10 to get back to four under .500. But they lost six of 10 before that, so they are still very much and down team. They are 31-26 at home this year, but 23-32 away from home. The Reds have won 7 of 12 in the season series with the Cubs, including four of six in Cincinnati.
The Cubs will send Cole Hamels to the mound for the first game of the series. Cole is 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 104⅔ innings. Over his last seven, he has been spectacular, despite missing time to an injury. He is 2-2 with a 1.07 ERA over 42 innings in those last seven starts. His last start came against the Brewers after missing more than a month due to that injury. But he picked right back up where he left off. He threw five shutout innings on his way to a win. He allowed four hits, no walks and struck out six. He was pitching against the Reds in Cincinnati on June 28 when he left with the injury. He only lasted one inning in that one and allowed a run on two hits and a walk. Last year, he faced the Reds twice, both at Wrigley Field. He was 1-0 and allowed only three runs in 15⅔ innings. Current Reds have a .639 OPS in 104 plate appearances against Cole. Joey Votto has the most PA (31) and a .686 OPS. Jose Peraza has a homer and a 1.222 OPS in just 9 PA.
The Reds will have Alex Wood in the opener. Alex has made only two MLB starts in 2019. He is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 11⅓ innings. Wood was acquired from the Dodgers in the off season, but has missed almost the entire season with back problems. Last time out, he threw very well in Atlanta, picking up a win. He threw 6⅔ innings and allowed four hits, one walk and two runs.
The 28-year-old left-hander has historically been a little easier for right-handed hitters (.688) than left-handed (.619). Current Cubs have 106 plate appearances with a .765 OPS against Wood. Anthony Rizzo has the most PA (17) with a .627 OPS. But Kris Bryant (13, 1.162) and Javier Baez (12, 1.591) have handled Wood very well. The Cubs will miss the bat of Willson Contreras who also had two homers and a 1.200 OPS in his 10 PA against Wood.
This will be another test of the Cubs revamped lineup versus left-handed pitching. Again, can’t say enough how much the loss of Contreras means in games like this, but hopefully the addition of Castellanos can be a boon. Hamels has thrown extremely well throughout his time with the Cubs. So hopefully the Cubs can get it done and keep the forward momentum going.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Kris Bryant (2H)
Kyle Schwarber (3R HR, BB)
Victor Caratini (2H, including HR)
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments below)