I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that more than a couple of Cubs hitters shed a quiet tear last night at the Pirates leaving town. Of course, you have to take some of what happens in games between contenders and the long eliminated in September. But, the Cubs hitters completely destroyed Pirates pitching in the three-game series that concluded yesterday. 47 runs in three games. I can safely say that I’ve never seen anything like it.
Of course, the story of yesterday’s game cannot be told without pausing to note not only yet another Cub being lost to injury, but one as important as Anthony Rizzo. The team is already without one of the four valves of the Cubs offensive heart in Javier Baez. Losing a second is scary. Especially when the other two are Kris Bryant, who is playing with a balky knee and recently had a cortisone shot to deal with it, and Willson Contreras, who has had multiple IL stints this year. The Cubs’ heart and soul are not healthy.
Still, there they are, right in the middle of things for a playoff spot. With two weeks to play in the season, there are four teams battling for three spots (yes, I realize there are a few other teams mathematically alive, but it is getting more and more remote by the day for them). That Cardinals-Brewers series over the weekend was tough to pick a rooting interest. The Brewers winning two out of three gave the Cubs a better chance of winning the division. But, the Cubs would have significantly increased their chances of reaching the playoffs with two more Cardinals wins. It’s a tough call. Another tough call is ahead as the Cardinals and Nationals now play. Three Nationals wins would give the Cubs (and the Brewers) a very real chance at winning the Central. Three Cardinals wins would give the Cubs (and the Brewers) a very real chance at winning the first wild card.
The bottom line is, just keep hitting and just keep winning. If the Cubs keep winning, they’ll win the division. Any loss at this point could be problematic. Of course, there almost certainly will be more losses, but the longer that possibility holds off, the more it is the other three teams that have to start sweating and not the Cubs.
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 149, September 15: Cubs 16, Pirates 6 (81-68)
- Superhero: Tony Kemp (.282). Kemp may have had the oddest little league home run in MLB history. It’s certainly somewhere on the list. Kemp batted with two on and two out in the bottom of the third. The game was tied 5-5. Kemp tripled, driving in two runs. The Pirates then tried to say a Cubs runner missed third base and threw over to challenge. Only the throw was wild, allowing Kemp to score. Of course, technically that’s two plays, so perhaps only a LLHR in effect.
- Hero: Kris Bryant (.214). Kris had three more hits including two more homers. He drove in four and scored two. While dealing with some injuries this year, KB has put up the 17th most fWAR among hitters at 5.1.
- Sidekick: Ben Zobrist (.141). Ben had two hits, including a double and scored a run in four at bats.
- Billy Goat: Jose Quintana (-.490). Jose didn’t have it on Sunday. He allowed eight hits, a walk and five runs in just 2⅓ innings. He struck out one.
- Goat: Nico Hoerner (-.053). He had one hit in five at bats. He scored a run and struck out twice.
- Kid: Victor Caratini (-.013). This is a pretty tough crowd. Vic had two hits, two RBI and a run scored in just three at bats. He also had two sacrifice flies. The first sac fly came with no outs and runners on the corners in the third inning. That had a negative value (-.030).
WPA Play of the Game: Kemp’s two-out triple in the third inning. (.218)
*Pirate Play of the Game: Bryan Reynolds batted with runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the third. The Cubs were winning 3-1 at the time. Reynolds had an RBI-double. (.165)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 34.75
- Anthony Rizzo 33
- Kyle Hendricks 17
- !Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Jason Heyward -18
- Pedro Strop -20.5
Up Next: The Cincinnati Reds come in for a three game set. The Reds are 70-80. They haven’t fully packed it in yet. They are 5-5 in their last 10 and have won nine of 20. They just took two out of three from the Diamondbacks over the weekend. The Reds lead the season series, 9-7. The Cubs will have to sweep this series in order to win the season series.
The Cubs have Cole Hamels on the mound in the opener. Cole is 7-7 with a 3.89 ERA in 134⅓ innings. He’s going to have to win his last three starts if he’s going to reach 10 victories this year. Over his last seven starts, Cole has been hammered: 1-4 with a 7.58 ERA in 29⅔ innings. He’s lost his last three starts, including the last one in San Diego. He was better in that one though. He allowed four hits and four walks in 4⅓ innings, but only one run, on a solo homer. He struck out six. He’s made two starts against the Reds this year and is 0-1. He allowed six runs (five earned) in just four innings of work. He left one with an injury and then was still working his way back from that injury in the second. Current Reds have 126 PA with a .769 OPS. Joey Votto leads the way (34, .620). Jose Peraza is a Red who has hit Hamels hard (11, 1.182).
Kevin Gausman gets the start for the Reds. Kevin is 3-8 with a 5.83 ERA in 95⅔ innings. He hasn’t started a game since August 2. He’s been in and out of the rotation. Over his last seven starts, dating to May 23, he is 1-4 with a 9.00 ERA in 32 innings. He hasn’t started against the Cubs since 2017. The Cubs lit him up in that one, scoring eight runs and hitting four homers in just three innings.
The 28-year-old righthander has been just about even against RHH (.799) and LHH (.793). He’s been better at home (.717) than away (.885). He’s gotten hit much harder as a starter (.814) than as a reliever (.697). Current Cubs have just 75 PA but have a 1.137 OPS(!). Ben Zobrist has 18 career PA against him with a 1.821(!) that includes four doubles, four walks and a homer. Nicholas Castellanos has 17 PA and a .982 that includes two homers, a double and a walk.
This looks like it could be another high-scoring affair, gotta love the Cubs bats to keep rolling in this one.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)