As the season approaches the finish line, the Cubs have had a reversal of fortune. Through mid-August, there was a very clear pattern. The Cubs win about three out of every four at home. Then they go and lose three out of five on the road. Suddenly down is up and up is down. The Cubs have won their last five road games. But they’ve lost five of six at home. And so it is that the Cubs have lost five of 11.
Unfortunately, that streak coincides with the Cardinals getting red hot. Over the weekend, the Cardinals won three games out of four they played in less than 36 hours. With the September roster expansion, the biggest Cardinal downfall isn’t even really realized. Like all teams, they have the opportunity to call up a plethora of bodies, and particularly quite a number of pitchers to deal with a stretch that has them basically playing five games in a little over 48 hours. The Cardinals have opened a three-game lead and the teams have 26 to play.
The breathing room is gone. The Cubs’ collective backs are to the wall. They basically need to play even with the Cardinals and then win five of seven head-to-head over the final two weekends of the season just to tie for the division. The Cardinals do have a three-game set in Colorado where it is always tough to play, and host the Nationals who have been one of the hottest teams in baseball for a long time now. The Nats are 53-25 since the start of June. Obviously, the Cubs were just buzzsawed by them a week ago.
The story of the weekend was a simple one. The collective pitching effort wasn’t bad, but the offense was totally missing in action all weekend. The Cubs have only had Anthony Rizzo in the lineup once over the last week. Willson Contreras has been out for about a month and just about every Cubs regular has had a day off this week to rest up for the stretch run.
The sands of time are starting to run low for the Cubs division hopes. This team has to find a way to sustain some momentum and they have to do it soon. Otherwise, it’ll be a second straight trip to the wildcard game and the prospect of a one-and-done game to continue in the playoffs.
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 136, September 1: Cubs 0, Brewers 4 (73-63)
- Superhero: Kris Bryant (.172). Kris had a single and a walk in the game. He struck out the other two plate appearances he had. He also gained some WPA from stealing a base and from advancing to second on a wild pitch with no outs in the eighth.
- Hero: Javier Baez (.080). Javy had two walks in three plate appearances before leaving the game early.
- Sidekick: Tony Kemp/Kyle Ryan/Steve Cishek (.053). Kemp was hit by a pitch in the seventh with one out. He was retired in his only other at bat. Ryan and Cishek each threw a perfect inning, striking out two.
- Billy Goat: Nicholas Castellanos (-.236). Nick was one of the guys who did see a couple of runners on base. He was hitless in four at bats including hitting into a line drive double play.
- Goat: Jason Heyward (-.190). Jason came into the game as a pinch hitter with runners on first and second and only one out. He grounded into a fielder’s choice. He was hitless in two at bats overall.
- Kid: Craig Kimbrel/Victor Caratini (-.142). Kimbrel pitched two-thirds of an inning and allowed three runs on two hits and a walk. Vic had one hit in four at bats. His big at bat was with Bryant on second and no outs in the eighth inning with the Cubs trailing by just one. He was the first of three straight strikeouts.
WPA Play of the Game: Christian Yelich came to the plate with two on and two outs and the Brewers leading by one in the ninth. He launched a three-run homer, effectively ending any dreams of a Cubs comeback. (.147)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Kris Bryant’s single leading off the eighth inning (.098)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 34
- Kris Bryant 29.75
- Kyle Hendricks 13
- !Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Jason Heyward -18
- Pedro Strop -20.5
Up Next: The 58-80 Seattle Mariners come to town for two games. Seattle has lost six of 10. They are exactly 29-40 both at home and on the road. They have started their current road trip by splitting a four game set with the Rangers in Texas, including a win on Sunday.
Kyle Hendricks starts this one. He is 9-9 with a 3.47 ERA in 148 innings on the season. He is 2-1 with a 3.63 ERA over 39⅔ innings in his last seven starts. Last time, he got a no decision after allowing six runs on eight hits in just 4⅔ innings. Kyle has never faced the Mariners. Current Mariners have just 44 PA and a .391 OPS (!) against Kyle. But 17 of those are on the IL in the person of Domingo Santana.
The Mariners will start young Justus Sheffield. Sheffield is a 23-year-old lefthander. He has just 14 innings of major league experience over the last two years. He has made two starts so far this year. In those starts, he is 0-1 with an 8.64 ERA over just 8⅓ innings. At the Triple-A level this season, Sheffield went 2-6 with a 6.87 ERA in 55 innings. Sheffield has never faced any of the Cubs and doesn’t have enough work at the major league level to have meaningful splits.
Some of you are out there thinking lefty who the Cubs have never seen before... bad things are going to happen. Let’s hope not. Sheffield has been getting hit hard and the Cubs really need a win here.
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