The Cubs defeated the Cardinals for the second straight night. Amazingly, the Brewers also lost their game, so despite losing the first two games of the series, the Cardinals continue to lead the N.L. Central by one game. If you were one of the people who labelled Joe Maddon and the Cubs quitters, these last two days haven’t been bright spots for you.
Certainly, after their recent nine-game losing streak, none of the Cubs are taking any victory laps at this point. I didn’t think it was ever fair to say that this team had quit and certainly they’ve battled. Did they under achieve? Probably. By a lot of definitions, that would be a fair characterization. Just not quitters.
Certainly not Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber who have slugged the Cubs to a couple of victories. Today, Addison Russell also contributed four hits to a Cubs win. He had three such games back in 2017, but none since. Of course, they were all singles. Still, that was a fine performance in what was very possibly one of the last games Russell ever plays in a Cubs uniform.
Cole Hamels added four scoreless innings and struck out eight Cardinals in possibly his best performance of the second half. The Cubs had said coming in that he would be on a pretty tight pitch/inning limit. But Cole made the most of the time he had. When fully healthy, Cole was an extremely good pitcher in the year plus he spent in a Cubs uniform. I suspect someone will get a pretty decent pitcher next year. I do not in any way believe that Cole is done. I would totally understand if the Cubs front office set out to get younger on a pitching staff that looked weathered and aged at times in the second half. But I’d be inclined to make the qualifying offer to Hamels and either get him for that amount or get draft pick compensation if he signs somewhere next year.
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 161, September 27: Cubs 8, Cardinals 6 (84-77)
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.232). Ian had another huge game with three hits, two homers, and four RBI in five at bats. This moves his season line up to .268/.333/.572 (wRC+ 129). I said many times this year that I felt like one of the things the Cubs really missed was Ian’s bat. I’m sure he is better for the work he did at Triple-A this year. I really hope he gets 600 plate appearances next year at some combination of second base and center field. I’d also like to see him get a long look as the lead off man if the team doesn’t bring in a natural lead off hitter.
- Hero: Cole Hamels (.196). Four scoreless innings, two hits, no walks, eight strikeouts. Amazingly, he made three starts against the Cardinals, never allowed an earned run and only recorded one win.
- Sidekick: Steve Cishek (.122). Steve inherited bases loaded and no outs in the seventh inning with the Cubs leading 6-3. He allowed an RBI-single to the first batter he faced, and then a run scoring double play to the second. A walk later, he recorded the third out.
- Billy Goat: Brad Wieck (-.251). Wieck faced the first three batters of the seventh inning. He hit the first, then threw a wild pitch and then walked two more. He was ultimately charged with two runs that scored while Cishek was pitching.
- Goat: Kyle Ryan (-.052). Kyle started the fifth for the Cubs with the Cubs leading 6-0. He struck out the first batter he faced, then allowed a homer and two walks. He was charged with three runs.
- Kid: Albert Almora Jr. (-.046). Albert batted with runners on first and second and no outs in the eighth inning. He popped up a bunt for the first out of the inning. Fortunately, the Cubs did end up plating both runs.
WPA Play of the Game: With a runner on second and one out in the third inning, Ian Happ hit his first homer of the game to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead. (.158) In just two months time, Ian has had a positive play of the game six times. The Cubs were led by Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo with 10 each. Despite some injuries, both played considerably more time than Happ.
*Cardinals Play of the Game: Tommy Edman’s bases-loaded single in the seventh inning off of Steve Cishek. (.153)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 4:
- Anthony Rizzo 35
- Kris Bryant 34.75
- Kyle Schwarber 19.25
- Ian Happ 19.17
- Jose Quintana/Albert Almora Jr. -15.5
- Pedro Strop -19.5
- Jason Heyward -20
Up Next: The Cubs will look to finish their season on a high note with a series sweep of the Cardinals. The Cardinals need either a win or a Brewers loss to clinch their first NL Central crown since 2015. The Cubs will start Derek Holland. Though Holland does have over 200 career starts, his longest stint as a Cub is two innings. So it’s unlikely he’ll go very long in this game. He’s 2-4 in 82⅓ innings this year. He’s thrown just 3⅓ innings over three appearances against the Cardinals but has recorded a 2.70 ERA.
The Cardinals have elected to start staff ace Jack Flaherty. Flaherty is just 10-8, but he has a 2.85 ERA in 189⅓ innings. I can only guess the Cardinals are hoping they’ll jump out to a big early lead and get Flaherty out of the game so he can be ready to pitch again mid-week. Obviously, there is enormous value to being division champions rather than being a wild card. To do that, you really want to win the game in front of you. Of course, with the Cubs on a (depleted) bullpen game, the Cardinals would be heavy favorites to win this game no matter who started.
Over his last 27 starts, Flaherty is 8-7 with a 2.50 ERA. Amazingly, the Cardinals are 13-14 in those games. If you narrow further, over his last 15 starts, he has an even 1.00 ERA. Somehow, the Cardinals are still only 9-6 in those games. I still think Flaherty will get down ballot Cy Young support. But it’s really a stretch with only a 10-8 record, no matter how many voters are moving past old school stats. It’s still hard to ignore the Cardinals have a losing record when he starts.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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