There are three teams this year that the Cubs are more than three games above .500 against. They are the Marlins (6-1), the Mariners (4-0) and the Mets (5-2). The Cubs are 12 games above .500 against those three teams and 12 games over for the season. Hopefully, the Cubs can take three out of four from Milwaukee to finish the season set against the Brewers at 11-8 to make it four.
The Cubs sit at their high-water mark of the season. Unfortunately, the two teams they are chasing, one for the National League Central title and one for the first wild card spot, the Cardinals and Nationals are also sitting at their high water mark for the season. This is what baseball has become the last few years. At some point in the summer, a team recognizes if it is built to challenge for the playoffs or not. If they are not, they really pull up and start looking to the future. This leads to a lot of contenders piling up a lot of wins at the end of the season and a lot of non contenders piling up a lot of losses. And so it is that the Cubs have won 11 of their last 16, but it feels empty to some.
The next four games will be against the Brewers. The Brewers will be fighting for the last gasp of their playoff hopes. They’ve fallen four games behind the Cubs for the last playoff spot. These are the last four games between the two teams and so they’ll surely come into this series feeling they need to sweep and that anything less than three wins is probably going to leave them looking to next year. After that, the Cubs will have 10 straight games against teams who aren’t heading to the playoffs and are basically playing out the string. Which isn’t to say that the Padres won’t put up any fight in a four-game set in their park. But, it’s unlikely to have the same intensity these next four games are likely to have.
The Cubs got Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras back on the field last night. Both contributed. They rested Javier Baez and Kris Bryant ahead of an off day today to give both a chance to heal up from some bumps and bruises. For the first time since May, the Cubs should have their full compliment of players. The core of the team is back together. Zobrist’s role will surely be less than it once was, but he’s still a key member of the team and particularly the clubhouse. It’s good to see him back.
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 138, September 3: Cubs 6, Mariners 1 (75-63)
- Superhero: Jon Lester (.286). If this is the last time Jon Lester faces the Mariners, then he’ll have finished his career with four straight scoreless outings against them. He threw six scoreless frames, allowing six hits and four walks. He struck out nine.
- Hero: Kyle Schwarber (.155). Kyle had a single, a double, a homer and a walk in four at bats. He scored twice and drove in one. His season line is now .236/.329/.515 (wRC+ 112). The slugging percentage would be the highest of his career.
- Sidekick: Willson Contreras (.123). Willson had two hits and a walk in four plate appearances. He got the scoring started with a second inning solo homer.
- Billy Goat: Anthony Rizzo (-.059). One walk in four plate appearances.
- Goat: Jason Heyward (-.050). Jason was hitless in four at bats with two strikeouts. The very deep slump Jason is in has dropped his line to .249/.336/.422 (wRC+ 95). That Cubs leadoff spot has been one destructive force this year.
- Kid: Addison Russell (-.043). Russell was also hitless in four at bats and struck out once.
WPA Play of the Game: Willson Contreras’ solo homer in the second inning gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. (.110)
*Mariners Play of the Game: After a leadoff single in the fourth inning by Kyle Seager, Tom Murphy stepped to the plate. Murphy drew a walk and the Mariners had two on and no outs with the score only 2-0 Cubs. (.071)
Look for a full cumulative standings piece before the next Cubs game. As usual we will look at the complete standings for Heroes and Goats and also the year to date team hitting, pitching and fielding statistics.
Up Next: The Cubs get a day off ahead of a road trip featuring eight games in eight days. The first stop on that trip will be Milwaukee. The Brewers also just got done with a two-game interleague set, so both teams have that mutual off day ahead of the series. The Brewers have won five and lost five over their last 10. Going deeper, they are 15-15 over their last 30. They have been stuck in the mud for quite some time. They have won three of five though, including two of three against the Cubs and a split with the Astros.
Jose Quintana gets the first start in the series. Jose is 12-8 with a 3.90 ERA in 152⅓ innings. Those numbers have Jose up to 3.3 fWAR, good for 26th among all pitchers and tops on the Cubs. Over his last seven starts, Q is 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 40⅓ innings. Last time out, he beat the Brewers, holding them scoreless in 5⅔ innings. He allowed four hits and two walks while striking out three. He’s won his last two starts against the Brewers, but both of those were at Wrigley. He has five starts this year against the Brewers and is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in 26 innings. Those numbers are bloated thanks to the eight runs in three innings the Brewers hung on him in his first start of the season way back on April 5. Current Brewers have 384 PA against Jose with a .662 OPS. Lorenzo Cain has 101 career PA against him with a .676. The guy who usually does the most damage is Ryan Braun. Ryan has 46 PA, five homers and two doubles, good for a 1.001 OPS.
Chase Anderson stars for the Brewers in a rematch from last week at Wrigley. Chase is 6-4 with a 4.58 ERA in 116 innings. Over his last seven starts, he is 1-2 with a 6.27 ERA in 33 innings. He allowed five runs on seven hits and a walk in just four innings in his start against the Cubs last week. He’s faced the Cubs twice this year and is 0-1 with seven runs allowed in nine innings. The 31-year-old right-hander has gotten crushed by righthanded hitters this year (.945), but has been excellent against lefties (.597). He’s been much better at home (.642) than on the road (.964). Current Cubs have 250 PA against Anderson with a .757 OPS. Hopefully Kris Bryant is healthy and ready to go. He has 28 PA with a .975 OPS (three homers and a double) against him. Ben Zobrist also has great numbers (23, 1.298, three homers). Willson Contreras has crushed him with four doubles and a homer in just 19 PA (1.579). Ian Happ has two doubles in six PA (1.300) and Nicholas Castellanos has a perfect 5.000 in two PA against him.
Chase won’t be a pushover at home, but I like the odds of the Cubs keeping their road winning streak (five games) alive for at least one more game.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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