It took all of three games on this road trip for me to feel wrong about my recent upturn in optimism. I was of the mistaken impression that this team was healthier than it actually is. I did not realize that the Cubs were in such a poor state of health that Willson Contreras, Ben Zobrist, Javier Baez and Yu Darvish were all going to be limited on this trip.
Contreras sat out the loss on Friday night. That made sense to me. Willy wasn’t going to start every game. But not starting Saturday against a lefthander? A lefthander who has given the Cubs fits? Yeah, that doesn’t feel like the right call.
Ben Zobrist wasn’t going to start every game. He was hitless in four at bats Friday night. But, the Cubs have struggled against lefties and without Zobrist in the lineup, the Cubs would turn to Albert Almora Jr.? Dear lord, that’s not the right game to sit Ben then.
Javier Baez’ injury is worse than we had all hoped. He may be done for the season. In his place, Addison Russell started, homered, but made an error. An error that turned out to be the winning run. Easily the most questionable decision the Cubs made concerning the 2019 Cubs was deciding to bring Russell back. With his off the field problems, it was clearly a chance to cut bait and move on, but the Cubs decided that what was better for everyone involved was to keep Russell in Chicago. The move is probably defensible, but the results were not.
Yu Darvish? I really hate to lump him in here. Yu was once again fantastic during the time he was in the game. Having Yu on the mound made me excited. Right now, things have actually turned to the point where I’m more optimistic with Darvish on the hill than any other Cubs starter (sorry Kyle!). But Yu was only able to throw five innings. I’m not sure I wanted to see the Tyler Chatwood experience or even Alec Mills. But in a huge game, your starter is only healthy enough to give you five?
Of course, the curse of the 2019 Cubs is what I’ll call the Brandon Morrow effect. The team gambled on the injury-riddled Morrow before the 2018 season. The team got to see him pitch just long enough to see what the fuss was about. Before he went on to miss over a year and a half of baseball. The Cubs signed Craig Kimbrel, but Craig missed three months to a contract hold out and just hasn’t been fully healthy often enough since. Pedro Strop also spent time as closer, but he doesn’t appear remotely healthy.
The net result? The Cubs had David Phelps throwing to a key hitter in the eighth inning with a one-run lead and six outs to go. No offense to David who’s been decent as a Cub, but he was immediately greeted with a home run. Then the Cubs summoned Derek Holland who promptly walked Christian Yelich. Rowan Wick came in and worked around trouble to leave the bases loaded.
Wick has become the Cubs’ best reliever. I’ve got no problem with him being asked to get significant outs in the eighth inning. But Phelps and Holland shouldn’t be asked to get key outs in that situation. But the Cubs just don’t have a lot of great options coming out of the pen.
Certainly, if there are very many more nights like Saturday night, this Cubs team not only won’t win the National League Central, but won’t reach the playoffs at all. The Diamondbacks won for the 10th time in 11 games. The win moved them 1½ games behind the Cubs. The Diamondbacks still have six games with the Padres, three games at home against the Marlins and three games at home against the Reds (and one at Cincinnati). They do face the Cardinals who have also been red hot, but those games are in Arizona and there is actually a growing chance that the Cardinals will have already clinched the division by then.
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 141, September 7: Cubs 2, Brewers 3 (76-65)
- Superhero: Yu Darvish (.287). Yu threw five innings and allowed three hits, one walk and struck out seven. This was a strong outing. It’s a shame Yu couldn’t throw more innings, he looked more than up to the challenge.
- Hero: Ben Zobrist (.183). Ben delivered a pinch hit single in his only at bat.
- Sidekick: Rowan Wick (.170). Inherited a runner on first and no outs in the eighth inning in a tie game. He did allow a stolen base, a walk and a single, but no runs.
- Billy Goat: Brandon Kintzler (-.364). To be fair, he should have had a 1-2-3 inning, but for the error by Russell.
- Goat: David Phelps (-.304). One pitch thrown, one homer allowed. That’s not a good exchange.
- Kid: David Bote (-.194). With Zobrist getting a day off, that made Bote the best choice to play second. Bote had a long day at the plate though, striking out three times in four hitless at bats.
WPA Play of the Game: Christian Yelich batted with a runner on first and two outs in the eighth inning. He hit a double and the Brewers walked it off. (.436)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Ben Zobrist’s pinch hit single in the eighth inning helped the Cubs load the bases with no outs in the eighth inning. (.183)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 34
- Kris Bryant 30.75
- Kyle Hendricks 16
- !Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Pedro Strop -20.5
- Jason Heyward -21
Up Next: The Cubs will try to salvage a split in the series with Jon Lester on the mound. Jon is 12-9 with a 4.19 ERA in 150⅓ innings. Over his last seven starts, he is 3-3 with a 5.94 ERA in 36⅓ innings. He’s won his last two starts though, going six innings in each and allowing a total of one run, despite allowing 11 hits and seven walks. He’s struck out 13 over the two games. He’s making his third start of the season against the Brewers. He is 1-0 and has yet to allow an earned run against them this year in 13⅔ innings. He was 1-1 last year against them with three earned runs allowed in 12⅓ innings. Current Brewers have 178 PA against him with a .687 OPS. Lorenzo Cain has the most PA (34) with an .896.
Adrian Houser makes the start for the Brewers. Adrian is 6-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 91⅓ innings. He’s 2-1 with a 2.39 ERA over his last seven starts, covering 37⅔ innings. Last time out, he pitched well in a no decision against the Astros. He lasted 4⅓ innings and allowed only one run on five hits and two walks while striking out six. He’s made one start against the Cubs and he got the loss in that one, allowing four runs in just five innings. He allowed nine hits, one walk, struck out five and the Cubs hit two homers.
The 26-year-old right hander is getting his first extended look in the majors this year after seeing some time in the majors in 2015 and 2018. Houser has allowed a .613 OPS to right-handed hitters and an .873 to lefties. He has a .634 OPS at home. Current Cubs have just 51 PA against the Brewers hurler, but they have a .934 OPS. Jason Heyward has a triple and a homer in just eight PA (1.125). Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant also have homered against him.
Houser is tough at home, but this is a game the Cubs just have to win.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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