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1989 Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: Part 2

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The Cubs look to build on a 4-2 opening to the season

There weren’t any available photos of Paul Kilgus as a Cub, so here he is pitching for the Orioles in 1991
Getty Images

In the first part of the series, we covered the first week of the Cubs season. They started out with six home games and won four of them, finishing the week in a first place tie. That is a fun way to start the season.

Today, we’ll look at the second week of the season. The Saturday game wasn’t played and there were only five games originally scheduled, so it ended up being a four-game week. The first two games completed a season-opening eight-game homestand. Those two featured the Cardinals as the opposition. After that, the Cubs went on the road for their first road series of the year and faced the Phillies. That would start a nine-game road trip.

We’ll also take a look at Paul Kilgus. In a short week, many players could have merited the honor, including Mitch Williams as you’ll see. But I went with Kilgus for his effort in the Wednesday game. Let’s get right to the action and see if the Cubs kept their momentum going into the second week of the season.

Game 7, April 11: Cubs 5, Cardinals 4 (5-2)

For those not keeping track, this was the Cubs third win in as many one run games in the early going. Greg Maddux was the starter. The Cubs scored a run for him in the bottom of the first. The Cardinals got that back and then some with two in the third. But the Cubs bounced back and tied the score in the bottom of the third. The Cardinals took the lead again with a run in their half of the sixth. But the Cubs took it back with two in their half. But the Cardinals got it right back in the top of the seventh.

The Cubs took the lead for good in the eighth with an unusual inning. Jerome walked an stole second. Mitch Webster then drew a walk. Walton and Webster executed a double steal. After a Ryne Sandberg foul out, Andre Dawson was intentionally walked. A Mark Grace fielder’s choice grounder to second ended up scoring the decisive run when Grace beat the relay on the attempted double play. Mitch Williams recorded the final two outs for the save (after walking the first batter he faced).

  • Superhero: Mark Grace (.460). 1-3, HR, BB, R, 3RBI

*10th largest positive WPA game score of the year

  • Hero: Jerome Walton (.395). 2-4, HR, BB, 3R, RBI, 2SB
  • Sidekick: Calvin Schiraldi (.141). 2⅓IP, 1H, 2BB, 0R, 1K (W 1-0)
  • Billy Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.152). 0-4, 2K
  • Goat: Greg Maddux (-.135). 6IP, 11H, 1BB, 4R, 6K
  • Kid: Joe Girardi (-.079). 0-3, 2K

Game 8, April 12: Cubs 3, Cardinals 2 (6-2)

That’s four wins in four one-run games on the first homestand. That’ll put a nice vibe in your clubhouse. One of the commenters noted in the first part of this series that Kilgus gutted out seven innings in his season debut. He just missed going the distance in his second. He rightly should have. He had a three-run lead heading to the ninth inning. He faced four batters. The first hit a grounder to short, the second a grounder to second and the third flew out. The problem? There was an error on Cubs shortstop Domingo Ramos to start the inning. The fourth batter hit a two-run homer. That brought Mitch Williams into the game. He allowed a single to the first batter he faced and an error on Jerome Walton sent the runner all of the way to third. But Williams struck out Jose Oquendo to end the game.

  • Superhero: Paul Kilgus (.476). 8⅔IP, 7H, 0BB, 2R(0ER), 1K

*8th largest positive WPA game score of the year.

  • Hero: Mitch Webster (.060). 1-4, SB
  • Sidekick: Vance Law (.049). 2-4, RBI
  • Billy Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.065). 1-4, R, SB
  • Goat: Mark Grace (-.052). 1-3, BB, SB
  • Kid: Domingo Ramos (-.013). 0-4, RBI

Game 9, April 14: Cubs 6 at Phillies 4 (7-2)

Scott Sanderson started for the Cubs and recorded his first win of the year. The Cubs offense provided him plenty of support. They put two up in the first. The Phillies answered with one in the bottom of the inning. The Cubs and Phillies each added a run in the second and it was 3-2 after just two innings. The Cubs added one in the fourth and two more in the fifth and never looked back as they pounded out 10 hits. Mitch Williams faced five batters retiring them all and picked up his fifth save on the young season.

  • Superhero: Mitch Williams (.183). 1⅔IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 1K (SV 5)
  • Hero: Shawon Dunston (.115). 1-4, 3B, 2R, K
  • Sidekick: Andrew Dawson (.104). 2-3, 3B, 2BB, 3RBI, 1R
  • Billy Goat: Mark Grace (-.081). 0-4, BB, K
  • Goat: Jerome Walton (-.055). 0-4, BB, R, K
  • Kid: Calvin Schiraldi (-.032). 2IP, 3H, 1BB, 1R, 1K

Game 10, April 16: Cubs 5 at Phillies 3 (8-2)

Rick Sutcliffe made his third start of the year and picked up his third win of the season as the Cubs stayed blistering hot. The Cubs and Phillies each scored one in the first. The Cubs busted it open with one in the fourth and three in the fifth. Sutcliffe contributed to the offense with a two-out, two-run single in the fifth. Sutcliffe tried to go the distance, but ran out of gas in the ninth. He issued two walks sandwiched around a fielder’s choice before leaving in the ninth. Mitch Williams allowed both inherited runners to score but held on for his fourth save of the week and sixth save.

  • Superhero: Rick Sutcliffe (.220). 8⅓IP, 6H, 5BB, 3R, 4K (W 3-0)
  • Hero: Mark Grace (.162). 3-4, BB, RBI, R
  • Honorable Mention: Rick Sutcliffe (.137). 1-4, 2RBI, K
  • Sidekick: Ryne Sandberg (.088). 1-3, 2BB, R
  • Billy Goat: Joe Girardi (-.114). 0-4, K
  • Goat: Andre Dawson (-.104). 1-4, BB, SB, K
  • Kid: Jerome Walton (-.047). 0-4, SF, RBI, K

The Cubs swept four games played in the second week of the season. That pushed the record out to 8-2. Mitch Williams saved six of the eight wins over the first two weeks. The Cubs already had a six-game winning streak under their belts. That winning streak pushed their lead in the division to two in the division. The Wednesday game started by Kilgus was played in just two hours, 16 minutes. All four were played in under three hours. The Tuesday game was another one with a really small turnout, as just shy of eight thousand were in attendance.

1989 Heroes and Goats Player of the Week: Paul Kilgus (also Mitch Williams, Rick Sutcliffe)

Paul Kilgus began the 1989 season in the third spot in the Cubs rotation. Who was Kilgus? He was a 1984 graduate of the University of Kentucky. He played in the Cape Cod league before being drafted by the Rangers in the 43rd round of the 1984 draft. He had won 12 games for the Rangers in 1988 when he was traded with Curtis Wilkerson, Mitch Williams and Steve Wilson for Rafael Palmeiro, Jamie Moyer and Drew Hall. The Cubs would get three players who all contributed to the 1989 division winning team. The Rangers would get two players who would go on to very long, very productive and memorable careers.

The lefty reached the majors in 1987, appearing in 25 games, starting 12 of them and compiling a 2-7 record and a 4.13 ERA. The next year he started 32 games for the Rangers going 12-15 with a 4.15 ERA. He started 23 games for the 1989 Cubs with a 6-10 record and a 4.39 ERA. The Cubs traded him to the Blue Jays in December for Jose Nunez. He appeared in only 11 games that year with the Blue Jays, all in relief and posted a 6.06 ERA across 1613 innings. He was then traded to the Orioles who he appeared in 38 games with in 1991. He was 0-2 with a 5.08 ERA in 62 innings of work. He signed a couple of free agent contracts with the Cardinals. He got back to the majors in 1993 for 22 games, one start, one save and an 0.63 ERA in 28⅔ innings.

Putting all of that together, Paul pitched in six major league seasons, compiling a 21-34 record and a 4.19 ERA over 57 games and 292⅔ innings. He did pitch in one playoff game, throwing three scoreless innings of relief in a Cubs loss to the Giants. I suspect nowadays we’d say that his problem was that he just didn’t strike out enough hitters. He struck only 61 batters in 145⅔ innings for the Cubs in 1989. It’s not a shocking revelation, but too many balls in play just tends to lead to too many problems. Too many balls eventually find holes or aren’t played properly by defenders. Still, Paul made some valuable contributions to the 1989 Cubs.

After his playing days, he did reach the World Series. That is, the Little League World Series. He did that as coach of the Bowling Green, Kentucky team in 2015.

For our poll question we look at the Rafael Palmeiro trade. Just how bad was that deal? It’s been talked to death, the Palmeiro/Grace question. Neither would have likely made much of a left fielder, so one of them had to go. I loved Grace, but it’s not crazy to wonder what things might have been like with Palmeiro’s bat in the Cubs lineup for the next ten years or so. Would Jamie Moyer have developed into the pitcher he did? The Cubs certainly didn’t see much in him and apparently approached him about retiring early and becoming a coach after they re-signed him to a minor-league deal before spring training 1992. The short-term value of the trade wasn’t bad, but the long-term ramifications with the power of hindsight look pretty bad.

Poll

Thoughts on the Rafael Palmeiro deal?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    It did contribute significantly to reaching the 1989 playoffs
    (15 votes)
  • 60%
    Nice short term, but painful long term
    (43 votes)
  • 18%
    Makes the list of worst deals in Cubs history
    (13 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (0 votes)
71 votes total Vote Now