The Cubs‘ offensive woes continued on Monday night. That wasted a strong pitching performance from Kyle Hendricks in game one of yesterday’s doubleheader. But, they did bounce back late in the nightcap and manage a split.
Hendricks’ strong pitching performance has some chance of helping the Cubs as this series goes on. He threw into the seventh inning in game one. The Cubs used only a single reliever in that one, Rowan Wick, only faced two batters. Conversely, the Cardinals used three relievers for a total of 3⅓ innings. Both teams essentially used game two as a bullpen game. The Cardinals used six pitchers to throw seven innings. No pitchers pitched in both games. So nine different Cardinal relievers threw yesterday. That can sometimes influence the strategy and outcome of the next game. And there is, of course, a second doubleheader on Wednesday.
The Cubs bats struck out 13 more times in the 14 innings played Monday night. The strikeouts have combined with the overall lack of timely hitting to put the Cubs in a funk. That by itself is part of a normal wave of baseball. The game ebbs and flows over time. You get hot, you get cold. This streak is worrying to the Cubs fanbase because it is so reminiscent of the woes that have derailed the last two Cubs seasons.
Fortunately, the Cubs were able to finally mount a bit of a rally in the sixth inning of game two. It was not the kind of rally that makes for much of an epic tale. A hit by pitch, a strikeout, an RBI-double, a walk after an oddly timed bunt, and a two-out pinch-hit three-run homer that snatched victory right out of the jaws of a fifth straight defeat.
That kind of come-from-behind victory can sometimes springboard a team. A really strong start tonight by Yu Darvish would be even more likely to springboard the team. For most of the season, the Cubs formula has been pretty straightforward. Get a good to very good start, win a ballgame. Get an average or worse start, lose a ballgame. Monday night was different though. Kyle Hendricks pitched great through six innings and then ran out of gas. But three runs in six plus innings is far from a disaster start. In the second game, emergency starter Tyson Miller, making his MLB debut, lasted only two innings and allowed two runs.
The Cubs are now over a third of the way through this shortened season. They own the second best record in the National League and they lead the NL Central by 3½ games. If they can win at least two of the remaining three games, they will pick up another game on the Cardinals, one of two teams sitting in second place. The Cardinals have one heck of a gauntlet to play through the remainder of the season thanks to two weeks off related to the team’s COVID-19 outbreak. They surely need to desperately pile up wins as fast as they possibly can before they start having some very tired arms and legs. Let’s hope the Cubs stop them from doing that.
With that, we turn our attention to yesterday’s games 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) 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. With that, let’s get to the results.
Game 20, August 17: Cardinals 3, Cubs 1 (13-7)
- Superhero: Anthony Rizzo (.087). Rizzo lands here on the back of two walks in three plate appearances.
- Hero: Kyle Hendricks (.077). Hendricks was cruising through six innings. Were this a normal nine inning game, I have no doubt he’d have been given the seventh inning. In this format, I might have considered going to the bullpen. But it’s a tough call. Kyle threw 6⅓ innings, allowing only three hits, a walk and three runs. He struck out five.
- Sidekick: Ian Happ (.070). Ian supplied the Cubs offense was a solo homer in the fourth. He lands down here largely because he struck out with the bases loaded and only one out in the first inning. That one at bat might have cost the Cubs the first game. To be fair, Ian has been the most consistent Cubs bat here in 2020, but that one hurt.
- Billy Goat: Rowan Wick (-.191). Wick inherited the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning and allowed a two-run double.
- Goat: David Bote (-.114). Bote was hitless in two at bats.
- Kid: Javier Baez (-.108). Javy had a nice looking double in the first inning. That was his only hit in three at bats. He two drops down because of a key at bat. He grounded into a double play in the third inning with first and second and no outs, stifling another potential rally.
WPA Play of the Game: Brad Miller faced Rowan Wick with two outs and the bases loaded. He allowed a two-run double. The Cubs did record the second out, but the damage had already been done. (.206)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Ian Happ’s fourth inning solo homer. (.178)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game in Game 1?
This poll is closed
Game 21, August 17: Cubs 5, Cardinals 4 (14-7)
- Superhero: David Bote (.578). Bote’s two-out, three-run, pinch-hit homer propelled the Cubs to a much needed victory.
- Hero: Jeremy Jeffress (.196). Jeffress bounced back nicely from his first hits and runs allowed on the year. He threw a perfect seventh inning to close it out.
- Sidekick: Dan Winkler (.140). I still cringe every single time Winkler comes into the game. But, last night he got the job done. He threw a scoreless inning in the sixth after the Cubs took the lead.
- Billy Goat: Kyle Ryan (-.169). Kyle allowed four hits and two runs, on back-to-back homers, while only recording two outs.
- Goat: Tyson Miller (-.162). Tyson allowed two runs on three hits and a walk in two innings of work.
- Kid: Ian Happ (-.137). Ian had a rough second game. He struck out twice and for some reason tried to bunt with one out and a runner on second and the Cubs down 4-2.
WPA Play of the Game: David Bote’s homer is obviously the play of the year to this date. It also gives him the highest WPA Game score of the year to date. The kid has some kind of flair for the dramatic.
*Cardinals Play of the Game: Brad Miller had quite a day against Cubs pitching. He got the Cardinals on the board in the second inning with a two-run homer to give them a 2-1 lead. (.218)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game in game 2
This poll is closed
Up Next: Game three of a five game set tonight at Wrigley Field. Yu Darvish makes the start for the Cubs. After a rough first start, Yu has really locked in and looked like the dominant pitcher he was in the second half of 2019. Daniel Ponce de Leon makes the Cardinals start. The Vegas odds-makers see this one squarely in the Cubs favor. Hopefully, they are right on and the Cubs can make it two in a row.