Coming home with the second-best record in the National League to play 12 games at Wrigley Field over a 10-day span seemed more or less like a boon. It has been anything but. With one game to play, the Cubs have won just four of the first 10 games. Even if they can salvage a win on Sunday, they can’t be too excited about the results.
It can be amazing how different a team can look when just a couple of pieces get out of whack. The Cubs were getting amazing starting pitching over the first 15-20 games. They were grinding out long at bats and slowly wearing the opposition down. The pitching has come back to Earth some and the lineup has sputtered. Kris Bryant was ineffective and then hurt. As much as it pains me to say, Javier Baez has been bad. Those two have hit first and third in the lineup when they play. Having two of your least productive hitters near the top of the lineup is a problem the Cubs had under Joe Maddon and in the first period of struggle David Ross has gone through, it has resurfaced.
So now, we see the first real test of the David Ross era. It is easy to say you are going to be tough. We’ve heard the stories that he shoot a look or call a situation out. But this is different. To be fair, Ross did a really great job with Craig Kimbrel. Ross pulled him from his very first save opportunity of the season, pulled him way back into low leverage situations, the team worked with him and he’s already had a save since being back in the role. That’s actually quite a roller coaster over a little over a month of baseball.
I’m sure one of the things Ross wanted to do was have some stability. Of course, under Joe Maddon the Cubs were known for employing a ton of different lineups. They were known for mixing and matching groups of players. There was a lot of talk about players not knowing what to expect, even when the Cubs shifted to internally sharing lineups days ahead of time. Now, it appears that the Cubs need to at very minimum flip Javier Baez, who is flat out not hitting, with Willson Contreras. Ian Happ probably needs to be somewhere in the top third of the lineup and, arguably, Jason Kipnis should be too when he plays.
Most of you knew not to anoint David Ross the savior after a small handful of games. Some of you were though. I know at least one poster was quick to dance on the “grave” of Joe Maddon and proclaim that Ross was basically able to come in and flip a switch and all of the problems went away. Only maybe they didn’t. I really like Ross. I’m rooting like heck for him, like I do for everyone who wears those blue pinstripes. But he’s got a challenge in front of him. These are the times when we learn what a manager can be and what kind of influence he can make on the team.
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) 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 26, August 22: White Sox 7, Cubs 4 (16-10)
- Superhero: Victor Caratini (.134). Vic had just two plate appearances before being removed from the game, but he had a big impact while he was in there. He had a two-run double in the second inning.
- Hero: Ryan Tepera (.089). Tepera pitched 1⅔ innings and allowed two hits but no runs. He struck out one.
- Sidekick: Willson Contreras (.070). Willson had a single, an RBI, a run scored and a hit by pitch in four plate appearances.
- Billy Goat: Rowan Wick (-.191). Wick had a nightmare outing, only retiring one batter. He allowed two hits, including a long home run. He walked one and struck out one. He was charged with two runs.
- Goat: David Bote (-.165). David is one of the guys getting extra playing time with Kris Bryant out. He was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice.
- Kid: Anthony Rizzo (-.163). Anthony was hitless in five at bats and struck out once.
WPA Play of the Game: Victor Caratini batted with no outs and runners on first and second in the second with the Cubs down 2-0. He delivered a two-run double to tie the score. (.168)
*White Sox Play of the Game: Jose Abreu hit his first of three homers leading off the sixth inning off of Kyle Hendricks. (.158)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top/Bottom 3)
- Ian Happ and Yu Darvish 10
- Kyle Hendricks and Jason Kipnis 9
- David Bote and Anthony Rizzo -6.5
- Kris Bryant -10
Up Next: The final game of the three-game set this afternoon. The Cubs send Yu Darvish to the mound. Yu has strung together four very good starts in a row and will look to keep it going. Former Cub prospect Dylan Cease will be the opposition. The odds-makers are heavily favoring the Cubs in this one. Let’s hope they are right and the Cubs can finish this homestand on a high note.