The old baseball cliche that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher has been almost comically true for the Cubs this year. Going into yesterday’s game, the White Sox were scorching hot and the Cubs stumbling amidst injuries and a team-wide slump. But there was Yu Darvish on Sunday afternoon turning in a Herculean effort against a White Sox offense that has been obliterating the baseball over the last week. Sure, there was still the obligatory Jose Abreu homer, but aside from that one blemish, Yu dazzled on his way to another win. Yu has quietly re-emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball starting in the second half of 2019.
Yu certainly couldn’t do it alone. He got support largely from two men. One of those was Kyle Schwarber. Kyle provided the run support to push the Cubs in front. His two-run homer with one-out in the sixth finally cashed in a scoring opportunity after the White Sox and former Cubs prospect Dylan Cease escaped trouble time after time. Schwarber’s well timed homer made Darvish a winner.
Of course, with only a one-run lead, it wasn’t as simple as get the lead and go home. The Cubs bullpen, maligned at times, needed to record six outs to preserve the win for Yu. Craig Kimbrel got the first two of those outs. He looked very much like the historically dominant reliever that he is in striking out the first two White Sox. But, the control left him and he walked two. That meant it was time for Jeremy Jeffress to enter the game. Jeffress has been unquestionably the Cubs’ most effective reliever. He escaped the eighth inning, then returned for the ninth. His performance was similar to Kimbrel’s. He retired the first two in the ninth, then put three on with a hit and two walks. But finally, he closed the door.
The Cubs manage just one of three against the White Sox in the series. I wouldn’t draw any conclusions from this series. The Cubs were indeed struggling coming in and the Sox were playing their best baseball. For sure, the Sox were significantly better team this weekend. But, I’m not ready to say that the torch has been passed for best baseball team in Chicago just yet.
The Cubs won only five of 12 on the homestand. No doubt, that’s a disappointment. But, as the smoke clears, the Cubs leave home three games in front of the Cardinals in the NL Central as the season nears its half way point. The Brewers, who many expected to be the Cubs’ primary competition, sit at 11-15 and are 5½ games back. At this point, the Cubs are heavy favorites to win the Central. With Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs figure to have at least a chance against any 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 27, August 23: Cubs 2, White Sox 1 (17-10)
- Superhero: Kyle Schwarber (.368). The line says two hits, one run, two RBI in four at bats. But he’s here because of the crucial two-run homer.
- Hero: Yu Darvish (.303). Seven innings, six hits, one walk, one run, 10 strikeouts. One win.
- Sidekick: Jeremy Jeffress (.273). Four outs, two walks and a hit allowed. One save.
- Billy Goat: Willson Contreras (-.223). Willson lands here because of the mess that was the last two outs of the fourth inning. He was hitless in three at bats on the day.
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.219). Happ had one walk in four plate appearances. Happ lands here because of the double play he grounded into with the bases loaded to end the fifth inning.
- Kid: Jason Kipnis (-.103). One hit in three at bats. But two strikeouts, including one just in front of Happ’s double play in the fifth. All three goats are here because of rally-killing outs.
WPA Play of the Game: Kyle Schwarber’s homer in the sixth. (.287)
*White Sox Play of the Game: Dylan Cease coaxed a double play grounder off the bat of Ian Happ to end the fifth. (.220)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Yu Darvish 12
- Kyle Hendricks 9
- Ian Happ 8
- David Bote and Anthony Rizzo -6.5
- Kris Bryant -10
Up Next: The Cubs head to Detroit for a three game set with the Tigers. Alec Mills will start for the Cubs. His opposition will be Casey Mize for the Tigers. The MLB oddsmakers see this as being in the Cubs favor. Let’s hope they have that right. The Cubs could really use a little winning streak after this tough stretch.
Author’s note: I will be out of town from Tuesday through Friday and will not be writing Heroes and Goats during that time period. I will have an edition of H&G tomorrow morning, but the next one after that will be Saturday.