Last night’s game was one of those that is actually tarnished a bit by the Cubs being a playoff contender in 2020. If that game was between two teams playing out the string at the end of a season, I suspect it would have been received differently. Two pitchers who undoubtedly should be Cy Young finalists locked up and pitched fantastically. It was a game that could have been enjoyed for what it was. Of course, even in that situation, it was marred by sequencing. Yu Darvish had a rough first inning and so the ending of this felt inevitable. But all of that diminishes the reality of watching two of the best exchanging blows. Trevor Bauer was just a little bit better this time, even in their duel at one apiece after Darvish got the upper hand last week.
It was a real luxury winning every time Yu Darvish pitched over the last two months. It is, without a doubt, one of the largest reasons the Cubs are where they are. Rightly or wrongly, Darvish will probably receive a boost in the eyes of some voters because of the three likely finalists, Jacob deGrom being the other, Yu is the one doing it in the thick of a playoff race.
Unfortunately, Yu came up short in this one. The Cubs’ division lead drops to just 2½ games as the Cardinals were enjoying their last off day of the season. The Cardinals have as of this morning played nine fewer games than the Cubs. The last two and a half weeks of their season will be one full speed thrill ride. I tip my hat to them for their perseverance to this point. But this is the part where their season hits warp speed.
Of course, it would be nice to win the division because the Cubs did well and not because the Cardinals were stretched out over the rack because they had the misfortune of testing positive during a pandemic. Laughing over a rival losing is fun. Laughing over a rival suffering an injury or being placed in an untenable situation doesn’t really fall within the definition of sportsmanship. But your mileage will vary.
Turn the page on this one. Let’s go get ’em tonight.
And 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 44, September 9: Reds 3, Cubs 0 (25-19)
- Superhero: Josh Osich (.029). The only thing positive out of this game was the Cubs bullpen keeping the game at arm’s reach in case the offense found their footing. Osich faced five batters and retired four of them.
- Hero/Sidekick: Jason Adam/Craig Kimbrel (.009). Adam retired the only two batters he faced. Kimbrel faced four and retired three, recording back-to-back strikeouts. Adam has the oddity of finishing in exactly this position the first two times he appeared in H&G that is a nearly impossible feat. Kimbrel set a Cubs franchise record with nine consecutive two-strikeout relief appearances.
- Billy Goat: Ian Happ (-.105). The Reds appear to have something figured out and good execution. They struck out Happ three more times in four at bats.
- Goat: Anthony Rizzo (-.091). And they also haven’t allowed Anthony to reach base in either game. Anthony was hitless in four at bats and struck out once.
- Kid: Yu Darvish (-.084). Despite allowing three runs, Yu lands down here. Because allowing three runs in six innings is a good start. Not great, but good. He walked three and allowed only two hits. He struck out nine. If Mike Moustakas doesn’t square up one pitch in the first inning, this game would have gone down as one of the more memorable pitching duels in recent years at Wrigley Field.
WPA Play of the Game: Mike Moustakas batted with runners on first and second and two outs. Unfortunately, he delivered the decisive three-run homer. (.244)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Victor Caratini singled leading off the fifth to end any dreams of Trevor Bauer throwing a no hitter. (.044)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Yu Darvish 16
- Ian Happ 15
- Kyle Hendricks 12
- Javier Baez/Kris Bryant -10
- Anthony Rizzo -13.5
From a WPA standpoint, Anthony Rizzo is the big missing ingredient from the Cubs lineup. No, he isn’t alone down here. But he has finished in the top five of these standings every year since this series began. I’ve said it before, when he is done playing, if this series is still running, the year-long winner will be known as the Rizzo award.
Up Next: The final game of this three game set and the last game of the season between these two division foes. The Cubs will recall Adbert Alzolay to make another start in this one. He’ll match up against Sonny Gray who got hammered in his last outing. I feel like Alzolay is going to have a good start tonight. Let’s see if the Cubs can post a “reverse” series. That is, winning the Mills and Alzolay starts and losing the Darvish start. The oddsmakers see this one going the Reds way. I’m hoping they are wrong.
For those of you scoreboard-watching, the Cardinals play the Tigers twice and are heavily favored in both. The DH starts at 1:15 CT, so the first game will definitely be complete before the Cubs start and the second one should either be finished or finishing around game time.