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2020 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 45

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Cubs rally from early deficit for 8-5 win

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball can be unpredictable. I didn’t have to look hard towards the end of the Cardinals series to see dire warnings about this Reds series that just completed. If Yu Darvish didn’t win, the Cubs would get swept. To be sure, I felt it was paramount that the Cubs win on Monday against the Cardinals. But that wasn’t because what lay ahead, but the effect that being 2½ games up as opposed to just half a game.

I will never tell you not to look ahead at a pitching matchup and consider what it might mean for the game ahead. In fact, for a few years now, I’ve ended this piece most days by telling you what the pitching matchup is for the next game. The starting pitching is without doubt one of the largest predictors of what the result of a game was. This has been particularly true of this Cubs season. They are 20-2 when they receive a quality start. That means they are just 6-17 when they don’t.

Amusingly, this series saw one against the grain in each direction. The Cubs lost a Yu Darvish quality start on Wednesday. Then last night, they won an Adbert Alzolay non-quality start. Of course, it’s important to remember that the pitching matchup is an indicator, it is not the only indicator of the outcome.

The Cubs are a better team top to bottom than the Reds are. That’s a bigger predictor than who the starting pitchers are. Sure, the Cubs aren’t as good as they were a couple of years ago and the Reds aren’t as bad as they were either. The gap between the two teams is narrowing. It is possible their relative position may flip again in the near future. But the Cubs are still the better team. Of course, we have Wednesday’s game. Trevor Bauer was all but unhittable that night and that combined with a couple of walks and a mistake out of Yu Darvish was a recipe for a Reds win.

The Cubs won last night with contributions from a ton of guys up and down the roster. We are all watching the same games, we are all reading about the same stories, we all see mostly the same things. This Cubs team remains flawed. All of the things that have plagued the last two years are there and more. Jon Lester is aging (badly) in front of our eyes. The contact woes aren’t getting better. Too many failed pitching prospects have forced too much dumpster diving in the bullpen.

To be sure, the tapestry that is the Cubs is frayed around all of the edges. It shows signs of wear and tear throughout. And yet, last night’s game, even against an inferior opponent, was a reminder that they are talented. They do have a chance, however slight, if they can get into the playoffs. They have a wealth of experience. They have two extremely talented pitchers who are capable of shutting down an opponent. They have a very deep lineup and bench (when healthy). To be sure, a couple of their biggest offensive stars are having terrible seasons. But there is no rule that says because you were terrible in the regular season that you can’t make contributions in a playoff series.

This team is highly unlikely to win a championship. But this team is going to the playoffs and they are capable of winning a series against any team in baseball. Can they string together multiple series against capable opponents? I wouldn’t make that bet. But they have a chance. Some of you are younger than me. Some of you have only known good Cubs baseball. I watched a lot of 1980s and 1990s bad Cubs baseball. I remember when the hope was that every five or 10 years they’d put together a group that over achieved and got into the playoffs.

I’m going to love every last minute of this era in Cubs baseball. Where we can be “disappointed” that the team is “only” likely to be the third division winner in the NL and probably won’t get back to the NLCS. This team will make the playoffs. They will be favored to win their first series and they won’t be incapable of beating their second opponent.

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 45, September 10: Cubs 8, Reds 5 (26-19)


Source: FanGraphs

THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero: Nico Hoerner (.203). Nico came up with an enormous hit with the bases loaded to start the decisive rally in the bottom of the fourth. He then added a heads up base running play to give the Cubs the lead. He added an RBI ground out later.
  • Hero: Willson Contreras (.165). Contreras remained red hot with a pair of doubles, a pair of singles, a walk, a pair of RBI and a run scored. This is why we don’t write guys off. Willson is hitting .457/.537/.629 (wRC+ 215) in September.
  • Sidekick: Ian Happ (.137). Ian had another rough night at the plate. He struck out four more times in five at bats. But WPA is all about timing. He did put the ball in play once. Right after Hoerner’s big hit. He grounded a ball sharply along the ground to the right side. The Reds were positioned perfectly to field the ball, but could not get a good throw to first base on the wet field with a water logged ball. The result was two runs for the Cubs.

THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat: Adbert Alzolay (-.157). Adbert only allowed three hits over 3⅔ innings of work. He walked two and was charged with three runs.
  • Goat: Javier Baez (-.109). He struck out three times in five at bats.
  • Kid: Jason Heyward (-.061). Jason did draw two walks in five plate appearances.

WPA Play of the Game: Nico Hoerner’s double with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning cut the deficit to 3-2. (.209). *If WPA were team specific, one would have to imagine that would be quite a bit higher given the season long team struggles with the bases loaded.

*Reds Play of the Game: Nick Castellanos tripled with a runner on first and no outs in the first inning. (.141)

Poll

Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Nico Hoerner
    (82 votes)
  • 30%
    Willson Contreras
    (39 votes)
  • 3%
    Ian Happ
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Other
    (1 vote)
126 votes total Vote Now

Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)

  • Yu Darvish/Ian Happ 16
  • Kyle Hendricks 12
  • Kris Bryant -10
  • Javier Baez -12
  • Anthony Rizzo -13.5

Up Next: The Cubs travel to Milwaukee for their first and only time of the season. The teams will play three games this weekend. Jon Lester will get the start in the open. He’s had back-to-back terrible outings. He’ll look to bounce back. The Brewers will counter with Brandon Woodruff. The odds-makers are favoring the Brewers by a decent margin in this one. The Brewers are 19-22 and only 8-10 at home. They are not a juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination. They have played the Cubs tough so far this year and I’m sure this series will be a dog fight. Let’s hope the Cubs can win and move to four wins in five games.