The Cubs won for the fifth straight time Friday night. That pushed them to 11 games over .500 for the first time this season. They’ve now won seven of their last nine games, beginning with a Kyle Hendricks win over the Cardinals on September 7. Kyle was on the mound again last night as the Cubs won 1-0.
The Cubs are doing everything we could hope out of them. They are on pace to win the National League Central in comfortable fashion. They are playing some of their best baseball right now. We’ve even seen key contributions from Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant during this stretch. Those three bats have been dormant for long stretches of this season to varying degrees.
Of course, one of the drivers of this stretch has been dominant pitching, largely top to bottom, but also once again led by Yu Darvish and Hendricks. Those two are the key to the Cubs’ best chances of success once the playoffs begin. First and foremost, the Cubs are going to need those guys to lead the way. Then, the hope will have to be that a roster that is extremely deep with bats that have a history of being explosive will do just that. We all know and have all seen that the bats can vanish for stretches of time. We will have to hope that on a given night, at least two or three of them are grooving and that they can score enough runs to win playoff games.
But, there are still nine more games to get through between here and there. Right now, they need to avoid significant injuries down the stretch so that they can get into the postseason healthy. Right now if the playoffs started, the Cubs would occupy the second spot in the NL as the division winner with the second best record. They hold a one-game lead over the Braves for that distinction. They are also just two games behind the Padres for the second best record over all in the National League.
The distinction of the best record in 2020 is largely going to be batting last. There will be no home field advantage, particularly after the first round when baseball moves to a neutral site. It is possible that the #2 overall club in the NL will face a team with a better record than the #3 will. That is because it is possible that the second place NL Central team is very likely to occupy the #6 spot and could have a worse record than the first wildcard team.
Of course, one could go round and round with that. It might be better to see a team like the Phillies or Marlins who the Cubs haven’t played this year than see more of, say, the Cardinals or Reds. Both teams have played the Cubs very tough this year. The Reds have a particularly good pitching staff and could be a problem. Another factor that could matter: Those two teams are going to be fighting down to the final game, especially given that there are no tiebreaker games. Winning outright is going to matter to these teams, so they are going to be unable to prepare their rotation for a postseason series where we already know there will be much less time off than there has been historically.
As with all of the rest of this cobbled-together 2020 season, everything is going to be a little different. This is all going to be dynamic and there will almost certainly be some unusual, largely unprecedented outcomes as we head towards crowning a champion.
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 51, September 18: Cubs 1, Twins 0 (31-20)
- Superhero: Kyle Hendricks (.595). This moves into the top WPA spot for the year. Eight innings, three hits, one walk, 10 strikeouts.
- Hero: Jeremy Jeffress (.167). It wasn’t pretty (two walks), but it was effective (double play, strikeout).
- Sidekick: Willson Contreras (.121). Willson reached base three times with two his and a walk. He drove in the lone run. The Cubs only had three hits and four walks.
- Billy Goat: Kyle Schwarber (-.083). Schwarber had a hit in three at bats. He lands here because of the ground ball he hit with no outs in the first inning with runners on first and third that resulted in an out at the plate.
- Goat: Javier Baez (-.082). Javy was hitless in three at bats and struck out twice.
- Sidekick: Jason Heyward (-.072). JHey was also hitless in three at bats.
WPA Play of the Game: Jeremy Jeffress coaxed a double play grounder off of the bat of Josh Donaldson (.245) following a leadoff walk to Byron Buxton.
*Twins Play of the Game: Buxton’s leadoff walk in the ninth inning off Jeffress. It was just the third walk Buxton has drawn this season — but his second of the game. (.115)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Yu Darvish 16
- Kyle Hendricks 15
- Ian Happ 14.5
- Jason Heyward 11.5
- Jason Kipnis 11
- Victor Caratini -9
- Willson Contreras -9.5
- Kris Bryant -10
- Javier Baez -12
- Anthony Rizzo -12.5
Up Next: Game two of the three game set against the Twins as the Cubs close out their home season. Alec Mills follows up his no hitter last Sunday and will face Michael Pineda. The oddsmakers are leaning towards the Twins. I don’t think they were sufficiently impressed by the feat of no-hitting the 2020 Brewers. Let’s hope Mills can keep them in the game and the Cubs bats can do some damage.