The Cubs returned to action after having Monday off (and playing on Sunday afternoon). For a little while, they looked rested and recharged and like they would easily dispatch a last place team. They led this game 6-1 at one point. After Sunday’s laugher against the Reds, it looked like they might have two comfortable wins in a row.
Comfort is a luxury in baseball. The Pirates battled back. The Cubs made some questionable decisions on bullpen usage and the game ended up going 11 innings. There appeared to be a concerted effort to hold back some of the relievers. David Ross admitted as much in the post-game presser, but he didn’t really comment as to what the logic is by it. I suppose that looking at 14 games in 13 days there was some thought to trying to get some preemptive rest.
You can only win the game you are presently playing. Jon Lester was almost certainly left in the game a few batters too long. And the Cubs held back their “A” relievers with a one-run lead in the eighth inning. Certainly, you’d like to have your go to guys have bullets in the gun for some key divisional games coming up. But you’d also like to bank this win.
The good news is that they did ultimately bank the win. The bad news is Jeremy Jeffress ended up throwing 1⅔ innings. So, the Cubs did end up burning several of their top guys anyway. I hope that plan is tossed in the garbage and never used again. I understand that guys have various ailments and soreness and what not through the season. You have to manage that and strategically, you don’t necessarily want the other side knowing that a certain guy is going to be unavailable. Holding a guy back when he’s healthy and the situation dictates their usage is a good way to get yourself beat needlessly.
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 35, September 1: Cubs 8, Pirates 7; 11 innings (21-14)
- Superhero: Jeremy Jeffress (.338). Jeffress has been a real gift to the Cubs. I was ecstatic when they signed him and I am blown away by how good he’s been. Last night he faced five batters, struck out two, allowed one walk and recorded five outs (he inherited a runner and got a double play).
- Hero: Ian Happ (.326). As the season enters its final month, Ian Happ has to be a contender for NL MVP. I said many times in the past that Ian was the missing ingredient for the 2019 Cubs. He’s showing the dimension he can bring to the club. Last night, he had three hits, including a solo homer leading off the game. He also drove in the game’s winning run. He had three hits (and three strikeouts) in six at bats.
- Sidekick: Jason Heyward (.249). I’m going to go out on a limb and say that we are seeing the best stretch of baseball Jason has had in a Cubs uniform. Last night, he added two hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly in five plate appearances. Over the last seven games he has a line of .455/.552/1.045 (wRC+ 290) and on the season, he has a line of .299/.411/.563 (wRC+157).
- Billy Goat: Dan Winkler (-.244). Winkler came into the game with a one-run lead to protect. He allowed a homer to the first batter he faced. He faced four batters overall, walking one of them.
- Goat: Josh Osich (-.224). The new Cub inherited runners on first and second with one out in the ninth inning of a tie game. He retired the first two batters he faced. He stayed in to start the tenth. He faced two batters and got two ground balls. The second ended up in a tying run. Since I’m going out on limbs today, I’m gonna bet that this is the highest negative score I’ve ever seen for a pitcher who’s line reads: 1 0 0 0 0. I’m going to continue to say that the extra inning rule is entertaining, but I hate it.
- Sidekick: Jon Lester (-.188). I still hate to bet against Jon, but he just isn’t the pitcher he once was. Aging isn’t going gently on him. In 5⅓ innings, he allowed eight hits, three walks and was charged with five runs. Maybe if he’d been pulled a few batters earlier, the line wouldn’t be quite as bad.
WPA Play of the Game: Ian Happ led off the 11th inning with a single to give the Cubs the lead. Leadoff singles should not drive in runs. That is all. (.360)
*Pirates Play of the Game: Ke’Bryan Hayes homered leading off the eighth inning off of Dan Winkler to tie the game. (.301) Welcome to the big leagues Ke’Bryan.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Yu Darvish 15
- Ian Happ 14
- Kyle Schwarber 9
- Javier Baez -8.5
- Kris Bryant -10
- Willson Contreras -10.5
Up Next: Game two of the three game set tonight in Pittsburgh. Kyle Hendricks will look to bounce back from a rough outing in Cincinnati. He’ll face Joe Musgrove, who has been tough on the Cubs in the past. This game was supposed to be started by former Cub Derek Holland, who’s been awful this year. Musgrove will be a tougher foe.