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2020 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 54

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Cubs bounce back in Pittsburgh with 5-0 win

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs traveled to Pittsburgh Monday to start a four-game set with the Pirates. They had lost two straight over the weekend and managed just two runs over three games against the Twins. The Pirates have been bad in 2020 and so as a Cub fan, you had to hope they’d go to Pittsburgh and win at least three.

So far, so good. The Cubs returned to their most reliable 2020 formula. Jon Lester gave them a strong start and the bats did just enough to push them to victory. The most encouraging sign of the evening was the three-run inning the Cubs had in the eighth inning. It not only took the drama out of the game, but also represented more runs than they had scored all weekend.

Earlier in the evening, there was some drama, unfortunately. Kris Bryant took an awkward-looking swing and left the game after the at bat. The injury is said to be to his oblique. Those of you who follow baseball closely will know that oblique injuries can be particularly nasty. Kris’ 2020 (on-the-field) nightmare continues. If I were a betting man, I’d be placing my money on a monster 2021 season from Bryant. Once he has some time to rest up the series of injuries, I’m expecting a “best shape of his life” spring training and a lot of extra work in the off season. But for now, there’s just more frustration.

Another story many were watching was Kyle Schwarber after he was pulled out of the game Sunday night for an apparent lack of hustle. Kyle said and did all of the right things during Sunday’s game and then came back with two big hits last night. He then unequivocally supported his manager and the leadership David Ross brings to the team.

Talent matters. But so does character. When you look at the seasons Jason Heyward and Ian Happ are having, when you see Schwarber taking this whole event in stride, you have to appreciate the focus on character. Heyward had a monster contract and we’ve all seen vets just shift into second gear after things don’t click. Happ could have sulked after being sent back to Triple-A last year. Schwarber could have gotten into a tiff and badmouthed his manager to the media. None of those things happened. To be sure, there have been a few guys who have come through Chicago and badmouthed the team on the way out. But they have been few and far between. Character matters.

The Cubs haven’t been world beaters in 2020. But they have been the class of the NL Central. They inched closer to a division title last night. There is at least some chance that they can clinch that title before leaving Pittsburgh. Of course, the White Sox haven’t clinched the AL Central yet. It’s possible the two teams could be playing each other with each looking to celebrate a division championship after beating the other. That could be fun. But I’ll still take a clinch before they leave Pittsburgh and being able to set up the rotation.

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 54, September 21: Cubs 5, Pirates 0 (32-22)

Source: FanGraphs


  • Superhero: Jon Lester (.370). Six shutout innings. Four hits, one walk, one strikeout. A veteran pitching to the conditions and the park. Lots of long flyouts that died in the night.
  • Hero: Kyle Schwarber (.140). Two doubles and two RBI in four at bats. He also scored a run.
  • Sidekick: Victor Caratini (.108). Vic had an RBI-double of his own in two at bats.


  • Billy Goat: Anthony Rizzo (-.087). He had a hit and a run scored in the game. The strong starting pitching tends to land a lot of hitters down here.
  • Goat: Kris Bryant (-.044). He was retired in his only at bat before leaving.
  • Kid: Willson Contreras (-.042). He did contribute with a walk and a run scored. But he struck out his other three times to the plate.

WPA Play of the Game: With runners on first and third and one out in the sixth, Jon Lester was able to coax a ground ball off of the bat of Erik Gonzalez that turned into an inning-ending double play and preserved the shutout. (.175)

*Pirates Play of the Game: There has been a lot of this recently, it’s the play immediately before that: Ke’Bryan Hayes singled with a runner on first and one out in the sixth, putting runners on the corners. (.095)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Jon Lester
    (130 votes)
  • 25%
    Kyle Schwarber
    (46 votes)
  • 0%
    Victor Caratini
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    Javier Baez
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
181 votes total Vote Now

Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)

  • Yu Darvish 16
  • Kyle Hendricks 15
  • Ian Happ 14.5
  • Jason Heyward 14.5
  • Jason Kipnis 11
  • Willson Contreras -7.5
  • Victor Caratini -8
  • Anthony Rizzo -13.5
  • Kris Bryant -14
  • Javier Baez -15

Up Next: Game two of the four game set. Jose Quintana comes off of the injured list to make his first start of the season. How long he can go is certainly an open question. I can only guess that they felt this was the best spot, in front of a Kyle Hendricks start on Wednesday, when you’d expect Kyle to go deep in the game. The Pirates will send left-hander Steven Brault to the mound. Given the Cubs’ season-long struggles against left-handed pitching, it’s quite a statement of what odds-makers think about the Pirates that they favored the Cubs in this one even without listing Quintana as the starter.

Scoreboard Watching: The Brewers are in Cincinnati. The surging Reds are favored to win again. The Reds have moved into a tie with the Cardinals for second place. They are certainly a team no one is going to want to face. The Cardinals are in Kansas City and are a slight favorite as well. The Braves are hosting the Marlins. The Braves remain tied with the Cubs for the second seed in the playoffs. The Braves are one of the day’s heaviest favorites across baseball. Of course, so are the Indians against the White Sox. The Sox have only a 1½-game lead over the Twins, so that could get interesting.