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2020 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 55

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Cubs rally back late to tie, still fall to Pirates 3-2

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A good number of the recent Cubs losses have been vexing. Last night? Your mileage may vary, but for me I’m not losing any sleep over that one. It’s not even because they got into the playoffs via other teams losing last night either.

Let’s start with the bad. The Cubs continued not to hit lefthanded pitching. Let’s not make any mistakes, that’s a problem. I suspect at this point that there is at least some possibility a team could reach into the minors (if this were a normal year where the minor leagues existed) and pluck some kid from Double-A and have him shutdown this offense. This has been a problem that has cropped up at times in recent years, but has really exploded this year. A team with Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras should not have that problem. Of course, the struggles (health and otherwise) of Bryant are tied into those results. Having three lefthanded hitters in the regular lineup (Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber) is part of that too. Obviously, the nose dive of Javier Baez has pushed it off the deep end in 2020.

But then there was the good. Rizzo’s clutch two-run homer to tie the game late. The Cubs have had a strange power outage of late. Getting a key homer was great. Getting it from Rizzo was greater. Rizzo is probably the most important bat in the Cubs lineup. His consistent approach at the plate drives the production of the lineup. His struggles this year have been front and center as the Cubs offense has fallen off.

Also quite good was Adbert Alzolay. The youngster threw four innings in relief and allowed two hits, two walks and struck out seven. His stuff was filthy. I also give him credit. I thought he was tiring a bit in the fifth when he allowed his one run. But then he bounced back and looked strong again in the sixth. That is such an important trait. Even on a night when your stuff is electric, you are sometimes going to allow runs. You have to be able to shake it off and move forward. Alzolay has some of the best stuff of any Cubs pitcher. If he were to take a step forward, that could be a big lift to this pitching staff.

Honorable mention, the return of Jose Quintana. I also thought he ran out of gas a bit at the end of his appearance. But he looked pretty good in two innings of work. The Cubs are a better team with Quintana than without him. He would be in line to work again on Sunday against the Sox. I hope he gets that chance.

One final thought from me. I have done exactly zero statistical research on the issue, but my gut feeling is that I’d be extremely reluctant to let most relievers throw in two different innings. For years now, prior to the new three-batter rule, the overwhelming majority of pitchers went max effort for whatever part of an inning they were in and then were done. Obviously, some pitchers are used for longer outings, like Alzolay was last night. But guys like Andrew Chafin have been used almost exclusively in short outings, usually only to face a batter or two. Chafin recorded the last out of the eighth inning, then the first out of the ninth before allowing the walkoff homer to end it. This one might totally be my imagination, but I’d absolutely not be using guys across innings in the playoffs.

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 55, September 22: Pirates 3, Cubs 2 (32-23)


Source: FanGraphs

THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero: Anthony Rizzo (.402). He had two hits in four at bats, but he lands here because of the eighth inning two-out, two-run, game-tying homer.
  • Hero: Ryan Tepera (.057). Ryan’s making a late run up the H&G leaderboard. He faced three batters, retired two and walked the other.
  • Sidekick: Adbert Alzolay (.051). This would have been quite a bit higher had it not been for the run he allowed in the fifth. Still, a very impressive looking outing.

THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat: Andrew Chafin (-.310). The unfortunate reality of 2020 is that a guy like Chafin has little choice but to work his way back from injury in live action.
  • Goat: Javier Baez (-.224). With Kris Bryant out of the lineup, Javy is one of the key hitters against left-handed pitching. He was hitless in four at bats, though he at least put the ball in play four times.
  • Kid: Kyle Schwarber (-.153). The Cubs simply do not have enough quality righthanded hitters. That keeps Schwarber in the lineup even against an improving lefthanded starter. Kyle was also hitless in four at bats.

WPA Play of the Game: Jacob Stallings had a one-out walk-off homer for the Pirates in the ninth inning off of Chafin. (.419)

*Cubs Play of the Game: Rizzo’s two-out, two-run, game-tying homer. (.322)

Poll

Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Anthony Rizzo
    (78 votes)
  • 36%
    Adbert Alzolay
    (48 votes)
  • 3%
    Other
    (4 votes)
130 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 -10.5
  • Kris Bryant -14
  • Javier Baez -17

Up Next: The Cubs and Pirates play game three of the four-game set. Kyle Hendricks goes for the Cubs against Trevor Williams. The Cubs are heavily favored in this one. Let’s hope the odds-makers have it right.

Scoreboard Watching:

I wouldn’t vote for this format to happen again under any circumstances, but it is definitely going to lead to one chaotic finish in the NL.