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2020 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 42

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Cubs get back in the win column behind Kyle Hendricks

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Before Monday’s Labor Day game I wrote that the Cubs really needed a win. Kyle Hendricks answered the call. They really needed a big start and they got one. They were aided by the offense putting the ball into play with a high frequency. They only struck out three times on the day. With the ball in play most of the time, the Cardinals made some defensive miscues and a couple of those contributed to two unearned runs for the Cubs.

For this one game and for two out of five games in the series, you could see what the Cubs could be. Behind Hendricks and Yu Darvish, the Cubs looked like a formidable team. By and large, this Cubs team is pretty self explanatory. They get a good start and they pretty consistently win. Fail to get that good start and they pretty consistently lose.

None of this is any mystery. The Cubs have a deep, talented offense. They haven’t been shutout and only four times have failed to score at least two runs. But, they haven’t scored runs in bunches for the most part. Particularly not since the early season. They’ve scored over seven runs just seven times (7-0). At six or more runs scored, they are 12-2.

Run prevention is the key. They are 15-0 when allowing two or fewer. At three or fewer, it is 19-1. Actually, there is a crazy statistical divide. At five runs allowed or fewer, the Cubs are 22-4. If they allow more than five, they are 2-14. That’s a pretty striking divide.

Statistics are a tool, not a guarantee. You couldn’t just say that if they allowed five runs or less in every game the rest of the way that they’d win 15 games more. That said, I’d really like to see the Cubs manage the majority of the games not started by Darvish or Hendricks like the Brewers have treated games the last few years. At the first sign of trouble, get the starter out and just go to the pen. When you need to, shuffle relievers back and forth with the minor leagues, particularly with a bookend series upcoming next week with days of on each side of two games against the Indians.

Where possible, my first priority would be getting those two extra starts, at least until the division is wrapped up. My second priority would be to aggressively manage the bullpen trying to steal some wins in games not started by Yu and Kyle. Without manipulating anything, with 18 games left, you’d expect Yu to make four more starts and Kyle three. If the Cubs can win five of those, they’d be at 29 wins. It’s possible as few as three other wins would get you enough wins to wrap up the division at 32. That would be 3-8 in those other games. If they can sneak that up to five wins, that would be 34 overall and I’m relatively certain that will hold up.

This is the home stretch. The division is there to be won. And winning the division has a lot of value, particularly if they don’t bubble the playoffs. Three straight home games and three straight nights in your own bed particularly has to matter to some extent. Even without manipulating the rotation, Hendricks should be ready for game one of the playoffs. You might have to have Yu pitch the last game or two of the regular season. That might make whomever is the third starter the game two starter. But that would leave Yu for a decisive game three if necessary.

Of course, that’s a lot of looking ahead. The Reds will have to treat these next three games like their playoff hopes rest on this series. That’s not going to make these games easy. They have three quality starters lined up for the series. The Cubs can’t just bank a Yu win. But if they could get two of these three, again they will be nudging towards a division title. The Cardinals will play a couple of doubleheaders and will have their last off day of the season. Their real busy stretch is just starting. We’ll know so much more soon.

Game 42, September 7: Cubs 5, Cardinals 1 (24-18)


Source: FanGraphs

THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero: Kyle Hendricks (.314). Exactly what the Cubs needed. Kyle throws eighth innings allowing seven hits and one run. He struck out four and didn’t walk anybody.
  • Hero: Ian Happ (.116). Ian has really thrived in the leadoff spot. He had a double and three walks in five plate appearances. He only scored once, but he really wore out Cardinals pitching with productive plate appearances.
  • Sidekick: Jason Kipnis (.102). Kipnis had two hits in two at bats. He drove in one run and scored another.

THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat: Anthony Rizzo (-.066). Anthony was hitless in four at bats. He did have a sacrifice fly though and a run scored on a double play that he hit into.
  • Goat: Victor Caratini (-.047). Vic was hitless in four at bats.
  • Kid: Willson Contreras (-.035). Contreras gets a tough luck spot here. He had a hit and a walk and drove in two runs in four plate appearances.

WPA Play of the Game: With the Cubs leading 2-0, Brad Miller batted with a runner on first and no outs. Kyle Hendricks coaxed a double play grounder off of the bat of Paul Goldschmidt. (.089)

*Cardinals Play of the Game: It was that kind of game. With runners on first and third in the bottom of the first, Johan Oviedo got Anthony Rizzo to hit into a double play, killing a chance at a bigger rally but giving the Cubs the lead. (.057)

Poll

Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 95%
    Kyle Hendricks
    (168 votes)
  • 4%
    Ian Happ
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Other
    (0 votes)
176 votes total Vote Now

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

  • Ian Happ 20
  • Yu Darvish 17
  • Jason Kipnis 14
  • Kris Bryant -10
  • Anthony Rizzo -10.5
  • Javier Baez -11

Up Next: Cincinnati comes in for three games. Alec Mills makes the start for the Cubs. He’ll oppose Tyler Mahle. The oddsmakers show the Cubs as a very slight favorite in this game. For scoreboard watching, the Cardinals host the Twins for a doubleheader and the Brewers head to Detroit to play the Tigers.