I look at today’s photo and my brain immediately goes to any old random season from the 1990s. Perhaps one of the 95ish-loss teams on a September afternoon. A handful of fans left in the park by the end to watch the Cubs nail down a rare win. Obviously, we all understand the need for the caution and concern around the ballpark, but regardless how long this drags on, I don’t think I’ll ever be used to watching professional sports being played in front of a largely empty stadium.
Alas, we are into our second season of just making do. Baseball, as with all of the other sports, is taking what it can get and trying to make the most of it. Slowly, fans are being allowed back and things are starting to feel a little more normal. The Cubs won the division in last year’s weird baseball season and they’ll be trying to do so again this year. It’s far too soon to know, but it certainly isn’t discouraging that they won two of three this weekend and that the one loss came when arguably the most consistent player on this team had a bad game.
Certainly, Thursday wasn’t all Kyle Hendricks’ fault. But you aren’t going to win many games when your starter isn’t in there by the fourth inning. The Cubs managed three runs in that game despite only collecting two hits. And they “only” allowed five runs while walking 11 Pirates. Either the two-hit or the 11-walk number is enough to sink a team. Having both was pretty much a knockout blow.
As much as baseball changes and evolves through the years, it is amazing how generally simple the game is. Get a good start, you have a good chance to win. The definition of a good start changes over time to be sure. Many of us grew up in times when starters were looked to for seven, eight or even nine innings. But now, six is plenty and sometimes even five. The Cubs got good starts on Saturday and Sunday both and they were able to pull through with two wins. You always want to get greedy against a team like the Pirates, who you expect to be bad. But two out of three is really never a bad result.
We’ll take it. And we’ll move on to a new challenge this week with the Brewers coming in to start the week, before the first road trip of the year begins. Before we can get into the Brewers, we need to look back at Sunday’s game.
With that, we’ll turn our attention to Heroes and Goats. As you’ll recall, 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 3, April 4: Cubs 4, Pirates 3 (2-1)
- Superhero: Craig Kimbrel (.167). 1 IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 2K (Sv 1)
- Hero: Kris Bryant (.165). 2-3, BB, 2B, RBI, R
- Sidekick: Ian Happ (.124). 1-2, HR (1), 2BB, RBI, 2R
- Billy Goat: Matt Duffy (-.083). 0-1, DP
- Goat: Willson Contreras (-.067). 0-4, 4K
- Kid: Rex Brothers (-.033). ⅔ IP (4 batters), 3H, 0BB, R, 0K
WPA Play of the Game: Rex Brothers entered the game with one out in the eighth inning, the Cubs protecting a 4-2 lead. He allowed a single, a double and another single, cutting the lead to one. But the next batter, Gregory Polanco, grounded into an inning-ending double play. (.180)
*Pirates Play of the Game: Colin Moran stepped to the plate with two outs and a runner on first, the Pirates trailing 3-0. He slugged a two run homer and cut the gap to one. (.167)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments below)
Up Next: Monday night, the Brewers come to town for the first time this year. The Cubs will look to make it three straight wins with newcomer Trevor Williams on the hill.