First and foremost, I hope everyone out there had an excellent Sunday and more importantly that they helped remind all of the mothers in their life just how special they are. Deep thoughts, but all of us had a mother and none of us would exist without them. Most of them are perfect, but they are a piece of all of us, an important one. It’s important to let them know how much they matter, because they never hear it enough. Guaranteed.
That last part was the really, really important part. Because by and large, this was a lousy baseball game. Full disclosure, I don’t watch every Cubs game. But I saw every gruesome moment of the first few innings of Sunday’s game. Because I did, I have an unusual observation. Actually, it’s two smaller observations that work together into one contradiction in terms.
First, the game wasn’t as close as the score. The Cubs tacked on three late runs and that made a one-run game out of a game that was basically never close. The Pirates scored early and often and it never really felt like the Cubs had any real chance in this one. Though as a side note, there is some irony in that the Cubs late rally made this a one-run game. That now makes five consecutive one-run games for the Cubs. You just aren’t going to keep winning those.
The second thought is the game was actually much closer than it looked. Had I not watched this game, I’d have probably written that Kyle Hendricks had another alarming start and that I was starting to worry about him a little. Some of you would have pointed out exactly what I saw. None of the balls that did damage in the first inning were struck well. Sure, there were a couple later that were and some damage that resulted from that. But generally when you induce as much soft contact the first time through the order as Kyle did on Sunday, you are sitting on a no-hitter in the fourth inning.
This also makes me laugh even making this point. I was literally just reminded of a Hawk Harrelson story. I want to say they were losing a game at the Metrodome something like 17-4 to the Twins. It was one of those games where Hawk went like two innings without offering a single word. Always the consummate professional he was. Then finally, he broke his silence to let out a whole rant on how the Twins hadn’t struck a ball well all day. I’d look back at my last paragraph and tell me the same thing I thought to Hawk that day. All of the runs count. The ones that score on errors, walks, duck snorts, floaters, dinks, dunks. Literally however they get there. They all count.
But, this is one of those, I’m just going to tear off the page on the calendar and move on to the next game. Kyle definitely needs to keep working to get into his groove. He’s been here before and he’s done this before and I’m positive he will do it again. Sunday was just not his day. I’m happy the Cubs offense pushed five runs across, including a couple against two pitchers in the ninth inning who hadn’t previously been tagged for an earned run this year. They fought to the end and that has more positive value than the first inning rally does negative.
I’m still trying to calibrate for the new modern baseball. I certainly worry about the number of guys in the Cubs lineup who have basically been devoid of any production. But then I look around and that’s far from a situation isolated to just the Cubs. I’m not telling you anything new or revolutionary, pitching and defense have flat out dominated the early season. Kris Bryant has been one of the most productive hitters in baseball. Jake Marisnick and Matt Duffy have been very productive. Javier Baez has been explosive. Nico Hoerner had a really great 10 days before getting hurt. The Cubs have gotten some pretty good offensive production relative to other teams. I think then the question is, can the Cubs pitching staff be as good as some of these very excellent staffs around baseball are? I know their defense, when players are healthy, is very good and adds value to games.
How far the Cubs go is going to rely on the continued forward progress of Kyle Hendricks, Zach Davies and Trevor Williams. It’s not quite Dexter Fowler and “you go, we go,” but there is just a little similarity. I think if those three can be above average and can get some consistent length in games that they haven’t been getting, then the bullpen shortens and every bullpen gets better when that happens.
And with that bit of wisdom, we’ll get to the numbers. 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. And now, let’s get to the results.
Game 34, May 9: Pirates 6 at Cubs 5 (17-17)
- Superhero: Kris Bryant (.122). 1-2, 2B, 2BB, 2R
- Hero: Joc Pederson (.094). 3-4, 2RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Ildemaro Vargas (.033). 1-4, 2B, 2RBI, K
- Billy Goat: Kyle Hendricks (-.359). 5IP (27 batters faced), 9H, BB, 6R (4ER), 3K (L 2-4)
- Goat: Javier Baez (-.140). 0-1
- Kid: David Bote (-.105). 0-4
WPA Play of the Game: Wilmer Difo batted with runners on second and third with two outs in the first inning, the Pirates already leading 2-0. He singled to left off of Kyle Hendricks and the Pirates pressed their lead to 4-0. (.147)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Ildemaro Vargas batted with two outs in the ninth inning and runners at the corners. The Cubs were down 6-3 at the time. He hit a double and two runs scored on the play, cutting the deficit to a single run. (.097)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Anthony Rizzo (1-3, HBP, 2R)
Dillon Maples (IP, 3 batters, 2K and his birthday)
Justin Steele (2IP, 7 batters, BB, 2K)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Craig Kimbrel +10
- Matt Duffy +7.5
- Jake Marisnick/Kris Bryant +7
- Ian Happ -7
- David Bote/Zach Davies -8
Up Next: An off day Monday followed by a two-game series in Cleveland. Adbert Alzolay is slated to throw the opener on Tuesday evening. He’ll be looking to help the Cubs get back into the win column and get above .500 again.