Like a lot of the 2021 Cubs season to date, this road trip will be one the Cubs are going to be a little disappointed with. Whether it’s holding the Indians to five total runs over two games and losing both or scoring 17 runs over three games against the lowly Tigers and still losing one, they have to feel like they missed an opportunity on this trip. With three losses in nine games to the Pirates, a handful of one-run defeats, some blown saves, etc. it just feels like the Cubs have left some wins on the table that they probably could have had.
Still, they won on Sunday. They did take two out of three over the weekend. It’s hard to be too distraught. Most important was the way the Cubs won on Sunday. Kyle Hendricks was strong, pitching into the ninth inning. Ian Happ contributed significantly to the offense. Those two have been key performers for the Cubs in the past, particularly in 2020. But bother have been less than here in 2021. Those two getting themselves right improves the equation for the Cubs.
A healthy, productive Kris Bryant is a dynamic offensive threat. Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras are all a notch off of the high end performance we’ve seen and we know they are capable of. But, all three have been contributing to the offense. The bullpen has been above average and as with most teams, figures to continue to improve over the course of the season as people settle into roles and the cream rises to the top.
This team needs much more consistency out of its starting rotation. Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction for Hendricks who has traditionally gotten better as the year wears on. Another guy who that is true for is Zach Davies. He too has looked like he is rounding into form of late. Jake Arrieta has been pretty solid when healthy. Adbert Alzolay has the best stuff of the rotation and it certainly feels like his performance has been much better than what his numbers have shown.
The Cubs also need a more balanced lineup. In addition to Bryant, Rizzo, Baez and Contreras, Matt Duffy has been a force in the lineup. But the Cubs have been getting very little from Jason Heyward, David Bote, and Ian Happ. It would be a big boost to this team if one or more of those guys could provide some consistent production. Happ was a star last year until he got hurt late into the season. The Cubs are a much stronger team when his switch-hitting bat is productive.
Happ did produce on Sunday. Let’s go to the numbers and see if he made it onto the podiums for his strong effort. 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 39, May 16: Cubs 5 at Tigers 1 (19-20)
- Superhero: Kyle Hendricks (.321). 8IP (30 batters faced), 8H, 0BB, R, 8K (W 3-4)
- Hero: Ian Happ (.186). 3-4, HR, 2B, 2RBI, 2R
- Sidekick: David Bote (.075). 1-5, 2B, RBI, R, K
- Billy Goat: Joc Pederson (-.084). 0-4, 2K
- Goat: Javier Baez (-.065). 2-5, 3K
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.030). 1-4, 2B, BB, K
WPA Play of the Game: In the fourth inning, Ian Happ batted with runners on first and second and two outs. The Cubs were ahead 1-0. Happ hit a two-out RBI double and increased the lead by one. (.120)
*Tigers Play of the Game: Willson Contreras followed Happ, coming to the plate with runners on second and third. He flied out, ending the inning. (.047)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Anthony Rizzo (2H)
Javier Baez (2H)
Dan Winkler (IP, 3 batters faced, K)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Kris Bryant +10
- Craig Kimbrel +8
- Jake Marisnick +7
- Jason Adam -6
- David Bote -7
- Zach Davies -8
Up Next: The Cubs return home, but there is no rest for the weary. The Nationals are in town Monday night for the first of four games. Old pal Jon Lester is set to make the start for the Nationals in the opener, so that figures to be an emotional moment and evening. The Cubs are scheduled to start Adbert Alzolay. The Cubs will look for their third win in four tries. If they can do that, they’ll return to the .500 mark once again.