The Cubs stayed hot on Thursday, beating the Nationals 5-2, in so doing taking three of four in the series. They’ve also now won five of seven since their day off after being swept in Cleveland last week. The Cubs have been getting contributions from a large portion of the roster. Over those last seven games, 16 different players have been on the positive side of Heroes and Goats at least once (five players have appeared twice each).
One of those players who has now appeared twice was Thursday’s Superhero. Ian Happ and his two homers take the top spot for Thursday’s game. (He had the second spot on May 16 in Detroit too.) Ian got off to a very slow start to the 2021 season after being one of the team’s best players, and at times one of the best players in the National League, in 2020. But, Ian is heating up. After the game on April 30, Ian had a line of .133/.293/.173 with one homer. Despite missing almost two weeks with an injury this month, Ian now has his slash line up to .206/.320/.402 with six homers. Certainly, those are still not great numbers, but particularly his slugging percentage has taken off with five homers in eight games played in May.
Another player who has now appeared twice is Justin Steele. Justin is slowly getting thrown into more and more leverage situations. He recorded four outs in Thursday’s game and might have gone even deeper were it not for adventures on the bases. Certainly, one can be justified for being frustrated with the Cubs farm system and particularly their development of pitching over the last half dozen years or so. But, it’s fair to point out that the Cubs are receiving contributions from Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, Dillon Maples and most recently Tommy Nance. Success can be fleeting, particularly for relief pitchers. But, right now the Cubs are finally seeing some success out of their pitching prospects.
Now that I’ve spoiled two of the top three spots, let’s get to the numbers and see the rest of them. 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 43, May 20: Cubs 5, Nationals 2 (22-21)
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.273). 2-4, 2HR (5,6), 3RBI, 2R
- Hero: Justin Steele (.083). 1⅓ IP (5 batters faced), 0H, BB, 0R, 3K (W 2-0)
- Sidekick: Nico Hoerner (.078). 1-3, BB, K
- Billy Goat: Javier Baez (-.093). 0-4, R, SB, DP
- Goat: P.J. Higgins (-.049). 0-4, K
- Kid: Nick Martini (-.022). 0-2, SF, BB, RBI, R
WPA Play of the Game: Ian Happ batted in the bottom of the third inning with a runner on second and two outs, the Cubs were trailing 2-1. Ian hit the first of his two homers to give the Cubs the lead. (.229)
*Nationals Play of the Game: Josh Bell batted with two outs and none on in the top of the first. His homer gave the Nats an early lead. (.105)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Joc Pederson (2-5, RBI)
Anthony Rizzo (2-4, HBP)
Ryan Tepera (IP, 3 batters faced, 3K)
Cubs bullpen (4 1⁄3IP, 15 batters faced, H, 0BB, 0R, 9K)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Kris Bryant +13
- Craig Kimbrel +8
- Jake Marisnick +7
- Jason Adam/David Bote -6
- Javier Baez -10
- Zach Davies -11
Up Next: No rest ahead. After five wins in seven games in as many days, the Cubs travel to St. Louis for their first series of the year against the rival Cardinals. Kyle Hendricks will start the opener on Friday night. Kyle appears to be heading in the right direction. He has a 2.70 ERA with 17 strikeouts against two walks in 20 innings in his past three turns. You might recall that one of the oddities of COVID saw the Cubs not playing any games in St. Louis in 2020, so this is the first Cubs game in St. Louis in more than a year. It’s much too early to be looking at the standings, but if the Cubs could win two or three games over the weekend, they could get within striking distance of the division lead.