I’m going to start today’s edition with a special personal update. I write this in the wee hours of the morning on Friday after a long, long day finalizing packing. This weekend, we load up the moving van and head for the Tampa area, after just shy of 47 years in Illinois, all but three of them spent in the Chicago area (while I was away at school in Champaign). I am leaving behind a lot of good memories, but I am very, very ready to start a new chapter. From your perspective as the reader, this serves as a heads up that one or more of the next several Heroes and Goats pieces could be truncated and/or late. I’m going to do my best to stay on schedule as time permits. I just can’t yet know what time will permit. In the long term, there should be no change though. I’ll continue to write from Florida and when free time allows, I’ll discover the joy that is trying to follow the Cubs from out of market.
But enough about me. The Cubs are right in the middle of one of their best stretches of the season. They finished a three game sweep of the Pirates on Thursday. The 5-3 win was their fourth straight. They are now 16-7 in May with all seven losses coming by one run. The Cardinals won their second straight after a rough patch, so they continue to hold the Cubs off, but only by a half a game. It’s early, but this month has very squarely put the Cubs into contention in the Central. In fact, only the Cardinals and the three contenders from the West (Giants, Dodgers, Padres) have a better record than the Cubs in the NL. Certainly, some of the projections still haven’t acknowledged the Cubs as contenders, but some of them are starting to recognize the Cubs as the favorite in the division. Thirty days or so ago, that would have been an absurd thought. Kudos to David Ross and the team leadership for getting things pointed in the right direction.
Besides pointing out that fantastic May record, I’ve been pointing out the number of guys contributing to the team’s success. A long period of sustained winning will almost always be led by a group of players. One or two players can carry a team for a few days or even a week. But once you start looking at a strong month, you need a lot of guys contributing. I’d pointed out recently the number of players who have been key. In the last four days, four different players have had their first Superhero position of the month (Craig Kimbrel, Joc Pederson, Trevor Williams and now Ryan Tepera). 16 different Cubs have been the Superhero now in 23 games played and none of those 16 are Anthony Rizzo, so there’s a very good chance there will be at least one more.
The Cubs are getting contributions from a bunch of different directions. They are winning games and they are having fun. There have been so many great times to be a Cubs fan over the last six plus years. This month is definitely one of them.
Let’s take a look at how things stacked up by WPA on Thursday. 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 49, May 27: Cubs 5 at Pirates 3 (27-22)
- Superhero: Ryan Tepera (.282). 1⅓ IP (5 batters faced), 0H, 0BB, 0R, 2K (Sv 1)
- Hero: Kyle Hendricks (.141). 7IP (26 batters faced), 6H, 0BB, 3R, 5K (W 5-4)
- Sidekick: Kris Bryant (.079). 2-5, HR (11), 2RBI, R, K
- Billy Goat: Rafael Ortega (-.083). 0-4
- Goat: Dan Winkler (-.059). ⅔ IP, H, 2BB, 0R, 0K, HBP
- Kid: Joc Pederson (-.036). 0-1, K
WPA Play of the Game: Erik Gonzalez batted with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning. Ryan Tepera entered the game and induced a ground ball to second for an inning ending fielder’s choice. (.196)
*Pirates Play of the Game: Michael Perez batted against Kyle Hendricks with two outs in the seventh inning, the Cubs led 4-2. Perez changed that with one swing of the bat, slugging a solo homer to cut the lead by one. (.125) The homer was the third of three solo shots allowed by Hendricks on the day.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Javier Baez (that play?!?)
Willson Contreras (2-5)
Patrick Wisdom (2-3, HR, 2B)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Kris Bryant +17
- Craig Kimbrel +13
- Keegan Thompson +9.5
- Zach Davies/David Bote -9
- Javier Baez -13
Up Next: The Cubs open up a three-game set at Wrigley Field against the Reds. The Reds are just 22-26. They’ve lost seven of 10 and they are now five games off the pace in the Central. The Cubs are scheduled to start Adbert Alzolay. Adbert is yet another Cub regular who doesn’t yet have a Superhero placement this month. Seems like as good a time as any to get one. Hopefully he does and it helps propel the Cubs to a fifth consecutive win.