Statisticians will continue to tell us that clutch isn’t a thing. Well, let me say that isn’t right. Obviously, in every sport we see clutch performances. Be it a superstar or just an ordinary guy on the team, sometimes they rise above the moment and come through spectacularly at exactly the right time. We canonize those people. No one can ever forget Michael Jordan’s shot against the Cavaliers. Or the one against the Jazz. Or Tiger Woods’ long put to win a major. In the sport that’s nearest and dearest to us there was Kirk Gibson who could barely walk but walked it off. There’s a memorable Joe Carter blast and so, so many others.
But they tell us that there doesn’t appear to be any long term demonstrable “clutch” player. Over a stretch of time, maybe even as long as a whole season, a player may flat out crush clutch situations. But over time, in those situations, players revert to their statistical norm within margins of error.
So that guy we can only remember succeeding in all of the biggest moments? Well, we forget an awful lot of the time when they failed in that spot. I know as a huge Bulls fan, I can’t remember the ones Jordan missed. Certainly, I know none of them came in the NBA Finals. So we have a bit of a perception bias. We’ll collectively probably never forget David Bote’s ultimate slam against the Nationals. And right here and right now, we remember a huge three-run double against Clayton Kershaw and we remember that he came back hours later and lined one into the gap to end a memorable sweep.
Staring down the double barrel that was Kershaw and Trevor Bauer, I’d have been ecstatic if you told me the Cubs would walk away with one win. And then Craig Kimbrel allowed a game-tying solo homer after the Cubs had bobbled away two different golden offensive opportunities in the fifth and sixth innings. Then Dillon Maples faltered and allowed two in the eighth and it felt like a terrible way to split. Like they had a sweep in their grasp and let it get away.
Javier Baez is kind of a reverse of the David Bote situation. I mean we have that colossal homer in Game 2 and multiple times where he hit an extra-inning homer that ended up being a game winner. And of course the game winner against Cueto in the 2016 Division Series that will probably forever remain the coolest baseball moment I ever saw live. Your mileage may vary, but what I always remember about Javy is the strikeouts. When he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth as the tying run, it didn’t take Nostradamus for me to predict to the family that Javy was heading up there with one plan, hitting a game tying homer. Eyes rolled and a “no duh” response followed. And then he did it. I was certain he’d strike out. Or pop out to short instead of extending the inning with a single.
I’ll never deserve Javy. When you are one of the guys who always wants to take “the shot,” you are going to come up empty. Plenty. Javy is no exception to that. There are many times when he’s failed while trying to make the huge play. But yeah, he’s made so many massive plays. That was one clutch homer. The Cubs will have their work cut out for them, of course, against a very talented Dodgers team. But they’ll take the field Wednesday evening with a chance at a sweep. It takes a team to win a game, but boy does it feel like Javy stole one from the jaws of defeat and the Cubs turned it into a win (with a little help from Bote).
There will be so many ups and downs through the remainder of the season. But none of it can erase that the Cubs beat Kershaw and Bauer one day in May. Well, they didn’t technically beat Bauer. But he was losing when he left and the Cubs did eventually win. Let’s savor this one. No matter what happens in the final game of the series, the Cubs swept a doubleheader from the defending World Series champions.
And with that happy thought, 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 29, May 4: Cubs 7, Dodgers 1 (13-16)
- Superhero: David Bote (.155). 1-3, 2B, 3RBI
- Hero: Kyle Hendricks (.147). 7IP (30 batters faced), 7H, BB, R, 6K, HBP (W 2-3)
- Sidekick: Anthony Rizzo (.088). 1-3, RBI, K
- Billy Goat: Willson Contreras (-.016). 0-3, BB, 2K
- Goat: Ildemaro Vargas (-.014). 1-3, R, SB, K
- Kid: Javier Baez (.021). 0-2, BB, R, K
WPA Play of the Game: David Bote came to the plate with the Cubs leading 1-0, the bases loaded and one out. The opposing pitcher was Clayton Kershaw. David launched one deep that was knocked down a bit by the wind, but still managed to hit off the wall and turn into a three-run double. (.149)
*Dodgers Play of the Game: Mookie Betts started off the ball game by hitting a groundball to short off of Kyle Hendricks. Javier Baez made the first of three errors he would make in this game. (.041).
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game for Game 1?
This poll is closed
Game 30, May 4: Cubs 4, Dodgers 3 (14-16)
- Superhero: Javier Baez (.522). 1-2, HR (8), 2RBI, R
- Hero: Keegan Thompson (.201). 3⅔ IP (13 batters faced), 2H, 2BB, 0R, 2K
- Sidekick: Justin Steels (.134). IP (4 batters faced), 0H, BB, 0R, 2K (W 1-0)
- Billy Goat: Dillon Maples (-.413). IP (5 batters faced), H, BB, 2R (1ER), WP, 2K
- Goat: Craig Kimbrel (-.208). IP (4 batters faced), H, 0BB, R, 2K
- Kid: Tony Wolters (-.119). 1-3, S, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Javier Baez batted with two outs and a runner on third, the Cubs trailing 3-1 in the eighth inning, in a game scheduled to go seven innings. With Dodgers pitcher Mitch White on the hill, Javy hit a long game-tying homer. (.488).
*Dodgers Play of the Game: Max Muncy batted against Craig Kimbrel with one out and the bases empty in the seventh inning, the Cubs leading 1-0. He launched a game-tying homer. (.356)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game for Game 2?
This poll is closed
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Craig Kimbrel +9
- Jake Marisnick +7
- Adbert Alzolay/Kris Bryant +4
- Jason Adam -6
- Ian Happ -7
- Zach Davies -11
Up Next: The teams meet one more time Wednesday night. Adbert Alzolay is scheduled to start for the Cubs as they go for the sweep.