Something about Los Angeles has clicked with Jason Heyward. His bat has come alive. In this series, Jason is 7-for-9 with a double and three walks. He’s scored three of the Cubs’ eight runs in the series. And then he hit an apparent go-ahead home run Saturday night. Until he didn’t. In one of those plays where the national broadcast did a lousy job of getting the story, Jason Heyward hit that apparent go-ahead home run late in Saturday night’s game. Fox did show at least one replay that showed one thing very clearly. The umpire had perfect position watching to see the fair/foul call. He called it a home run. But he was overruled from an umpire who didn’t have nearly as good a position. The New York replay people didn’t overturn the call and the Cubs had a crucial run taken off the board in a game where it was fairly apparent one run was eventually going to decide it.
I don’t get a lot into frustration with umpires or network broadcasts, but I’m certainly frustrated about this one. Most particularly Fox who I’ve seen play 10 replays of an obvious call during a football game. But they went with two (?) replays of a significant call in this one. I was certainly less than satisfied that the umpires got the call right.
Aside from the frustration of that call, the production from Jason Heyward is like manna from the heavens. People worried a lot when David Ross became the manager of the Cubs that he might show favoritism for his old pal Jon Lester, that he might have trouble taking Lester out of games. But of course, Ross’ career was spent watching pitchers for signs of injury or fatigue. There were never any issues there. But what about a guy who Heyward has gone out of his way to compliment for being a mentor to him while Heyward was a young guy in the sport? Without mincing words, Jason Heyward has been terrible at the plate in 2021.
I love the guy. I always have. He exudes leadership. No matter what is going on, when you hear him interviewed he always gives you a calm and rational answer. Here is a guy who is going to have a calming influence on the guys around him. But it goes deeper than that. While he’s giving you all of that calm, he really gives you some really great insights. Jason Heyward is a terrific interview. He’s been around baseball a long time so sometimes he will absolutely give you something akin to I’m giving it my best or I’m looking for a pitch to drive. But often, he’ll go way beyond that. Really calmly give you the temperature of the room and give some sage advice that he’s imparting to his teammates.
So again with my own full disclosure: I love the guy. That last paragraph is an abridged ode to the guy for sure. But, let’s be clear, his bat for much of 2021 has been a drag on a Cubs lineup that due to injuries really has a lot of drags on it. Even against left-handed pitching, he’s in there pretty much every single night. Does David Ross have a Jason Heyward problem?
But then these last three nights have happened. We’ve seen some glimpses of the things Jason can do offensively. That led him to a pretty unique accomplishment in the world of Heroes and Goats. I’m relatively certain that this is the first time since I started writing this feature in 2017 that a player has finished consecutively in the Sidekick, then the Hero, then the Superhero in three consecutive games. That’s all the more remarkable when we talk about a guy who has fairly consistently been at or very near the bottom of the cumulative standings all year long. Boy, would it have been nice to have that late solo homer as a cherry on top, particularly if the Cubs bullpen could then have made it hold up. You can’t just superimpose the rest of the game on that scenario. But certainly, if the Cubs had been leading 3-2 heading to the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers would have been looking at Craig Kimbrel and not Keegan Thompson.
Would haves and should haves will kill you. The call went the other way and this one ended in a loss. The Cubs will have to try to bounce back. And they’ll hopefully take solace in the knowledge that the Dodgers were clearly out playing them that they clearly are a more talented bunch and yet the Dodgers just couldn’t put more runs on the board early. The Cubs hung around, clawed back and then were in position to win. It just didn’t go their way.
Let’s go 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 77, June 26: Dodgers 3, Cubs 2 (42-35)
- Superhero: Jason Heyward (.162). 3-4, 2B, R
- Hero: Ian Happ (.152). 1-1, 2B, RBI
- Sidekick: Dan Winkler (.122). 1⅔ IP (7 batters faced), H, BB, 0R, 3K
- Billy Goat: Keegan Thompson (-.374). ⅔ IP (3 batters faced), H, 0BB, R, 0K (L 3-2)
- Goat: Willson Contreras (-.173). 0-4, 2K
- Kid: Kris Bryant (-.156). 0-4, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Cody Bellinger’s walk-off homer against Keegan Thompson with two outs in the ninth inning. (.468)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Ian Happ’s pinch-hit double in the fifth inning tied the game at two. (.152)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Anthony Rizzo (1-4, HR)
Brad Wieck (1 1⁄3 IP, 4 batters faced)
Rex Brothers IP, 3 batters faced)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Craig Kimbrel +18
- Kris Bryant +13
- Jake Marisnick +10
- Eric Sogard -8.5
- Jake Arrieta -9
- PJ Higgins -9.5
Up Next: The fourth and final game of the series and also the seventh and final game in the season series between the two teams. The Cubs won the first four games, so they have already won this season series. But they’d sure like to split this series and make it five of seven. They’ll send Adbert Alzolay to the hill against Clayton Kershaw. Interestingly, despite pitching on a very good team and having a 3.43 ERA, Kershaw only has a W/L record of 8-7. Alzolay carries a 4.19 ERA and a 4-6 W/L record. Once again, another tough matchup against a left-handed starter.