Saturday night, the Cubs lost their third straight game. The Giants are just a little bit hotter and just a little bit healthier and that’s been too much for the Cubs. Oddly, the three games have all followed the same formula. A Cub hit a two-run homer the first time through the order and the team took the lead. Then the Giants battered Cubs pitching the second time through the order.
Earlier in the week, I asked you where your confidence level was with the Cubs. Did you believe the team was for real or more of a mirage? I used my usual sporting analogy for the mirage. As someone who grew up with the Peanuts series, I always think of Lucy moving the football just as Charlie Brown was about to try to kick it. Inevitably, Charlie always ended up on his back, a little frustrated and a lot embarrassed.
If you follow my writing, you know that I try very hard not to get too high when things are going great and especially to not get too low when things are getting bad. It doesn’t always work. I’m a fan first and I get frustrated just like many of you do. I also get caught up in euphoria when everything is clicking. Right now, I’m feeling a little like Charlie Brown. But I’m also trying not to read too much into one series. Sweeping the Padres (and the Dodgers earlier) didn’t magically anoint the Cubs as NL favorites. So even if they get swept by the Giants, it shouldn’t wipe out all of the positive that occurred in May either.
Rather, my problem is the same problem that has existed for so long. This team can really get hamstrung by good pitching executed well. Of course, every team has that problem. There is a reason why offense is down all across baseball. The difference? The reason that it concerns me? Because I just can’t see the Cubs starting pitching being able to do the same in the other direction. Adbert Alzolay is having his first extended look in the majors. Very few pitchers just bust down the door, become good and keep right on going. The path to the top is usually rocky and filled with setbacks. Even still, I’ll give you Alzolay as one pitcher who might really handcuff an opposing lineup a couple of times through the order. It takes at least three and often four of those these days.
I simply do not believe that the Cubs have those other two to three starters. Kyle Hendricks has the kind of track record that does lead me to believe that he’ll figure out the problems that have plagued him now through more than a third of a season. Zach Davies also has some pretty good history, albeit less of it. It’s hard right now for me to look at Hendricks, Davis and Alzolay as a trio that is going to go toe to toe with the heavyweights in the NL and give the Cubs a real chance to get deep into the playoffs.
Sure, with this Cubs offense I will always at least acknowledge the puncher’s chance. Particularly in one series, they could really get going and buzzsaw a team. It’s generally gone the other way in the playoffs where pitching often reigns supreme. But, they at least have a chance to do that. So if they get in, I won’t think they are totally just roadkill. But this is what always nags me with this team. It has for a handful of years now. They are just a little short.
On that somber note and WAY too early analysis of this team’s chances in the playoffs, let’s turn our attention to the numbers on what was a pretty interesting game from that perspective. 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 58, June 5: Giants 4, Cubs 3 (32-26)
- Superhero: Patrick Wisdom (.143). 1-3, HR (5), 2RBI, R, 2K
- Hero: Javier Baez (.110). 1-4, SB, 3K
- Sidekick: Anthony Rizzo (.089). 0-4, RBI, R, SB, K
- Billy Goat: Jason Heyward (-.249). 0-4, K
- Goat: Kohl Stewart (-.239). 3⅔ IP (19 batters faced), 7H, 2BB, 3R, 5K (1-1)
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.209). 0-4, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: With two out and a runner on first in the second inning, Patrick Wisdom produced the game’s first runs with a two-run homer. (.209)
*Giants Play of the Game: With two out and runners on second and third in the ninth inning and the Giants protecting a one run lead, Tyler Rogers got Jason Heyward to ground out to second to end the game. (.196)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Cory Abbott (2IP, H, BB, 0R, K)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Kris Bryant +19
- Craig Kimbrel +15
- Adbert Alzolay +10
- Zach Davies/Ian Happ/David Bote -8
- PJ Higgins -8.5
- Javier Baez -9
Up Next: The finale of the four-game set between the two teams is Sunday afternoon in San Francisco. Kyle Hendricks is scheduled to start for the Cubs. Kyle is actually 4-0 with a 2.60 ERA over his last four starts. Over that span, he has 21 strikeouts and only one walk in 27⅔ innings of work. On the year on the road, he is 3-1 with a 4.26 ERA. He’ll be squared off with Johnny Cueto. Like so many Giants, he’s having a bit of a renaissance year. He’s 4-1 with a 3.45 ERA on the season.