The Cubs haven’t had too many opportunities for a quality bat flip like the one pictured above. Willson Contreras got a perfect chance after hitting a dramatic ninth-inning homer. That capped a three-run ninth inning rally that snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat. Just recently I talked about baseball being different than pretty much all of the sports. The draft doesn’t have an outsized impact on your team and even when it does, it takes years to do so. So you don’t get teams tanking games. If you did, you’d see a lot of games like Saturday’s game. A bad team with a 2-1 lead late and they blew it.
But the Diamondbacks were trying to notch a win, however little it means to either their present or their future. I haven’t followed them and I haven’t looked at the numbers for Joakim Soria. Certainly, from the box score, I can see he is a garish 1-4 on the season. But I know him to have been a quality reliever and often strong closer through the years.
This is what happens when you face teams that aren’t quite as good. They don’t have waves and waves of relievers to throw at you. They got a very good start on Saturday and took a 2-1 lead to the ninth. But Soria got roughed up and the Cubs stole a win. This is something they haven’t done much of this year. Oh, they’ve jumped on some starters and won some games that on paper looked like mismatches. But they just haven’t really had much success in the late innings turning games around. That is despite a bullpen that, save for a two week stretch, was dominant.
So the Cubs won their second straight, their third in their last four, and their fourth in their last six. That gets them back to .500. They’ve escaped the first rung of hell. Unfortunately, there are still a few levels above that before they could even dream about any kind of miraculous comeback. Oh, for this team to be as good as a Dodgers team from 2017 that lost 16 of 17 including 11 straight and still made it to the World Series. Of course, that team was 91-36 when the losing started. At 92-52 at the end of the streak, no one was crying a river for them. It cost them a chance at the best in season record in baseball history, but didn’t derail their season as a whole.
This Cubs team didn’t have that kind of luxury. That losing streak likely doomed them. Hopefully, these guys who we’ve grown to love so much over the years can find some moments like they did on Saturday to enjoy this game. They certainly had some fun in May and early June. But trade season is no fun. And then if you survive trade season as a member of the team, playing with three quarters or less of a major league team is usually not much fun either. Every now and then you get to see some kids come up and tear it up. That can be fun. But there aren’t exactly a ton of guys setting the world on fire in Iowa. The guys who seem most likely to be a part of the next generation of competitive Cubs teams all seem to be a couple of years away (or already here).
Regardless, this one was a fun one. The team got back to .500. On Sunday, they’ll try for both their first series sweep and their first three-game winning streak since sweeping the Cardinals June 11-13. Before we can move on to Sunday, we need to recap Saturday, so let’s get to those 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 92, July 17: Cubs 4 at Diamondbacks 2 (46-46)
- Superhero: Willson Conteras (.504). 3-4, HR (14), 2RBI, 2R, HBP, K, CS
*This is the third-highest WPA game score of the year for the Cubs
- Hero: Robinson Chirinos (.313). 1-1, RBI
- Sidekick: Javier Baez (.188). 1-5, 2B, RBI, SB, 3K
- Billy Goat: Ian Happ (-.209). 0-3, BB, 2K, DP
- Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.186). 0-2, K
- Kid: Kris Bryant (-.170). 0-3, HBP, K
WPA Play of the Game: Willson Contreras batted with a runner on first and two outs in the ninth inning, the score was tied. Contreras took Soria deep with the only question being: Would it stay fair? It did and the Cubs went on to win. (.485) I believe this is the biggest single WPA event of the season in either direction for this Cubs season.
*Diamondbacks Play of the Game: With a runner on first and no outs in the seventh inning, the Cubs were trailing 2-1 and Ian Happ was at the plate. DBacks pitcher Joe Mantiply got Happ to ground into a double play. (.145)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Rafael Ortega (1-3, BB, 2B, R)
Cubs bullpen (4IP, 14 batters faced, 0H, 2BB, 0R, 7K)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Craig Kimbrel +18
- Kris Bryant +16
- Kyle Hendricks +10
- PJ Higgins, Eric Sogard, Rex Brothers -9.5
- Ian Happ/Jake Arrieta -14
Up Next: The third and final game of the year in Arizona for the Cubs. Zach Davies will get the start looking to lead the Cubs to a series sweep. Zach is 5-6 with a 4.37 ERA. He’ll be opposed by Merrill Kelly who is 5-7 with a 4.46 ERA. Two pretty similar pitchers on paper. Let’s see if the Cubs can carry over the momentum from a come from behind win and finish off a series sweep before heading to St. Louis for four games against the Cardinals.