Rafael Ortega is playing like a man auditioning for a bit part on a playoff contender. Above we see him pictured slamming into the wall after making a nice running catch in centerfield. On top of that, he added two hits at the plate. Without overstating the importance of Heroes and Goats, Ortega hasn’t been on the negative side of the ledger since June 24. He’s appeared on the positive side five times for a total of +9. He was in the Goat spot on June 24, but the two days before that he was on the positive side both times and dating back to June 21, he is +10. This is a guy who doesn’t get a lot of opportunity, but for a while now he’s cashed in on a not insignificant amount of the chances that he has received.
Aside from that, there wasn’t a lot working for the Cubs. Alec Mills was sunk by some shoddy defense. He gets an ugly line of five runs allowed in only four innings of work. But only one of the five was earned. One earned run in four innings is not at all bad. He left for a pinch hitter though laboring through an error-filled fourth inning might have cost him a fifth inning of work regardless. Still, I’m not saying anything negative about Mills in this one. Strikeout, error, single, walk, error at least sounds like an inning that should have been scoreless. You can never guarantee sequencing, but he pitched well enough to gotten through that inning with just the single run he’d allowed in the third.
The offense did put up three runs. Starting with scoring 28 runs in the last five games before the break, the offense has been better. They’ve added 16 more in four games since the break. You can take your pick, the offense in those five games before the break averaged 5.6 runs per game, but the team lost three games in part due to being shut out twice. In the alternative, you can pick the offense after the break. They’ve split four games averaging exactly four runs per game. Two small samples, two subpar results against teams heading in the wrong direction.
Of course, the Cubs are a team heading in the wrong direction. It’s so hard to imagine that it was on June 24 that the Cubs no hit the Dodgers and were tied for first in the division, nine games over .500. They are 11 games under .500 in that time and have lost 9½ games in the division race. The only real question left for this team is who stays and who goes. I saw one reputable baseball insider suggest that the over/under on Cubs players traded this July is five. That includes Joc Pederson who is already gone. So four more would be a push, five or more would be the over on that deal.
I believe that at least two and maybe three relievers will be traded. The questions I have are as follows. 1) Will the Cubs find a suitor for Zach Davies? 2) Will the Cubs trade one of their “core” players? 3) Will they move some of their spare parts (Ortega, Jake Marisnick)? I kind of think the answers are no, no, yes. But certainly, any, all or none would all make sense. Particularly for the core it is about finding the right fit, the right return in a trade. For the spare parts and Davies, the upside to a trade are clear. The question is are there teams out there willing to give at least something of value, even a high risk type return for them?
Time will tell. Let’s go to the numbers and turn the page on another clunker. 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 94, July 19: Cardinals 8, Cubs 3 (46-48)
- Superhero: Rafael Ortega (.037). 2-4, K
- Hero: Eric Sogard (.027). 1-4
- Sidekick: Willson Contreras (.021). 1-4, 2B
- Billy Goat: Alec Mills (-.236). 4IP (21 batters faced), 5H, 2BB, 5R (1ER), 6K (L 4-3)
- Goat: Javier Baez (-.112). 0-3, 2K
- Kid: Ian Happ (-.086). 0-1, DP
WPA Play of the Game: In the bottom of third inning, the game was still scoreless when Dylan Carlson stepped to the plate with a runner on second and no outs. He singled and the Cardinals had a lead they’d never relinquish. (.101)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Willson Contreras doubled leading off the game. (.061)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Anthony Rizzo (2-4, 2B)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Craig Kimbrel +18
- Kris Bryant +17
- Kyle Hendricks +10
- Rex Brothers -10.5
- Jake Arrieta -14
- Ian Happ -15
Up Next: Game two of a four-game set is Tuesday night in St. Louis. Trevor Williams is scheduled to start for the Cubs. Trevor is 3-2 with a 5.51 ERA on the season. It’s possible the Cardinals will recall Johan Oviedo from Triple-A to make the start. Oviedo is 0-5 with a 5.09 ERA. This is the third straight game that looks pretty equal on paper, at least in terms of the pitching matchup. Will the Cubs lose again?