The people who know me best laugh at my over usage of analogies. To be sure, some of them can get a little strained. My brain wants to use a Titanic-like analogy for this Cubs season. As someone who’s seen the movie more times than I can readily count, there is definitely some comparison to be made of a ship that was moving faster than it probably had any business doing and not being ready from trouble when it came along.
But the thing about a ship and an iceberg, you usually see the iceberg and you certainly know that you are in the part of the world where that is a concern. I feel like I’m reaching just a little bit far to say that we could all see that June was going to be a challenging month and that the road trip that ended June and ran into July was going to be particularly tough. But was there someone among us who was seeing seven game losing streak kind of bad?
So I think I like the ship hitting the iceberg. This does have that kind of suddenness and completeness. But, it feels like this iceberg wasn’t in the northern Atlantic waters, but in a much warmer climate where you just wouldn’t expect a ‘berg. Maybe near Bermuda?
See what I mean about overreaching for an analogy here or there? Certainly, it is hyperbole to look at a game the first week in July and say that if the Cubs don’t win that one, that the season is lost. It just doesn’t work. If you could conclusively say that they are dead and buried, then the patient died on the table in Milwaukee and it was the ghosts of the 2021 Cubs that made the trip to Cincinnati. And, of course, from a purely mathematical standpoint, there are so many games left that any result is still possible. It wouldn’t even be a crazy number of standard deviations for this team, particularly if you bake in their results through the end of May and maybe into early June, to get back hot and make some noise.
That said, you certainly felt some urgency to stop the bleeding and turn the tide a bit in this series. So it was a great sign when Alec Mills brought his A game and the offense struck first, putting a run on the board relatively early. Everything seemed chipper for a little bit. All of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Patrick Wisdom returned from recent injury woes to play in this one. Bryant even had a couple of early hits.
But then, the rest of the game happened. For me, there were two iconic moments in this one. Not really any going out onto limbs here. In the sixth inning, Joey Votto stepped to the plate with the Reds down one and runners on first and second with two outs. The Cubs summoned Adam Morgan for this very important situation. Morgan who has been on the team less than a week. A guy who Al correctly pointed out that most of us remember more or less because he allowed a walk-off grand slam to Jason Heyward in 2018. The other moment was the last play of the game. With the tying run on base and two outs, the Cubs needed a pinch hitter. They sent Rafael Ortega to the plate.
Morgan allowed both inherited runners to score. Ortega struck out. Neither came through in their big moment. But this is such a microcosm of where things are for the Cubs. In the biggest situations, they sent two guys in to the lion’s den. One who I’d never heard of before he was called up this year and the other who I can only remember really for that walk-off slam. I didn’t expect either one to come through and I suspect most of you didn’t either.
I’m not here to bad mouth either Morgan or Ortega. I’m sure they are both great guys. I know both of them very badly wanted to succeed. And I’m sure along the way to getting where they are, they both have come through in situations like these at some level. They wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t. It’s just sad that when things matter most, it feels like the call is “Hey, new guy, come bail us out.” No points for new guys tonight.
Every season starting with 2017, the Cubs have gotten to a point in the season where things started going sideways. Every time there was a stretch where if felt like the ship just kept taking on water and no matter how hard they tried to bail it out, they just couldn’t keep the ship from sinking. Yeah, I just can’t stop with the analogies. But that’s how this feels.
I don’t know if it is real or imagined or arbitrary. I felt like when I watched championship teams from afar, it always felt like when things started going bad, that a star or two or three figuratively put their foot down and put a stop to it. I keep waiting for Kris Bryant to have a four extra-base hit game or Kyle Hendricks to throw a complete-game shutout. Craig Kimbrel can’t exactly go in and save a game in the third inning.
Whatever the case, it doesn’t feel like Bryant or Hendricks or Kimbrel or David Ross or anyone else is prepared to apply a tourniquet to the patient that is the 2021 Cubs season. Instead, we are just watching the patient bleed out on the table. Maybe, just maybe the patient died this past Monday in Milwaukee. Perhaps we are just waiting for the attending physician to call it.
This sucks, no question about it. 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 82, July 2: Reds 2, Cubs 1 (42-40)
- Superhero: Alec Mills (.310). 5⅔ IP (21 batters faced), 2H, BB, 2R, 9K, HBP (L 3-2)
- Hero: Dan Winkler (.045). IP (4 batters faced), H, 0BB, 0R, 2K, WP
- Sidekick: Andrew Chafin (.032). IP (3 batters faced), 0H, 0BB, 0R, K
- Billy Goat: Adam Morgan (-.307). ⅓ IP (2 batters faced), H, 0BB, 0R, 0K
- Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.158). 0-4, SB, 3K
- Kid: Javier Baez (-.151). 0-4, 3K
WPA Play of the Game: Votto’s two-out, two-run double in the sixth inning, referenced in the open. (.341)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Jason Heyward doubled with a runner on first and two outs in the fourth inning for the Cubs only run. (.138)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Jason Heyward (1-4, 2B, RBI)
Kris Bryant (2-4, R)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Craig Kimbrel +18
- Patrick Wisdom +13
- Kris Bryant/Jake Marisnick +12
- Ryan Tepera +6.5
- Ian Happ/David Bote -8
- PJ Higgins -9.5
- Jake Arrieta -11
- Eric Sogard -11.5
Up Next: These two teams will meet again Saturday afternoon. The Cubs will send Adbert Alzolay to the mound. Alzolay got rocked his last time out. He’s 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA on the season. On the other side, the Reds will send Tyler Mahle to the hill. He is 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA. Another fantastic looking matchup on paper. But the Cubs are due, right? Does it even work that way?