When your team is out of contention, one of the best things you can hope for is some unexpected things to root for. Al and I have both talked about the outside chance of 20 wins for Kyle Hendricks. (I say outside, because he should start having what I’ll call the deGrom problem. Bad offense, average defense, bad bullpen behind him). But that isn’t like WAY out there. Kyle is so consistently good, none of us are going to be like oh my gosh, I can’t believe THAT guy had a 20-win season. No offense to the other people in the rotation, but literally everyone else who has started a game in 2021 for the Cubs would be a more shocking guy to get anywhere near 20 wins anywhere in the near future.
Nah, I’m talking about mundane achievements or obscure stuff. Like, will the Romine brothers play together before the end of the season? That would be neat for them. I know Rick and Paul Reuschel were the last two Cubs to appear on the same team. Are Corey and Eric Patterson the last two Cubs who were brothers who both played for the Cubs? Searching for the answer to brothers who played for the Cubs became surprisingly hard to do once Rex Brothers became a Cub. I had to find a couple of different ways to approach Google before I came up with the Reuschels who I knew since I do remember Rick and had heard about them playing together.
Rafael Ortega is one of those really obscure achievements. Al already picked up on the fact that Rafael only had three homers prior to this season and now has a three-homer game. Of course, that was completely upstaged by Seby Zavala of the White Sox who hit three homers, making him the first player to have his first three home runs be in a three-homer game. That’s a pretty boss achievement. But I’d expect there is some chance that we are going to hear that Rafael Ortega never had a three-homer game at any level, dating back to high school and little league. That makes for a pretty obscure achievement. And really, good for Rafael. I mentioned after his hot streak started, before the power came in, that he might make for an interesting fourth outfielder for a season or two. He’s definitely making a pitch to at least be a placeholder until the next generation of Cubs talent starts graduating center fielders.
From my perspective, the next number I’m looking at is the record for most unique players recording points (positive or negative) for the Rizzo Award. The current record is 51 in 2019. With Manuel Rodriguez for Sunday’s game, there have now been 49 distinct entries (ignoring a separate entry for Jake Arrieta, pinch hitter). Once that record falls, I’ll start looking at what the record is for most different Cubs to appear in at least one game. I suspect the Cubs are closing in on that record as well (obviously, these two go hand in hand).
These are the types of things that keep my mind busy while the team is unfortunately racking up losses faster than anyone is really happy with. (Though the improved draft position is certainly nice.) If any of you have ideas for mundane or obscure things that I can keep an eye out for happening this year along the lines of those above, make a suggestion in the comments.
Until then let’s go to the numbers where we’ll see that Mr. Ortega ran up the third highest game score by WPA of the year for the Cubs. 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 107, August 1: Nationals 6, Cubs 5 (51-56)
- Superhero: Rafael Ortega (.548). 4-4, 3HR (4,5,6), 5RBI, 3R, CS
- Hero: Codi Heuer (.109). IP (4 batters faced), H, BB
- Sidekick: Adam Morgan (.049). IP (3 batters faced), K
- Billy Goat: Manuel Rodriguez (-.359). 0IP (1 batter faced), H, R
- Goat: Matt Duffy (-266). 0-4, K, DP
- Kid: Adbert Alzolay (-.212). 5IP (26 batters faced), 7H, 4BB, 4R, HBP, WP, 4K
(Another mundane thing, despite his struggles, Alzolay hasn’t allowed more than four runs in any start)
WPA Play of the Game: Yadiel Hernandez led off the bottom of the ninth off of Manny Rodriguez. He only needed one swing of the bat to un-tie the game. (.359)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Rafael Ortega batted with a runner on first in the top of the eighth inning and the Cubs down two. He connected on his third homer of the day to tie the game. (.307)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Patrick Wisdom +14
- Nico Hoerner +12
- Rafael Ortega +11 (six games in a row somewhere in the mix, with five positive appearances)
- David Bote -9
- PJ Higgins -9.5
- Rex Brothers -13.5
- Jake Arrieta -14
- Ian Happ -19
Up Next: The Cubs have their first day off since the All-Star break (17 games, 7-10 record). After the day off, they’ll travel to Colorado to play the Rockies for the first time. Like the Cubs, the Rockies are out of contention. The Cubs are listing Zach Davies as the starter in the first game of the series. He is 6-7 with a 4.39 ERA. The Rockies will counter with Kyle Freeland. Kyle is 1-6 with a 4.52 ERA. This one looks relatively evenly matched on paper, but the Rockies didn’t really participate in the selloff and still have their most productive players.