I had a conversation this week with a White Sox fan. Neither one of us was trying to needle the other one too much. Those kinds of conversations are always fun. He was upset that Codi Heuer and Nick Madrigal are Cubs. I was disappointed that Craig Kimbrel was acquired by someone who didn’t want him to close. Those kinds of things. For a variety of reasons, it wasn’t one of those times where a Sox fan felt the need to have laughs at just how bad this year’s Cubs are.
One of the comments he made though was about the Cubs starting rotation. The comment went something like: “When did the Cubs decide to have a whole rotation of guys who just throw 85?” Obviously, this was a bit of an exaggeration. But I did concede that the Cubs appear much more interested in starters that rely on location and strategy a bit more than stuff and bravado. It’s that exact thing that leads me to leaning into a start made by Keegan Thompson, Justin Steele or Adbert Alzolay this year. Those guys do have a bit more “stuff” than say Kyle Hendricks, Trevor Williams or Saturday night’s starter, Alec Mills.
We talked about Mills and I said things that I say about Mills. First and foremost, he will always be a good story. At every level he ever reached, he was basically told that he’d never make it past that level. And yet he persisted. He didn’t take no for an answer and he never quit. His story is the kind that I eat up. I can’t not root for the guy. That said, I did concede that I do like having Mills around, but he should be the kind of guy that is your seventh or eighth starter. Working out of the pen and largely pitching in games where the starter got knocked out and you are just looking for a few innings to save the pen.
Alec Mills certainly doesn’t feel like a guy who has any business seeing a team a third time through the order and often times twice feels like you are pushing it. We’re just shy of one year removed from him throwing a no-hitter against a very good Brewers team that admittedly had a horrible offensive year at the plate. Because of those struggles, last night’s start might be even more amazing. This year’s White Sox team is not struggling. By batting average, they are fifth in baseball, by runs sixth, by OPS seventh. This is a very good offensive team. But there was Mills last night, pitching into the ninth inning and allowing only four hits and no runs.
Like the little engine that could, Alec just keeps on chugging. It isn’t always pretty and it’s usually not quite so dominant. But Alec keeps having some major league success. For a guy who was drafted in the 22nd round, he’s been fantastic. For reference, there were only 20 rounds in this year’s MLB draft. It is extremely likely in the modern environment that Alec wouldn’t even be drafted. But he’s building a lifetime of great memories of success at the MLB level. How fun is that? To me, Alec represents some of the best parts of baseball.
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 131, August 28: Cubs 7 at White Sox 0 (57-74)
- Superhero: Alec Mills (.211). 8⅓ IP, 30 batters faced, 4H, 2BB, 3K, HBP (W 6-6)
- Hero: Rafael Ortega (.154). 1-4, HR(8), BB, 4RBI, R, K
Ortega now has 8 homers and 8 steals, another guy not expected to even play has a shot at double digits in homers and steals
- Sidekick: Jason Heyward (.112). 2-3, BB, R, K
- Billy Goat: Michael Hermosillo (-.087). 0-4, 2K, DP
- Goat: Frank Schwindel (-.036). 0-5, K
- Kid: Sergio Alcantara (-.009). 1-3, BB, R
WPA Play of the Game: Rafael Ortega batted with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth inning against Lance Lynn. The Cubs were leading 2-0 at the time. But they were leading 6-0 after he batted. Rafael hit the second grand slam of his career and first in just over two years. (.198)
*White Sox Play of the Game: Michael Hermosillo batted with runners on first and third and no outs in a scoreless game in the second inning. Lance Lynn came up with a huge strikeout and kept the game scoreless. (.062)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Patrick Wisdom (2-4, 2HR, 2RBI, 2R)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Patrick Wisdom +20
- Rafael Ortega +19 (+2)
- *Nico Hoerner +12
- *PJ Higgins/Rex Brothers -9.5
- *David Bote/Ian Happ -12
- Zach Davies -14
- Jake Arrieta -19
Up Next: The final game of the series Sunday afternoon between the two teams. The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks (14-5, 4.09) to the mound. The White Sox will counter with Dylan Cease (10-6, 3.92). Hendricks’ 14 wins remains tied for the major league lead with Julio Urias.