On Thursday night, the Cubs jumped out to a 7-0 lead. They went on to lose 17-8. Without doing any research into it, that kind of an occurrence feels like it is something that should happen to you once every 5-10 years. Maybe I’m wrong on that and it is a little more common. But really, a seven-run lead is huge.
The Cubs have now lost three games this year in which they led by 7-0, 6-0, and 7-0. And of course, the first of those was on June 30, so we are talking basically about three times in less than three months. That feels totally insane. Clearly, pitching was one of the problems with this team. That much has been obvious.
Losing those three games by itself is totally crazy. But that isn’t even the whole statistic. After the Cubs led those games early by a total of 20-0, they lost the remainder of those games by an aggregate score of 49-8. A loss is a loss regardless if it is by one run or 100 runs. Or at least that’s what the baseball people will tell you. And certainly, by simple math a loss by a single run counts exactly as much in the standings as the largest blowout you can experience.
But that would assume that baseball games happen only on paper. Paper says the effect is the same. And certainly, in a vacuum that’s exactly right. But you and I know that it goes much deeper than that. The most practical application of the blown lead/lopsided loss game is that you generally go through a ton of pitchers in a game where you allow 15 or more runs (as they’ve done in each of these three games). Using a host of pitchers can have ripple effects beyond one game as it drastically reduces the availability of the pitching staff for the next game or two.
Beyond that effect is any possible mental effect. Certainly, losing even one of these games is demoralizing. I’ve often thought that if you show me a really good team, I’ll find the time when they came from way behind in a game at some point and won. I believe that one of the things that can really be a weapon to a team is the knowledge that you’ve been there and done that when things get tough and that you can still win and are never out of it. It’s a tough pill to swallow on the other end when the message is basically that no lead is safe and that any game can get away.
We’ve seen a lot of hitting coaches in the recent years on the north side of town. Maybe this time, a pitching-coach switch could happen, because I find myself starting to wonder if Tommy Hottovy might be looking for new employment after the season. He’s a really interesting case study. Certainly, he must have at least some role in the very large number of pitchers who had some amount of a career year this year. Many of those guys were traded at the trade deadline, but certainly not all of them. A number of pitchers put up either the best or one of the best years of their career. And yet, this team has really struggled to consistently get guys out. That is particularly true in the area of starting pitching.
Let’s get to the numbers and see how they came out in this wild game. 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 147, September 16: Phillies 17, Cubs 8
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.124). 2-4, HR (19), 2RBI, 2R, K
- Hero: Patrick Wisdom (.101). 1-4, BB, 2B, 2RBI, R, K, DP
- Sidekick: Ian Happ (.068). 0-2, BB, HBP, RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Manuel Rodriguez (-.332). ⅔ IP, 6 batters faced, 3H, 3R (0ER), K (L
- Goat: Kyle Hendricks (-.194). 3⅔ IP, 21 batters faced, 6H, 3BB, 7R, K, 2HBP
- Kid: Michael Rucker (-.091). 1⅓ IP, 5 batters faced, H, K (L 3-3)
WPA Play of the Game: With the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth inning, Michael Rucker faced J.T. Realmuto with the Cubs leading by two. Rucker allowed a two-run, game-tying single. (.209)
*Cubs Play of the Game: In the top of the third inning, Patrick Wisdom batted with the bases loaded and only one out, the Cubs were leading 2-0. Wisdom doubled and two runs scored. (.110)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Frank Schwindel +29 (+1)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Patrick Wisdom +22 (+2)
- David Bote -13
- Jake Arrieta -19
- Zach Davies -20
Up Next: The Cubs travel to Milwaukee for a three-game weekend series. Milwaukee has been a house of horrors for the Cubs in 2021. Zach Davies (6-11, 5.40) will start the opener. The Brewers will start Adrian Houser (9-6, 3.25).