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2021 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 134

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Cubs sweep Twins in late season push!

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Minnesota Twins Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

If only my headline meant they were making a late season push for a division title or home field advantage or something. Instead, the Cubs moved ahead of the Twins for the season. Only ahead means behind them in the draft order. And of course, the two teams are close in the standings. But with fewer than 30 games to go the Cubs are sitting at the eighth pick for next year. The reason? They’ve won five of 10. For a while, the Cubs seemed like an elevator with a snapped cord. But now it appears they are going to Mike Quade themselves out of several spots in the draft.

Many of you will recall that the Cubs were 51-74 under Lou Piniella in 2010 and then Lou abruptly retired. The Cubs promoted Quade and the team went 24-13 down the stretch. At the end of the day, they still finished in fifth place and the Cubs were an organization on the way down, not up.

To be clear, I’m just enough old school that I find tanking distasteful. I just know which result helps more in the long run. There are certainly days where I wish I was capable of being a ruthless person about this. Of course, what I root for and don’t root for as a fan doesn’t materially alter anything and that phone I don’t hear ringing is the Cubs (and every other front office) not particularly interested in hiring me on as a consultant.

Also, to be fair, this rant is aired on the wrong day. I could probably register some mock frustration at some of the wins. Very much like the movie Major League, the Cubs appear to have brought up the wrong guys if their goal was to suck. Patrick Wisdom, Frank Schwindel and Rafael Ortega are leading a ragtag group of misfits who are almost to a man woefully inexperienced at the big league level. If I described myself as mildly skeptical that those three will produce meaningful value at the major league level next year and going forward, I’d probably be overstating my confidence in any of them. To be clear, I’m loving the stories. If that isn’t obvious from me gushing over one or more of them virtually every day, I’ll say it here. They’ve been the silver lining to this season.

But as I said, a rant on an “untimely” win is totally misplaced following Wednesday’s game. The game featured two of the Cubs’ young pitchers combining for nine innings of two-hit ball. If the Cubs are going to turn the needle up quickly, they are almost certainly going to need Adbert Alzolay and Justin Steele to be effective pitchers in some role. To be clear, the Twins aren’t the ‘27 Yankees, but those are major league hitters and those two young pitchers mowed them down. Schwindel added all of the offense the team needed for the night on one swing and continued his torrid finish to the season.

Let’s go to the numbers and look at how those performances shake out. 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 134, September 1: Cubs 3 at Twins 0 (59-75)


Source: FanGraphs

THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero: Justin Steele (.261). 5IP, 19 batters faced, H, 3BB, 3K, HBP (W 3-2)
  • Hero: Frank Schwindel (.225). 1-4, HR (7), 3RBI, R
  • Sidekick: Adbert Alzolay (.216). 4IP, 13 batters faced, H, 5K (Sv 1)

THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat: Rafael Ortega (-.118). 0-4
  • Goat: Sergio Alcantara (-.058). 0-3, 2K
  • Kid: Patrick Wisdom (-.054). 0-4, K

WPA Play of the Game: Frank Schwindel batted with runners on second and third with two outs in a scoreless game in the third. It was no longer tied after his three-run homer. (.256)

*Twins Play of the Game: Just in front of the homer, Rafael Ortega batted with one out and runners on second and third. His lazy fly to center didn’t get a run in. (.085)

Poll

Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Justin Steele
    (49 votes)
  • 38%
    Frank Schwindel
    (58 votes)
  • 26%
    Adbert Alzolay
    (39 votes)
  • 2%
    Other
    (3 votes)
149 votes total Vote Now

Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)

  • Kris Bryant +26
  • Patrick Wisdom +20 (-1)
  • Craig Kimbrel +20
  • Rafael Ortega +14 (-3)
  • Frank Schwindel +12 (+2)
  • *PJ Higgins/Rex Brothers -9.5
  • Ian Happ -11
  • *David Bote -12
  • Zach Davies -14
  • Jake Arrieta -19

Up Next: The Cubs return home for a four-game set with the Pirates. This was one of the difficult parts of Jed Hoyer’s decision on what to do with the Cubs. The second half of the Cubs schedule was awfully weak. If you haven’t noticed, the Cardinals have made a bit of a move and are over .500. They will fall well short of a playoff spot. Of course they are looking at the twilight of Yadier Molina’s career and the latter part of Adam Wainwright’s and just traded for Nolan Arenado, so they are in a much, much different part of their competitive window. I have no reason to believe that the Cubs wouldn’t have pushed back over .500 if they’d kept the “band” together. But they weren’t going to get back into contention. So does that get you some shiny participation trophy?

Another of the Cubs young pitchers starts tonight in Keegan Thompson (3-3, 3.09). He’ll face Mitch Keller for the Pirates (4-10, 6.75). This sure looks like a three-game winning streak on paper.