Today I get to do a little tone change over where I’ve been the last few days. That’s because I’m quite simply not surprised that the Cubs took care of business against a Reds team headed for 100 plus losses. After winning three straight from the contending Phillies, I expect big things from the Cubs in this extended series against the Reds to conclude the season. So much so that when the Reds jumped out to a 1-0 lead early, I was surprised.
Talk about raising unrealistic expectations. Now I’m here expecting the Cubs to just steamroll the Reds in these games. That’s what happen when the team wins what is now nine of 10 games to finish September with a 15-11 mark. I don’t expect anyone here to be surprised that this is the first winning full calendar month for this team since May of last year when they had a fantastic 19-8 mark. They were 15-15 in August this year and so the clubs is 30-26 after trading off four top relievers. That’s a stunning development.
The formula has been so consistent. Adrian Sampson put up another strong start. He needed to face only 25 batters to record 21 outs. He allowed a solo homer leading off the second and otherwise largely coming through unscathed. He faced no more than four batters in any inning and aside from the homer allowed two walks and a seventh inning single. The bullpen continued that and allowed one more single and needed only seven batters to record the final six outs. The Reds offense essentially put up no resistance in this game.
What once looked like a foregone conclusion that this team would blow by 90 losses, likely breeze by 95 and possibly exceed 100 has turned 180 degrees. Now we’ll all be shocked if this team even gets to 90 losses. That pitching staff is an awful lot of reason why this has occurred. I’m beyond impressed at the work done by everyone on and off the field who contributed to that success. I hope that a) there are a bunch of people who see a nice little pay bump and b) that they have at least a few minutes to tip back some of their favorite drink and enjoy what was done here before heading back to work for next year.
That praise really goes to just about every pitcher who has thrown for the Cubs this year. It’s hard to find too many disappointing seasons among Cubs pitchers other than Kyle Hendricks. Like Kyle, when there was disappointment, the biggest frustration was often as much or more health as anything that occurred on the field. That kind of success doesn’t happen without hard work from the players, good scouting, a strong pitching development program and some keen decision making on personnel. Your mileage may vary, but I’ll tip my cap and give a long standing ovation to the whole group.
On this day, it wasn’t just the pitching. Though my top star of the day is going to Sampson for his strong, efficient performance. He set the tone and continued his excellent finish to this season. He is technically lined up to get one more start on the last day of the season and at this point, I’d love to see him get it, though it is far from unusual in this day and age for the last game to be largely a bullpen game.
In the second spot, I’m going with Nico Hoerner. I’m not often going to go with a one hit player in this spot, particularly if it’s not a home run. But Nico had a two-run double, ended up with three runs driven in and two runs scored. With no homers involved, that means that Nico was involved in five of the six runs in this one. Coming back to the team with essentially no rehab, Nico’s chances at the Rizzo Award took a hit. But this one kept his very faint hopes on life support for at least one more day. But for the late injury, I believe he was going to win the award going away.
In the final spot, I considered Yan Gomes for a two-hits with a run batted in game and Erich Uelmen for a perfect eighth. But in the end, I decided on Ian Happ, who had two singles and a walk in four plate appearances. He scored a pair of runs.
Let’s see now how WPA scored it as we turn to Heroes and Goats.
Game 157, September 30: Cubs 6, Reds 1 (71-86)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Nico Hoerner (.175). 1-4, 2B, 3RBI, 2R, K
- Hero: Franmil Reyes (.155). 1-3, 2B, R, BB
- Sidekick: Adrian Sampson (.116). 7IP (25 batters), 2H, 2BB, R, 6K (W 4-5)
- Billy Goat: P.J. Higgins (-.054). 0-3, BB
- Goat: Esteban Quiroz (-.051). 0-4
- Kid: Patrick Wisdom (-.035). 0-4, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Score one for the table setter. Franmil Reyes batted with a runner on first and no outs after the Reds had gone ahead 1-0 in the top of the second. Reyes doubled, setting up the first two RBI from Nico Hoerner. (.119)
*Reds Play of the Game: Jake Fraley’s solo homer leading off the second gave the Reds a brief lead. (.108)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Ian Happ (2-3, BB, 2R)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
The award is named for Anthony Rizzo, who finished first in this category three of the first four years it was in existence and four times overall. He also recorded the highest season total ever at +65.5. The point scale is three points for a Superhero down to negative three points for a Billy Goat.
- David Robertson +22.5
- Christopher Morel +21
- Scott Effross +17
- Patrick Wisdom/Nico Hoerner +12.5
- Frank Schwindel/Daniel Norris/Alfonso Rivas -9.5
- Rafael Ortega -11.5
- Yan Gomes -14.5
- Jason Heyward -15.5
Breaking it down, with five games left and no possibility that David Robertson can move backwards, there are exactly four players who can win this award. Robertson is the clear favorite, but Christopher Morel has moved within striking distance. With five games left, there are a total of 15 positive points remaining. Either Nico Hoerner or Patrick Wisdom would have to record 11.5 of those 15 while also finishing ahead of Morel in order to win. Therefore, neither is likely to be eliminated Saturday unless they post a negative score. But the runway will disappear quickly after that.
Up Next: Game two of the three game home portion of these six games on Saturday. Drew Smyly (7-8, 3.48) gets the ball for the Cubs. He’ll be opposed by Nick Lodolo (4-7, 3.75). Let’s go win number 72 and surpass 2021’s win total.