One of the tough things to do early in the season is not jump to conclusions. A split on a road trip is generally a pretty good outcome. If you win half your games on the road and a decent percentage at home, you will be in playoff contention. If you win half on the road and have any kind of strong performance at home, you are probably winning a division title. So from that perspective, a split of six games on the road sounds fine.
But the Pirates are expected to challenge 100 losses with a team that a spring training site would gripe about for not sending enough major league talent. The Rockies aren’t expected to be that bad, but they certainly aren’t expected to compete with the likes of the Dodgers, Giants and Padres in the West.
Also, we don’t “know” that. We are fairly certain of it. Baseball isn’t football where dark horses can run. It happens some of the time. But at the end of the day, there is a whole lot of “they are who we thought they were” outcomes. Sure, a team might surprise for a few months, but in the end the cream usually rises to the top while everything else settles to the bottom. But, in most instances, the players on the team don’t accept that from the starting gate. These two teams aren’t yet playing out the string, waiting for it all to end. Most of them probably believe with some good health and a couple of breaks, maybe they can sneak in to the playoffs.
While the adage about splitting on the road and then piling up wins at home is still true. I think in modern baseball another piece has emerged. Tread water until June. Pile up wins late. That’s when teams are packing it in. You want to be close enough to justify your owner adding some talent and then hope to just overwhelm some of the teams that are starting to shut players down to injuries and look at untested prospects and scrap heap players for a few months, trying to improve their own rosters for next year.
Long story short, I certainly wanted more, but I’ll take the split. There wasn’t one loss on the trip that I’d say the Cubs definitely should have won but gave a game away. Certainly, either of the two losses in Colorado felt like games that were winnable. But high scoring games and big innings are always going to be part of the equation at Coors Field.
Three positives from the Sunday game:
- Drew Smyly hasn’t allowed a run through two starts. I can’t throw the Pirates and Rockies under the bus and then start talking Drew up for the Cy Young award. But you can’t control the opponent. You can take care of business and Drew has done that.
- Nick Madrigal had three hits. The Cubs have had a strong start to the season in the on-base department. Nick hasn’t been a big part of that. But he did have three hits on Sunday. That moved his BA to .250 and OBP to .323. He has virtually no pop in that bat, so the team needs a high OBP to carry that bat.
- David Robertson threw a perfect ninth and has converted all three of his save opportunities. David hasn’t been a full time closer since 2016. There are a number of arms in the Cubs pen that look like they have the stuff to be working at the back end eventually, but David does have the experience and is getting the job done so far.
Let’s get to the numbers.
Game 9, April 17: Cubs 6 at Rockies 4 (5-4)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Drew Smyly (.207). 4⅔ IP (18 batters), 4H, BB, 4K, WP
- Hero: Nico Hoerner (.135). 2-4, 2RBI, 2-2B
- Sidekick: Mychal Givens (.132). IP (5 batters), 2BB, K
- Billy Goat: Michael Rucker (-.221). ⅔ IP (5 batters), 2H, BB, 2R, K
- Goat: Yan Gomes (-.055). 2-5, RBI, DP
- Kid: Michael Hermosillo (-.042). 0-3, BB, R
WPA Play of the Game: Mychal Givens was facing Ryan McMahon with the bases loaded and two outs, the Cubs leading 6-4. He got a ground ball to second and that ended the inning. (.138)
*Rockies Play of the Game: Ryan gets the rare distinction of being involved with both plays. in the sixth inning, with a man on and the Rockies trailing 5-1, he slugged a two-run homer. (.130)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Seiya Suzuki (HR, 2BB)
David Robertson (3 batters, Sv)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
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.
- Seiya Suzuki +8.5
- Drew Smyly +6
- Ian Happ/Justin Steele +5
- Nick Madrigal/Jason Heyward -4
- Patrick Wisdom -5
Up Next: The Cubs return to Wrigley to start a seven-game homestand. These are games seven to 13 of 13 consecutive games without an off day. The Cubs look to build on a 2-1 home record. First up, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays won on Sunday to snap a four game skid. They’ve actually been in Chicago all weekend, playing the White Sox as a scheduling rarity allows them to play a whole week in one city. The Rays haven’t hit their groove yet. Their offense has been well off their pace from last season. But Wander Franco is living up to the hype with an early season line of .381/.386/.548 (wRC+ 178).
Kyle Hendricks gets the start in the opener. After a horrible outing in Pittsburgh, he has an unsightly 7.00 ERA that he’ll be looking to correct.