This one could have been the one where Kyle Hendricks flashed his historical brilliance or the one where Alfonso Rivas busted out. But this one was a team effort and everyone who got into the game contributed in some way or another. This one was just clean fun.
After four straight losses, and only scoring nine runs across the first four games against the Pirates this year, this had to feel good. Sadly, one lopsided win does nothing to fix anything larger and it doesn’t erase earlier losses. The best hope is that some success and having some fun has some carryover effect for at least a few of the players. Otherwise, the only lasting effect is the early distortion this can have on a whole barrel of statistics including expected record (which is based largely on run differential).
It would be easy to say to cop out today and say that everything about yesterday’s game was what I liked and gloss over the three things. But, I try to extract something from the humiliating defeats, so I have to also do so with the clobbering of an opponent.
First, I have to pick Rivas. After getting squeezed off of the roster a few days ago, Alfonso went back to Iowa and basically knocked the cover off of the ball. There are two things you can do when sent to the minors. You can pout and mope. Or you can keep a positive attitude and try to make it clear every day that the team made the wrong decision. Rivas chose the latter, took advantage of being in the lineup every day and get red hot. Now he’s back because of a teammates illness and he’s made the most of his first start since being back.
Alfonso did get his first MLB homer out of the way last September, but right now this game accounts for half of his major league homers, over half of his major league RBI and over a quarter of his major league hits. He won’t be forgetting this day anytime soon.
My second thing would in almost any other circumstance be first. Hendricks looked dominant. Look, I know it’s the Pirates. But there are two things about that. One, you can only beat the team across from you and two, the Cubs hadn’t exactly been carving them up in four previous games. Kyle dominated start to finish and probably could have gone at least one more inning had it been remotely necessary. This was probably the most important performance in this game.
It had flown a bit under the radar, but this was Kyle’s first win since August 17 of last year. Wins are a stat slowly going the way of dinosaurs. But it doesn’t mean that Kyle wasn’t going through one of the worst stretches of his career. In those 10 starts, Kyle was 0-3 with a 7.25 ERA (49⅔ innings). His FIP of 4.96 states that even though things were a little inflated, things were pretty rough. That cutoff is arbitrary too. He did throw well on August 17 in the win, allowing three hits and one run in Cincinnati (a place that hasn’t been kind to him in general). But the start before that was a disaster, arguably the worst of his career. He allowed nine earned runs in four innings against the Brewers. I’m going to continue to hope that the trades were hard on Kyle and not that his considerable skills are eroding.
I could pick just about anybody else for my third point, but I have to go with Nico Hoerner. With four hits, he’s up to a line of .327/.340/.469 (wRC+ 133). This was his first major league four hit game. They were all singles, but they go nicely with the three he had the day before. That was only his seventh three hit game, so the seven hits over two days is obviously a personal best too. Accordingly, the eight his over three consecutive days is also a best. Basically, Nico is in uncharted waters right now.
This one was a delight. Of course, a lopsided game doesn’t necessarily make for the most interesting Heroes and Goats box. But I did have to make an executive decision. Three players tied at .000 which was the Kid spot in this one. Sorry to Michael Hermosillo ,who I’ve given the slot to outright. I don’t know that he contributed more or less than Sean Newcomb or Scott Effross, the other two guys who entered the game late. None of the three are there for anything they did or didn’t do but because the game was essentially decided before they entered. The only two negative scores are the guys who made outs early on while the game was getting out of hand.
With that, we go to the numbers.
Game 15, April 23: Cubs 21, Pirates 0 (7-8)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.137). 3-5, BB, 2B, 3RBI, 3R, K
- Hero: Seiya Suzuki (.119). 3-4, 2B, RBI, 3R, SB
- Sidekick: Kyle Hendricks (.109). 7IP (23 batters), 2H, 2K (W 1-1)
- Billy Goat: Jason Heyward (-.072). 2-5, HBP, 2B, RBI, 3R, DP
- Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.003). 1-4, 2BB, RBI, 2R, K
- Kid: Michael Hermosillo (.000). 1-2, R
WPA Play of the Game: With one out in the second inning, the Cubs were leading 1-0 and had runners on first and third when Seiya Suzuki stepped to the plate against Zach Thompson. Seiya singled, adding the second run and sending the third around to third. (.082)
*Pirates Play of the Game: With two outs and the bases loaded in the first inning, Jason Heyward batted against Thompson. The game was scoreless at the time. Heyward popped out, ending the threat or this one could have been lopsided even quicker. (.060) The highest WPA event for the Pirates offense was Daniel Vogelbach’s fourth-inning double (.005).
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Alfonso Rivas (3-6, HR, 5RBI, R)
Someone else (leave a suggestion below)
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.
- Ian Happ +10
- Seiya Suzuki +9.5
- Keegan Thompson +8
- Ethan Roberts/Nick Madrigal -6
- Jason Heyward -9
Up Next: The fourth and final game of the series between these two teams. It will also be the last day of this homestand and the last of 13 consecutive games without an off day. The Cubs will hope to improve their record to 3-4 on this homestand, thereby evening the season home record at 5-5. They are 5-7 so far in this 13-game block.
The Cubs will send Justin Steele (1-1, 4.50) to the mound. Justin is coming off of his worst start of the year. In that one, he was charged with four runs in less than three innings against the Rays. He’ll look to get back on track in this one.