Close isn’t exactly a term of baseball science and doesn’t carry with it any real value. But I’ve been down on the Cubs most of this year and so I’ll credit them. A week ago against the White Sox, I felt the games were close mostly because the White Sox weren’t executing at a high level but that losing was inevitable. But in these two games against the Padres, they have hung in very well.
Wade Miley finally made his Cubs debut last night. He only threw three innings and he didn’t by any means dominate the Padres. I’m betting in a perfect world where the Cubs rotation was healthy and throwing reasonably well we wouldn’t have seen Miley for another week or so as he stretches out and essentially goes through a bit of a live spring training period. Particularly with Marcus Stroman is out, Wade Miley can be a stabilizing arm.
Even if this season goes the way it appears to be headed and turns into a 90+ loss season, you need some quantity of innings out of your starting rotation. Certainly, the game tilts a little further each year away from starters throwing the overwhelming majority of innings. But even with extended and talented bullpens, we haven’t reached the point where the bullpen can give you six plus innings every night.
Certainly, the Cubs were aided by wildness out of the Padres bullpen, but they fought down to the last out. The Padres have been a supremely talented team on paper the last couple of years, but so far their results trail other top tier teams a bit. I’m wondering if they are still struggling a little bit with the combination of scouting opponents and executing their scouting reports. To my not formally-trained eye, one of the things that separates teams like the Dodgers, the Rays and (historically at least) the Cardinals is that they consistently execute well on their scouting reports.
We saw just this past weekend that the Dodgers executed the Cubs into oblivion. They pounce on every mistake. Over two games, the Padres have not looked like a team that is a class above the Cubs. A good bit of that was a vintage performance by Kyle Hendricks on Monday night. But I continue to think there is a disconnect between the talent level of the Padres and their on field performance, a bit of the sum of the parts being less than the value of individual pieces.
Let’s look at three positives from last night’s game.
- Mychal Givens and Daniel Norris each threw a perfect inning. The bullpen did a pretty good job of keeping this one close after Wade Miley allowed three runs over three innings.
- Alfonso Rivas showed a little pop with a game-tying, two-run homer. His hold over the first base job appears to be ever so slightly growing. Hopefully, he gets some opportunities and executes against some left handed pitching. You certainly hate to have to pinch hit for your first baseman in the ninth inning with the game on the line
- Willson Contreras stayed scalding hot at the plate with two more singles, a walk and a hit by pitch. At .292/.400/.483 (wRC+ 156) on the season, he has been the best catcher in baseball to this point. He’s reached base safely in five consecutive games and in the last four he’s reached at least twice. He’s on a tear.
With that, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from last night’s game.
Game 29, May 10: Padres 5, Cubs 4 (10-19)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.222). 2-3, BB, HBP
- Hero: Rafael Ortega (.152). 2-4, R, SB, K
- Sidekick: Robert Gsellman (.123). 2⅔ IP (10 batters), 3H, R, 2K (L 0-1)
- Billy Goat: Chris Martin (-.284). ⅓ IP (4 batters), 3H, R, K
- Goat: Wade Miley (-.226). 3IP (18 batters), 5H, 5BB, 3R, K
- Kid: Frank Schwindel (-.224). 0-1
WPA Play of the Game: Frank Schwindel pinch hit with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning, the Cubs down a run. He got into a pitch pretty good and you could see from his reaction that he thought he had hit a go-ahead grand slam. Alas, it came down just shy of the wall and ended up a very long, very loud final out. (.224)
*Cubs Play of the Game: In the third inning Alfonso Rivas batted against Mike Clevinger with a runner on second and two outs. The Cubs were trailing 2-0 but not for long. Rivas’ second homer of the year was game tying. (.208)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Alfonso Rivas (1-4, HR, 2RBI, R, 2K)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in comments)
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 +12
- Alfonso Rivas +11
- Scott Effross +9
- Patrick Wisdom/Frank Schwindel -8
- Jason Heyward/Yan Gomes -9
Up Next: The deciding game of this three-game set between the Cubs and Padres. The Cubs appear to be looking at a bullpen game with Keegan Thompson likely to throw the largest number of innings. The Padres have Nick Martinez (2-2, 3.38) going for them. Frustratingly, the Cubs haven’t won a series since the season opener against the Brewers more than a month ago.