The Cubs’ four game winning streak came to an end Wednesday. But the Cubs did extend to nine a streak of either winning or losing by a single run. They are playing competitive baseball and have won six of those nine games. They’ve pitched a lot better over that stretch and they’ve put some more runs on the board. But, Wednesday night they were off just a bit and they lost.
Starting pitching sets the tone. Drew Smyly lost his fourth consecutive start and he allowed three runs in less than five innings of work. As undermanned as this Pirates team appears to be, it was always going to be unlikely that you could shut them out for an entire series. With the three runs they scored off of Smyly they scored three in the whole series. Drew’s start wasn’t good and you aren’t going to win a lot of games when your starter allows three in less than five. But, the bullpen was scoreless over 4⅔ innings to finish the game. Three runs over nine is actually good enough to win more games than not.
The offense simply did not get it done. They managed only five hits and drew only four walks. Two runs in that situation isn’t particularly bad. But the Pirates used this one as a bullpen game with four different pitchers throwing about two innings each. On this night, that kept Cubs hitters off balance.
Let’s find three positives from last night’s loss.
- Ian Happ. Ian had a homer and a walk. Despite a little bit of a May slump, Ian is hitting .282/.403/.409. He appears to have given up a little bit of power in exchange for some better on base skills. This batting average and on base percentage would be the highest of his career, but this slugging percentage is well off of his career average and just a notch better than his tough 2018 season that was followed by returning to the minors in 2019.
- Three scoreless innings from Mychal Givens, Rowan Wick and David Robertson to close out the game. Wick allowed a walk and Robertson’s only baserunner was an error. The Cubs would have to hope that some combination of those three pitchers would throw the final three innings in their wins. In this instance, they shutdown the game giving the offense every opportunity to come from behind.
- Christopher Morel. It’s not that just anyone can homer in their debut. It is obviously one of the rarer occurrences in major league baseball history (despite the fact that, oddly, three players on this Cubs roster have done it). But I’m always going to be interested in larger sample sizes. Anyone can have one good at bat. Because I grew up listening to Steve Stone, I’m keenly aware of Duane Kuiper and his one homer in over 3,300 career at bats. So what came next for Christopher? A single and a walk in four plate appearances. He’s reached base now in three of five plate appearances. That’s how you make things difficult on management when there are a bunch of guys that are going to come off the injured list at some point. Produce and make it hard for them to choose you when someone has to go.
With that, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from last night’s loss.
Game 36, May 18: Pirates 3 at Cubs 2 (15-21)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Mychal Givens (.056). IP (3 batters), K
- Hero/Sidekick: Chris Martin/David Robertson (.055). Martin: IP (3 batters), H, K; Robertson IP (4 batters)
- Billy Goat: Drew Smyly (-.172). 4⅓ IP (20 batters) 6H, BB, 3R, 5K (L 1-5)
- Goat: Alfonso Rivas (-.148). 0-4, 2K
- Kid: Jonathan Villar (-.120). 1-4, K
WPA Play of the Game: It was a 2-2 game in the fifth inning when Jack Suwinski faced Drew Smyly. His homer was the difference in the game. (.141)
*Cubs Play of the Game: The Cubs trailed 2-1 in the fourth inning when Frank Schwindel batted with a runner on second and one out. Frank singled and tied the game. (.112)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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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
- Willson Contreras +11.5
- David Robertson +9.5
- Yan Gomes -7
- Jason Heyward -11.5
- Patrick Wisdom -13
Up Next: No rest as the Cubs are in a stretch of 14 consecutive games. They’ve won four of the first six, now two four-game sets follow. This one is four against the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field. The Cubs just took two out of three from them in Arizona over the weekend. The D-backs have actually lost six straight, having just played four games in three days in Los Angeles and losing all of them, following the two they lost to the Cubs Saturday and Sunday. With those six consecutive losses, their season has turned on its head, going from three over to three under at 18-21. Let’s hope the Cubs can extend their tailspin.
Marcus Stroman (1-3, 5.13) returns to the rotation from the injured list. Hopefully he can get back to where he was when he left because his last start was by far his best as a Cub. He’ll need it too as his opponent is Zac Gallen (2-0, 1.05). The Cubs won a game he started, but they did it by matching a low-scoring game and then beating the Arizona bullpen. This is a tough one on paper, but maybe the Cubs will catch all seven games against them while they are playing below average.