On Sunday, the Cubs and their fans finally got to see Marcus Stroman bring his A game from start to finish during his seven innings pitched. In arguably the best start of the year for any Cubs pitcher, Marcus shut down a relatively potent Brewers lineup that had battered Cubs pitching for two straight days.
There’s an old baseball phrase about momentum only being as good as the next night’s starting pitcher. The Cubs have been in a downward spiral and the Brewers have been slowly asserting their control and then tightening their grip on the National League Central. But on this day, Stroman out dueled Brewers ace and reigning Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes.
I’ve talked a couple of times recently about how baseball can make you look silly if you just assume that what’s on paper is always going to hold true. Burnes has now pitched against the Cubs twice. The Brewers lost those two games and Burnes has allowed five runs in 12 innings. In his other three starts, the Brewers have won twice and he’s allowed two runs in 20⅔ innings. In one of those starts, he pitched into the seventh without allowing a run against the defending NL West champion Giants.
Baseball can be weird, for sure. Marcus Stroman was clearly excited to be a Cub and I’m sure his April was frustrating and disappointing for him. This was a great start. For those of us who have been Cubs fans, and I’m sure fans of many other teams, we’ve watched many a free agent struggle under the weight of trying to live up to a massive contract while struggling with a tough start to the season. Hopefully, this start provides a bit of a reset and a building block. If the Cubs are going to at least hang around and play competitive baseball rather than being a punching bag, they are going to need Marcus.
Let’s look at my three positives from Sunday’s game.
- No question, this belongs to Stroman. Seven innings, two hits, one walk. Excellent all around.
- The Cubs bats have been silent for most of this trip. Burnes matched zeroes with Stroman into the fifth inning. That’s when Patrick Wisdom connected with one out and hit his fourth homer of the year. I pointed out yesterday that Wisdom has produced better than league average with plus defense at third base. On this team, Wisdom has been one of the best players.
- For the first time in several days, I felt like there were a couple of good options for this last spot. I certainly could have gone with Alfonso Rivas who remained hot with a single and a walk and scored the second run in the game. But I have to go with David Robertson, who recorded the final four outs of the game, including three by strikeout. He came into the eighth inning with runners on first and second and two outs. He escaped the inning with a strikeout of Jace Peterson. He then worked around a walk in the ninth inning to notch his fifth save.
With that, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from Sunday’s game.
Game 23, May 1: Cubs 2 at Brewers 0 (9-13)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Marcus Stroman (.435). 7IP (22 batters), 2H, BB, 5K (W 1-3)
- Hero: David Robertston (.168). 1⅓ IP (5 batters), BB, 3K (Sv 5)
- Sidekick: Patrick Wisdom (.113). 1-4, HR, RBI, R, 2K
- Billy Goat: Frank Schwindel (-.115). 0-4, 3K
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.059). 0-3, BB
- Kid: Yan Gomes (-.057). 0-3
WPA Play of the Game: No surprise here, the Patrick Wisdom homer we talked about in the good things from Sunday’s game was the play of the game by WPA. (.151)
*Brewers Play of the Game: Rowan Wick was handed a two run lead in the eighth inning. With one out and a runner on first, Wick faced Omar Navarez. Navarez singled, advancing the runner to second and putting the tying run on first. (.079)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the 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 +13
- Alfonso Rivas +10
- Scott Effross +9
- Nick Madrigal/Patrick Wisdom/Kyle Hendricks -7
- Jason Heyward -9
Up Next: The Cubs returned to Chicago after the game and then have an off day Monday. The players will get a rare in-season opportunity to be home for a couple of nights consecutively and will be able to enjoy a full off day at home. They’ll also enjoy an off day on Thursday, making this the lightest scheduled week of the season until the All-Star break.
When they do return to action, the White Sox will be their opponent in a two-game set at Wrigley Field. This is the first of home and home series between the two cross town foes. The White Sox have had an extremely disappointing start to their season. At 8-13 (and they have a game Monday afternoon against the Angels), they would actually be a half game behind the Cubs if the two shared a division. They have had injuries and they are far from out of it, but they are certainly digging themselves a hole and they’ll be trying to start digging out at the expense of the Cubs.
Drew Smyly (1-2, 2.79) will start for the Cubs. He has been the most consistent Cubs starter in the young season. Michael Kopech (0-0, 1.42) will take the mound for the Sox in Tuesday evening’s series opener.