Tuesday night’s scheduled Cubs starter Drew Smyly was scratched and placed on the bereavement list. From a human standpoint, we wish Drew and his family the best with whatever is going on. From a baseball stand point, Drew has been the Cubs’ most consistent starter in the early going so the situation was less than ideal. Scott Effross was pressed into something of an ”opener” role. Scott has been in a pretty good groove in the middle inning/medium leverage situations thus far for the Cubs.
Unfortunately for Scott and the Cubs, his defense let him down Tuesday night. Patrick Wisdom, usually a pretty steady hand at third, made an error on the first batter of the inning after Effross threw a perfect first. The runner that reached on the error came around to score as did one other run in the inning. Because of the error, those two runs were unearned. We certainly can’t know how the inning might have unfolded without the miscue but if the same sequencing held, we can infer that the Cubs would have escaped the inning unscathed but for the error.
The Cubs offense continued to sputter and so those two runs basically put the game out of reach. That offense has managed just 49 runs over their last 13 games. In the early going, offense seems a little more suppressed than usual in April with teams averaging just over four runs per game. 49 runs in 13 games is only a tick lower and certainly isn’t indicative of a catastrophic problem. Alas, the Cubs scored 21 of those 49 runs in one game. They certainly get to keep all of those statistics from a game that got out of hand early and just basically tilted. But, that means that if we ignore that one statistical outlier game, the Cubs have scored only 28 runs over 12 games.
The pitching staff would have to flat out dominate in order to succeed with so little offense and that certainly hasn’t been the case. The Cubs have won only three of those 13 games. Two of them were shutouts (including that 21-0 game). The Cubs offense has got to start producing or this team is going to be well out of contention and soon.
Let’s try to find three positives from last night’s game.
- Nico Hoerner. He had only one hit in four plate appearances. But it was a double and it also drove in the lone Cubs run. The Cubs had only six hits on the day.
- Ian Happ. Ian had a single and a walk in four plate appearances. The power numbers have started to trickle up a bit lately, but Happ has been extremely effective at getting on base in the early going and after last night’s game his on-base percentage is up to .424.
- Michael Rucker. Essentially the entire game was a bullpen game after Smyly was scratched. The whole bullpen was decent, allowing three runs on seven hits for the whole game against a team expected to be a division winner. It is extremely helpful in a bullpen game if one or two guys can work efficiently and provide more than an inning of work. Rucker did that, facing six batters in two efficient innings.
With that, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats as determined by WPA from last night’s game.
Game 23, May 3: White Sox 3 at Cubs 1 (9-14)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Nico Hoerner (.122). 1-4, 2B, RBI
- Hero: Michael Rucker (.055). 2IP (6 batters), K
- Sidekick: Mychal Givens (.026). IP (5 batters), 2BB, K
- Billy Goat: Yan Gomes (-.151). 1-4, K
- Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.131). 0-4, 2K
- Kid: Scott Effross (-.124). 1 ⅓ IP (7 batters), 2H, 2R (0ER), L (0-1)
WPA Play of the Game: With runners at first and second with two outs in the sixth, the Sox were leading the Cubs 3-0 when Nico Hoerner stepped to the plate. Hoerner doubled, getting the Cubs back into the game with the tying run at second. (.122)
*Sox Play of the Game: The next batter after the double was Yan Gomes. He struck out to end the Cubs best chance in this game. (.090)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
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/Keegan Thompson/David Robertson/Nico Hoerner +8
- Yan Gomes -6
- Nick Madrigal/Patrick Wisdom/Kyle Hendricks -7
- Jason Heyward -9
Up Next: The second and final game of this brief two-game set with the White Sox at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks (1-2, 5.47) will start for the Cubs against Lucas Giolito (0-1, 2.57). The Cubs will look to get the bats going and salvage a split of the brief series before an off day Thursday.