On April 10, the Cubs beat the Rays 4-2 and matched a season high at two games over .500. They were 6-4. They scored 43 runs over that time. A respectable output and the Cubs looked like maybe, just maybe they had improved their offense a bit and if they could cobble together their pitching staff as people got healthy and things sorted themselves out, they could at least make a run at .500 or a bit more if the Central turned out to be a weak division.
They’ve now played 14 games since then with a 3-11 record and have scored only 52 runs in those games. The offense looks anemic and the pitching doesn’t look materially different than it did a few weeks earlier. Granted, Alec Mills and Wade Miley are not back yet, though Mills is likely very close. With a revolving cast of ineffective pitchers filling the fifth spot in the rotation, Mills is likely to stabilize that spot a little bit. When Miley returns, if everyone is healthy, he will likely send Mills to the pen as another long relief option.
But what of the offense? Offense is certainly hard in the modern era with a gaggle of hard throwing, high spin rate pitchers to be deployed by seemingly every team. Defenses are more and more sophisticated and shifting can really neutralize a lot of offense. You try not to over magnify one situation, but the Cubs had runners on first and third with one out and Seiya Suzuki and Ian Happ due up. They were down just one run and you are looking for solid contact while staying out of a double play. The Cubs got a foul pop and a strikeout.
The White Sox are a good team despite their early-season struggles that brought them into this series with the same record as the Cubs. The two-game mini-sweep extends their winning streak to three. You aren’t going to get a lot of opportunities against them and when you do, you really need to execute. For all of the promise that the first few weeks of the season showed for Suzuki, we are seeing now a reminder of just how difficult the MLB is with all of those talented arms and sophisticated scouting reports. He seems likely to adjust, but he’s going through some struggles right now.
Another one bites the dust. Let’s find three positives from the game despite the defeat.
- Rowan Wick was the first man out of the pen last night. He entered with a runner on first right after the White Sox took the 4-3 lead that would be the final score. The game was still very much in the balance. He faced four batters and retired them all. It seems like forever ago when Wick was last locked in for an extended period. But he could be a key arm if they could get him back there.
- The bottom of the order. Patrick Wisdom and Nick Madrigal batted eighth and ninth in this game and they each had a pair of hits. For Wisdom, this included a homer and continues a hot streak that’s been cruising for a few weeks. For Madrigal, he’s been scuffling quite a bit after missing much of last season. He added a steal.
- Nice Hoerner. Nico moved up to sixth in the order after spending much of the early season batting ninth. His glove has been outstanding and so it doesn’t take a lot of production to make him a valuable player. His bat has been warming up and he’s even shown a little bit of pop recently. Last night he had his second homer of the season and it came with a man on. A healthy Hoerner is an intriguing thing.
And now we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from last night’s game.
Game 24, May 4: White Sox 4 at Cubs 3 (9-15)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Nick Madrigal (.250). 2-3, K, SB
- Hero: Patrick Wisdom (.178). 2-3, HR, RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Nico Hoerner (.107). 1-4, HR, 2RBI, R, K
- Billy Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.245). 0-4, K
- Goat: Kyle Hendricks (-.202). 5⅔ IP (24 batters), 7H, BB, 4R, 2K (L
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.180). 0-4, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: This is yet another game where the key plays happened back to back. Nick Madrigal batted with a runner on first and one out in the eighth inning against Aaron Bummer with the Cubs trailing by one. He singled, sending the tying run to third. (.242)
*White Sox Play of the Game: Seiya Suzuki followed against Matt Foster. Foster was throwing filthy stuff and Suzuki made weak contact with Madrigal in motion from first and popped up weakly into foul territory for the second out. (.186)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Rowan Wick (1 1⁄3 IP, 4 batters, K)
Someone else (please leave a suggestion in the comments)
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
- Nico Hoerner +9
- Yan Gomes -6
- Jason Heyward/Kyle Hendricks -9
Up Next: The Cubs get another day off Thursday, then the Dodgers come to town for three games starting Friday afternoon. The Dodgers come in at 16-7 but have “only” won six of 10. That qualifies more or less as a slump for that team. Tyler Anderson (2-0, 2.55) will start Friday for the Dodgers. The Cubs currently do not have a starter listed for Friday.