If you’ve followed my writings over the years, you’ll be familiar with what I think of as either “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” or “The glass is half empty AND half full” recaps. I guess you could just call it a mixed emotions game. On Thursday afternoon, the Cubs dug themselves a significant hole (again!). We’ve seen this story play out all too many times this season.
One of the things that has made this season really challenging to write about is the number of games the Cubs are just getting wiped out. Bad isn’t much fun in any circumstances, but just getting your brains beat in night in and night out is pretty much awful. Sometimes when a team isn’t good you’ll hear phrases about wondering what way the team will find to lose. This team doesn’t have much trouble finding a way to lose.
I remember a line I saw once about a football game. The phrase went something like this. We didn’t block anybody but we made up for it by not tackling anyone. That’s been a summation of all too many games this season. The Cubs didn’t score many runs, but made up for that by allowing lots of them.
And so, it was a breath of fresh air when the Cubs rallied. I’ll be honest, I enjoyed this game more even before they eventually took the lead in this one. I was willing to accept that they rallied to make the game close. But then, they actually had the lead for a few minutes. Things have gone so bad that I’m not even frustrated with David Robertson over this one.
The “worst of times” in this one was absolutely the defense. The Cubs made four errors on their way to allowing two unearned runs and losing the game. In my early days around Bleed Cubbie Blue, I used to talk to Tim Huwe a lot. We were focused then on rebuilding the organization from the ground up and I was paying all of my attention to the minor league squads. We’d belabor that some poor pitcher hit a pitch limit because some outfielder misplayed a ball in the outfield into a double or some infielder muffed a double play grounder.
Those types of things have an effect way beyond unearned runs. Errors extend innings and they make your pitcher work extra hard unnecessarily. Justin Steele coaxed two different ground balls with two outs in the fifth inning. Both ended in errors, an unearned run was charged, but the net result was Steele facing five batters in what could have been a 1-2-3 inning. Steele came one batter shy of finishing six innings and also allowed two fifth-inning runs. Maybe if the errors don’t happen, he finishes six innings with three runs allowed. And maybe the Cubs win.
Even in defeat, we can find three positives from this one.
- I’m going with the Heroes and Goats on this one. Alfonso Rivas. Rivas has hit safely in five of six games since returning to the big league club. He had the big hit in Thursday’s game. We’ll talk more about that in a bit.
- Nico Hoerner continues to impress. He had three more hits, including a double, drove in two and scored two on the day.
- Chris Martin worked a scoreless seventh inning, facing only three batters despite an error behind him.
And now, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from Thursday’s loss.
Game 70, June 23: Pirates 8, Cubs 7 (26-44)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Alfonso Rivas (.449). 1-1, 2RBI, SB
- Hero: Nelson Velazquez (.132). 1-2, BB, 2B, R
- Sidekick: Nico Hoerner (.117). 3-5, 2B, 2RBI, 2R
- Billy Goat: Justin Steele (-.336). 5⅔ IP (26 batters), 7H, 6R (5ER), 8K
- Goat: Jason Heyward (-.233). 0-1
- Kid: Christopher Morel (-.201). 2-5, R, K, CS
WPA Play of the Game: Alfonso Rivas pinch hit with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning, the Cubs trailing by one. He singled and two runs scored. (.442)
*Pirates Play of the Game: Michael Chavis homered leading off the eighth inning against David Robertson. (.304). The walkoff single an inning later was worth .293, also credited to Chavis.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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Someone else (leave your suggestion below)
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.
- Nico Hoerner +16
- Christopher Morel +13
- David Robertson +11.5
- Daniel Norris -7.5
- Kyle Hendricks -10
- Jason Heyward -13.5
Up Next: The road trip moves to St. Louis for a three-game weekend set. The Cardinals are 40-32 and tied for first place in the NL Central. The Cubs will start Kyle Hendricks (2-6, 5.43). Kyle has struggled quite a bit here in 2022. The Cardinals are a team that Kyle has historically done very well against. The Cardinals will start Andre Pallante (2-2, 1.69). The rookie has been brilliant for the Cardinals so far, making 21 appearances, three of them starts.