Well, that was a fun one! A come from behind win against a playoff contender? That’s fun. I say a lot of things in this space. Many of them aren’t really rocket science, just observations. But it’s good when the ones that are forward looking are right once in a while.
A few weeks ago, while things were going bad, I talked about the natural ebb and flow of a baseball season, even for a bad team. One of the things I said was that at some point this team was going to go through a stretch, maybe even 20 or 30 or even 40 games of playing at or above .500. That’s what eventually drags the winning percentage from bouncing around under .400 and plants it firmly above. And those stretches are what makes it so unusual for a team to lose 100+ games. You kind of have to defy gravity.
The funny thing is where this stretch started. Beginning with the second game of a doubleheader on June 4, the Cubs started a stretch of 10 straight losses. Just to review that putrid stretch of baseball, the Cubs weren’t just losing most of those games but getting crushed. At the time, that dropped the team to a season-low 17 games under .500. There was no off day nor a letup in the schedule.
They won two out of three against the Braves, and then the schedule did lighten up a bit for a series with the Pirates. You might recall they lost three of four in that one, with more blowouts involved. They twice hit a new season low of 18 under and then against the Cardinals they hit it a third time. But they took two out of three from those Cardinals, then came home and did it again against the Reds. And now this win against the Red Sox.
One might thoroughly expect the Red Sox to beat up on the Cubs the remainder of the weekend, but the Cubs have now won eight of 14 since that 10-game skid. They are doing it with a good number of wins against playoff contenders. The Braves, Cardinals and Red Sox all believe they will be in the playoffs when they start.
Of course, the schedule maker is trying to throw a cold bucket of water on this bounce. After two more games against a tough Red Sox team, the Cubs go right into a brutal week of seven games against the Brewers and Dodgers. It won’t be easy for them to stretch this out to 20 games or more. But you never know. Baseball is a funny thing.
Let’s get to Friday’s three positives. There were definitely a handful to choose from.
- I see you, Christopher Morel. I meant no offense with my Flavor of the Day piece. Right there in it, I said I hope you become one of those guys who blows away expectations. Every hitter from Babe Ruth to Mike Trout goes through a rough patch. What separates the average from the good from the great is how they bounce.. Christopher has eight hits in his last 14 at bats and has homered in his last three games. He was a big part of the comeback yesterday with his two-run homer.
- Ian Happ is quietly having a star season. The team isn’t very good, so he’s not putting up gaudy RBI or run totals. And his homers are off a bit, though he’s still got a fair shot at 20 with a projection squarely in the 15-20 range. He had three more hits including a pair of doubles yesterday. Even without a bunch of homers, he’s got a very nice line of .286/.386/.467 (wRC+ 136) and he’s been worth fWAR of 2.3.
- David Robertson is doing his part to be a very tradeable commodity. I have to admit to being a bit nervous about an aging closer on a less than spectacular team. But he’s been fantastic. He picked up his 10th save with a perfect ninth.
And that brings us to the Heroes and Goats from Friday’s happy win.
Game 77, July 1: Cubs 6, Red Sox 5 (31-46)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Christopher Morel (.190). 1-5, HR, 3RBI, R, K, DP
- Hero: David Robertson (.166). IP (3 batters), Sv (10)
- Sidekick: Willson Contreras (.159). 0-2, 3BB, 2R, 2K
- Billy Goat: Adrian Sampson (-.206). 5⅓ IP (24 batters), 8H, BB, 5R (4ER), 4K
- Goat: Alfonso Rivas (-.176). 0-2, K
- Kid: Andrelton Simmons (-.042). 0-2, 2BB, R
WPA Play of the Game: With two outs and a runner on first in the sixth inning, the Cubs trailed 5-3 when Christopher Morel came to the plate. Morel hit a game-tying homer. (.297)
*Red Sox Play of the Game: Jackie Bradley had a three-run bases-clearing double with no outs in the second inning. (.120) Just like that, the Red Sox were up 4-0.
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 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.
On a day when there were so many players at the top of the standings having contributions, we go wide for top and bottom five.
- Nico Hoerner +18
- David Robertson +16.5
- Willson Contreras +14.5
- Christopher Morel +14
- Scott Effross +11
- Caleb Kilian -6
- Matt Swarmer -7
- Daniel Norris -7.5
- Yan Gomes -13
- Jason Heyward -16.5
Up Next: A rare Saturday night game in Wrigley Field as the Cubs get some national TV time on Fox. Alec Mills (0-1, 9.87) gets another chance to right the ship after getting hammered around last time. Josh Winckowski (3-1, 3.60) starts for the Red Sox. This is just about as lopsided as a game could look on paper. Let’s see if there is any more magic left in the bottle.