The formula for winning during this recent hot stretch for the Cubs has been strong pitching and just enough hitting. So when Cubs starter Drew Smyly got knocked around a bit early, you had to at least suspect this one was going in the wrong direction. This Cubs team doesn’t have the kind of thunder that makes you think too long about coming from behind down five runs on the road. That said, a late rally made it unfortunate that they fell behind by five runs.
It’s always a trap to assume sequencing would stay the same, but the Cubs did plate four runs. But you can certainly play some what if games. If Smyly could have somehow wriggled off the hook in the third inning after retiring the first two hitters in the inning. On the other side of the ledger, the Cubs left the bases loaded in the first and a whole host of runners over the first four innings against Giants starter Jakob Junis.
Still, maybe it’s just a search for some sort of reason to find as many silver linings as possible, but I was encouraged that the Cubs battled back in the ninth. They scored three in the inning and got Willson Contreras, Seiya Suzuki and Ian Happ to the plate with the runners on to flip the game. Other than maybe Nico Hoerner, who had an unusually quiet night at the plate, or Christopher Morel, who was only used as a pinch runner in this one, you got the guys to the plate who you want to see up there.
In some other season I’ll be upset by a game with this “shape.” The leaving runners early, falling way behind and coming up short would be a frustrating one for a contending team. For a team that’s going to lose 90? Yeah, I’m taking a moral victory. Your mileage may, of course, vary.
Let’s find some positives in this one. As usual, I’m going to gravitate towards performances of players who are going to be around in the future.
- Nelson Velázquez didn’t enter this game until it was already 5-0. But he got a pair of at bats, picked up a hit and a pair of RBI. That’s quite an impact in a short amount of time. Velazquez has definitely at least reached intriguing.
- This game wasn’t as great for “future” Cubs stars as some, so I’ll go next to a couple of hitters who may not be here a lot longer. Yan Gomes had a hit and scored a pair of runs and David Bote had a pair of hits and scored once.
- I’ll do the same for pitchers. Like Gomes and Bote, Mark Leiter Jr. and Steven Brault seem like they are only here as placeholders until the roster is heathier and upgraded. But, both relievers made worthwhile contributions. Leiter faced 10 batters and recorded eight outs while Brault faced five and recorded four. Each issued a single walk and no hits. The four scoreless innings out of the pen made the comeback possible. And it also left all of the “leverage” relievers untouched heading into Sunday’s game.
With that, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from Saturday’s loss.
Game 100, July 30: Giants 5, Cubs 4 (41-59)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Nelson Velázquez (.155). 1-2, 2RBI
- Hero: Yan Gomes (.052). 1-4, 2R, HBP
- Sidekick: David Bote (.040). 2-4, R, K
- Billy Goat: Ian Happ (-.262). 0-5, 4K
- Goat: Drew Smyly (-.242). 4IP (21 batters), 7H, 2BB, 5R, 5K (L 3-6)
- Kid: Patrick Wisdom (-.104). 0-4
WPA Play of the Game: With one out and a runner on first in the third inning, the game was scoreless. Austin Slater doubled off of Drew Smyly and the runner came all of the way around to give the Giants an early lead. (.137)
*Cubs Play of the Game: With the Cubs trailing 5-1, Nelson Velázquez batted with the bases loaded and no outs in the ninth inning. Giants pitcher Dominic Leone, with the infield playing back trying to just get some outs, coaxed a ground ball. But it wasn’t struck hard and the throw to second was late by an eyelash, scoring a run and keeping the bags full. (.118)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Mark Leiter Jr. (3 2⁄3 IP, 10 batters, BB, 3K)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments below)
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.
- David Robertson +22.5
- Nico Hoerner +20
- Scott Effross/Christopher Morel +17
- Keegan Thompson +10
- Andrelton Simmons -8
- Daniel Norris -9.5
- Rafael Ortega -11.5
- Yan Gomes -14
- Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: The fourth and final game of the series in the Sunday night ESPN broadcast. Adrian Sampson (0-1, 3.20) will try to keep his run of strong starts going. He’ll face Carlos Rodón (8-6, 3.18) who appears to have settled in pretty well on the West Coast.