I spent most of Thursday, day and night, driving a moving truck cross country. The net result was me following the game much less than I ordinarily do. But I did check in while pumping gas and saw it was 3-0 and the Cubs had just one hit against Tony Gonsolin who is trying his darnedest to nail down a Cy Young award before the All-Star break. You can say it doesn’t work that way and you are right. Players regularly have dominant halves of baseball, don’t finish what they started and come up short for awards. But don’t tell me that writers have progressed so much that if the season ended for some reason right now that they wouldn’t give the nod to 11-0. They might not value wins as much as they once did, but a guy without a loss and a chance to win 20? That’s a good story for an award winner. Let’s see if he finishes what he started.
But you don’t come hear to read about the Dodgers. This is Cubs space (a different blue, if you will). By the time I was checked into my hotel room for the night, the game was 4-2 thanks to a Christopher Morel home run with a man on. I’m sure many of you have seen the number, but that was the first homer Gonsolin has allowed this season with a runner on base.
Al had the other stat I saw regarding the homer in his recap. Morel has a top 10 home run rate in all of baseball. This is all interesting because Morel didn’t particularly come through the system known as a power hitter. As is not completely unusual, he is a player that tapped into his ability to generate power a little later, showing power numbers for the first time in Double-A Tennessee last year. Even so, the kind of power he’s been showing with the Cubs does feel a little bit surprising. It’s fun to receive a pleasant surprise once in a while. One can assume his early power numbers are at least a little flukish and will back off some. Still, it goes a long way towards legitimizing a lineup with each additional threat you bring to the game. He has shown speed along the way, if he can also flash decent power, that makes him more and more a guy the other team really has to pay attention to.
No one wants to spend the summer recounting moral victories. And so I’m not asking anyone to be okay with a 5-3 loss in July. I also will never be a guy who really roots for a horrible record for a little bit higher draft positioning. That just doesn’t have the type of definitive impact that it does in some of the other major sports. That said, the Cubs had been playing some of their best baseball lately, even against some very good competition. And so, I was happy that they didn’t just get blown out of the water by the Dodgers. That did happen to them the first time when the team hadn’t been playing nearly as well.
I won’t beat a dead horse, I had the number for you yesterday. The Cubs play like a 72-win team against all of baseball excluding the Yankees and Dodgers. Those are the two teams who have appeared to be on a collision course for the Fall Classic. I’ve seen what the Astros are doing and certainly there are a number of teams that will have a say before all is said and done, but it remains that those two teams have been the cream of the crop. Those two teams are 7-0 now against the Cubs with three weekend games to come.
As always, even in defeat we can find three positives, so let’s get to it
- Morel clearly gets the top spot with that home run. It kept the Cubs in the game until the end.
- Ian Happ was the only Cub to reach base twice. He had a pair of singles and scored one of the three runs.
- I have to tip the cap to Scott Effross. I’m always going to love four up and four down out of a reliever. But I’ll go one step further here. Scott was touched up for a three-run homer the last time he pitched. Particularly in the modern extra inning environment, that can happen to you. For a reliever, the ability to bounce back with a quality outing after allowing a key late inning homer like that is key. This is another positive sign on his developmental path.
With that, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from last night’s loss. Perhaps unsurprisingly, things were a little lean on the Hero side of the ledger. That’s going to happen when you fall behind early and just play catchup all night.
Game 83, July 7: Dodgers 5, Cubs 3 (34-49)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Christopher Morel (.078). 1-3, HR, 2RBI, R, K
- Hero: Scott Effross (.037). 1⅓ IP (4 batters), K
- Sidekick: Brandon Hughes (.012). ⅔ IP (3 batters), K, HBP
- Billy Goat: Mark Leiter Jr. (-.191). 5IP (20 batters), 5H, 4R, 4K, HBP (L 2-3)
- Goat: Rafael Ortega (-.091). 0-4, 2K
- Kid: Yan Gomes (-.076). 0-3, K
WPA Play of the Game: Gavin Lux batted with a runner on second and two outs in the second against Leiter. It was 1-0 at the time. It was 3-0 after he batted as hit hit a key two-run homer. That was one of those spots, if you could somehow just find an out, the whole game might have been different. (.164)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Morel’s two-run homer came with a runner on first and two outs in the fourth inning. It cut the Dodgers lead to 4-2. (.114)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Ian Happ (2-4, R)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
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.
- David Robertson +17.5
- Christopher Morel +15
- Nico Hoerner/Scott Effross +13
- Daniel Norris -7.5
- Yan Gomes -16
- Jason Heyward -16.5
Up Next: Game two of the four-game set between these two teams. Keegan Thompson (7-3, 3.41) starts for the Cubs. The Dodgers will start Tyler Anderson (9-1, 3.09). Thompson has generally been the most consistently good Cubs starter, but this Dodgers team poses so much of a challenge.