The Cubs played a pretty impressive game on this special night at the Field of Dreams. I know last year’s version was wildly popular and produced a terrific show for those who tuned in. I wasn’t one of those who watched. I’m choosy with when I’m going to sit down and devote several hours of my time to watching a game. But Thursday night was one of those for me. I watched this one start to finish and loved what I saw.
I was impressed on two levels. I recognize that the Reds aren’t in any way a good team and that to a great extent, these two teams are just playing out the string in 2022. But, the Reds starter certainly qualified as intriguing and I don’t think the Cubs’ three two-out hits were nothing in the first. Those hits produced three runs and that ultimately turned out to be enough offense, though they added an insurance run later.
I was also impressed at the product MLB produced. MLB can get kitschy with these special games. But I thought the game and the Field itself were treated with a reverence. On this occasion, I thought MLB did a good job celebrating itself, recognizing and paying tribute to the long and storied tradition of the game. I find that baseball sometimes takes on an arrogant position, like it is entitled to be a cornerstone of American society. This didn’t feel like that at all — it felt like just celebrating the sport and its longevity. I will give a hat tip to that.
I was drawn to this particular game in part, because I have a six degrees of separation connection to the Field of Dreams. My wife worked for a number of years with and became a dear friend of a woman who was named Denise Stillman. I met Denise a couple of times in passing, but unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to get to know her before she passed (way too early after a battle with cancer.)
Denise was part of a company that was central to the initial planning for turning the Field of Dreams site into a baseball mecca of sorts for the Midwest, similar to what Cooperstown, New York is in the Northeast. If you’ve read about the future plans for the site, she fought for years to push through the approval for those plans. I’d be surprised if her fingerprints aren’t still found on what will eventually be developed on the site even though she’s been gone for a few years now. Unfortunately, the project, like so many other ambitious community redevelopment projects, was mired in litigation for years and she never saw it coming to fruition.
I have one really fond memory of Denise. The year Kris Bryant was at Triple-A Iowa, my wife wanted to surprise me with tickets to see Kris play in Iowa. My wife isn’t a huge baseball fan and so she didn’t just know how to go about getting tickets to the game. She asked her friend Denise, who by then was deep into the Field project. Rather than point my wife in the direction of the Iowa Cubs box office, Denise made a couple of calls. And so, that weekend my wife and I were sitting in the owner’s seats, next to the owner’s son and watching Kris Bryant play, a really neat experience.
As the Cubs start to stack some wins in the back half of the season, finding three positives becomes a little more fun, but also a little harder to do. Once again, there were several guys who I thought made key contributions to the win, but I’ve got three that I think really stood out.
- Brandon Hughes. Brandon came into this one with a runner on second and no outs in the seventh inning, just after the Cubs lead was cut to two. He faced the 3-4-5 hitters in the Reds lineup, finishing with Joey Votto. He retired them all including a strikeout of Votto. he then went back out and pitched a scoreless eighth inning, striking out two more. Brandon is absolutely one of my favorite Cub stories of 2022.
- Nick Madrigal’s bat is coming to life. He had three more hits on Thursday night. He drove in one run and stole a base. With Nick and Nico Hoerner, we are seeing a different kind of Cub hitter than we’ve seen much of lately. These guys make a lot of contact and in the case of Hoerner, he’s hit for a very high average. Madrigal is starting to flash some potential along those lines.
- I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the start of Drew Smyly. On a warm night, Drew lasted only five innings, facing 22 hitters. He struck out nine of those hitters and didn’t allow a run. If we want to be picky, we can certainly dwell on an outing of less than six innings, but Drew definitely gave the Cubs a good chance to win this one with a strong start.
Now we turn our attention to Heroes and Goats from Thursday night’s win.
Game 111, August 11: Cubs 4 at Reds 2 (46-65), played at the Field of Dreams site
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Brandon Hughes (.284). 2IP (6 batters), 3K
- Hero: Drew Smyly (.235). 5IP (22 batters), 4H, 2BB, 9K, WP (W 5-6)
- Sidekick: Seiya Suzuki (.103). 1-3, 2B, 2BB, RBI, R, K
- Billy Goat: Michael Rucker (-.211). IP (6 batters), 3H, BB, 2R
- Goat: Willson Contreras (-.057). 0-4, BB
- Kid: Christopher Morel (-.049). 0-3, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: With runners at first and second with no outs in the seventh inning, the Cubs were leading 4-0 until Matt Reynolds’ double. That scored two runs. (.160)
* Cubs Play of the Game: With two outs and a runner on first in the top of the first, Seiya Suzuki doubled scoring the game’s first run. (.103)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Nick Madrigal (3-5, RBI, SB)
Rowan Wick (IP, 3 batters, 2K, SV)
Someone ese (leave suggestion 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.
- Nico Hoerner +23.5
- David Robertson +22.5
- Scott Effross +17
- Christopher Morel +15
- Patrick Wisdom +10.5
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
- Yan Gomes -13
- Rafael Ortega/Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: These two teams get a rare Friday off before resuming the series on Saturday in Cincinnati. Adrian Sampson (0-3, 3.83) continues his search for his first win of the season. Graham Ashcraft (5-2, 3.94) has been pretty effective for the Reds.