No matter how good a team might be or how bad the opposition is, sometimes you just have a clunker. Keegan Thompson had one of his worst starts of the year and the Cubs were fighting uphill all day long as a result. The net? An 8-5 loss. To the Cubs credit, they fought back in this one. After trailing 4-2 in the second and having their starter bounced, the Cubs fought back and briefly had a 5-4 lead in the fourth.
Still, even after falling behind 8-5 in the fifth, the Cubs loaded the bases in the eighth and had two on in the ninth. They just couldn’t quite punch through against the Reds bullpen to steal this one. Still, on the road, two out of three is never going to be a bad result. The guys on the other side are pros too, regardless of how rough their season has been or how large of a slump they’ve been in.
This kind of game to me, even in the thick of a pennant race, which the Cubs obviously are a long way from, that you just shake off, move on and live to fight another day. You know you are going to win a large percentage of the time when you score five or more runs. And you know that in modern baseball, one of the prices of a bad start is the increased likelihood of having to use your “B” relievers, and often for multiple innings.
Certainly, on Sunday that was a thing. Anderson Espinoza, who more or less skipped Triple-A this season, faced 14 batters and allowed three runs (he recorded eight outs). It wasn’t all bad: Kervin Castro threw a pair of innings without allowing any runs. But this is one of the side effects to a rough start. If you add to that a year in which the Cubs have experienced an unusually high volume of injuries and four relievers traded at the deadline, you have all of the elements of a game that gets away.
It happens and it happens to everyone. No use dwelling on this one. Let’s get to three positives we can pull from this game.
- The first one is easy, Nico Hoerner had a three-hit game, including a pair of doubles. Nico had dipped below .300, but with this strong game he’s up to .302. If I’ve done my search correctly, you have to go back to 2011 to find a Cub finishing with a full season with a BA above .300. That year, Starlin Castro and Aramis Ramirez both did it. So this is something to watch over the final 49 games.
- Here’s a reminder: Patrick Wisdom was getting playing time pre-DH and pre-2021 trade deadline as a fifth infielder and producing. He, of course, became one of the team’s offensive leaders after the trading away of so many key offensive contributors. Despite an unsightly .223 batting average, Patrick is a hitter with value. He’s carrying a 112 wRC+ and 1.4 fWAR. It’s never going to be a thing of beauty, but I’d absolutely have him in my plans for 2023. This team is not going to get good enough fast enough to make him expendable, even if he ultimately ends up a bench player.
- When Zach McKinstry had his first-three hit game as a Cub, I noted how curious it was that he had so few hits as a major leaguer but that it was hit third three-hit game and he had a small handful of two-hit games as well. Well, here we go again. Zach had a two-hit game yesterday. He’s only had six hits as a Cub but there is a three-hit and a two-hit game among them. Yesterday’s two hits were both doubles, his first two of the season. His numbers are flat-out terrible no matter how you slice them. However, I’m going to guess that a .231 BABIP wouldn’t sustain itself long term. This is a guy who has never settled in at the major league level. I don’t know what he can be, but I do think in an otherwise lost season, you might as well play him more games than not and see if he can settle in.
Now let’s turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from Sunday’s loss.
Game 113, August 14: Reds 8, Cubs 5 (47-66)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Yan Gomes (.181). 1-3, HR, 2RBI, R, BB
- Hero: Christopher Morel (.164). 1-3, HR, RBI, R, BB, 2K
- Sidekick: Nico Hoerner (.115). 3-5, 2-2B, R, K
- Billy Goat: Keegan Thompson (-.238). 1⅔ IP (10 batters), 2H, 3BB, 4R, 2K
- Goat: Michael Rucker (-.220). 1⅔ IP (9 batters), 4H, R, 3K
- Kid: Anderson Espinoza (-.140). 2⅔ IP (14 batters), 4H, 2BB, 3R, K, BK (L 0-2)
WPA Play of the Game: Aristides Aquino homered with runners on first and second with no outs in the second inning. That gave the Reds a 3-2 lead. (.202)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Yan Gomes homered with a runner on second with two outs in the fourth. That tied the game at four. (.196)
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.
- Nico Hoerner +23.5
- David Robertson +22.5
- Scott Effross/Christopher Morel +17
- Patrick Wisdom +11.5
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
- Yan Gomes -10
- Rafael Ortega/Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: The road trip moves on to Washington. The Cubs just took two out of three from the Nationals last week. The Nationals are 38-78 and the only team in baseball below 40 wins at this point. They have an inside path to the No. 1 overall pick next season and that doesn’t look to be in any jeopardy.
Marcus Stroman (3-5, 4.20) will continue to try to salvage what has been a down season for him, marred by injuries and a bout with covid. He’ll face Josiah Gray (7-8, 4.81). Let’s see if the Cubs can pick back up on their recent winning ways.