If only you could eliminate just one inning. The Cubs played really well again on Monday. Well, except for the fifth inning that is. Ian Happ helped propel the Cubs to a 3-0 lead heading to the bottom of the fifth after his second homer of the game in the top of the inning. Safe to say, we’ll be talking about him more in a bit.
In the bottom of the fifth, Marcus Stroman hit a wall. The downfall started with what was initially ruled a hit but was later changed to an error by Zach McKinstry. Two singles followed and then a strikeout and a fielder’s choice. If McKinstry makes the play starting the inning and we hold sequencing as is, no damage.
Of course, I will caution you every time. You can’t just assume sequencing. Everything ripples out, though the fifth inning causes fewer ripples than if what you are changing is later in the game. Regardless, baseball isn’t an Etch-a-Sketch. We can’t just shake it and clear away a bad inning, a bad game or even a bad month. McKinstry’s error did happen. What followed were four unearned runs for Stroman. And eventually Brandon Hughes gave up a homer to Nelson Cruz.
Poor Nelson Cruz. I didn’t realize that when the music stopped last off-season he ended up with the Nationals. I saw him play once here in Tampa with the Rays last year. He did still appear to have life in his bat, even at 41. Obviously, he very much wanted to keep playing. He’s seen some lean years in his time, but playing for the worst team in baseball can’t be how you saw things going. He’s seemed to me very much like a good guy through his years. I certainly hated to see him hit the game-winner against the Cubs. But aside from that, good for him having a moment like that.
As always, even in defeat we can find three positives. Let’s start our dive into Monday’s loss by picking three.
- Certainly, there is no doubt Happ would end up here. He slugged two homers Monday night. The one “knock” on the 2022 version of Ian Happ has been that his power numbers are down a bit. With the two homers, his slugging percentage is sitting at .455 and his career mark is .465. With a higher batting average and a higher on-base percentage, this has been one of the best seasons of his career.
- I’m going to give the nod to Seiya Suzuki for the second spot. He had a pair of hits, drove in a run and scored another. He struck out twice, so whatever funk he’s in is not gone, but he did find a way to contribute even while he struggles.
- Franmil Reyes gets the third spot. Reyes had an RBI triple in the first. Reyes, at least initially, is benefitting from a change of scenery.
Now we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from Monday’s loss.
Game 114, August 15: Nationals 5, Cubs 4 (47-67)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.202). 2-3, 2-HR, 2RBI, 2R, BB
- Hero: Seiya Suzuki (.201). 2-4, RBI, R, 2K
- Sidekick: Franmil Reyes (.027). 1-4, 3B, RBI, K
- Billy Goat: Brandon Hughes (-.227). IP (5 batters), H, R, K, HBP (L 1-1)
- Goat: Christopher Morel (-.180). 0-4, 3K
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.151). 0-5, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Nelson Cruz had a turn back the clock night for the Nationals, with a two-run double in that key fifth inning. Then he had the game winning homer in the ninth inning off of Brandon Hughes. (.291)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Suzuki batted with two outs and runners on first and second, the Cubs trailing by one in the seventh inning. Seiya singled and a run scored, tying the game and setting the stage for Cruz’ heroics. (.205)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
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.
- Nico Hoerner +23.5
- David Robertson +22.5
- Scott Effross +17
- Christopher Morel +15
- Patrick Wisdom +11.5
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
- Yan Gomes -10
- Rafael Ortega/Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: Game two of the three-game set. Justin Steele (4-7, 3.63) goes for the Cubs. Justin has pitched a fair bit better than that record would suggest. He’ll square off against Patrick Corbin (4-16, 7.02). I honestly cannot recall the last time I saw a pitcher with 16 losses in August. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a pitcher with an ERA over 7.00 with more than 110 innings in a year either. The Nationals lefty, a three-time 14-game winner, has now lost 32 games the last two seasons for the Nats as they continue to tear down the team around him. This guy is a two time All-Star and has received Cy Young votes in two different seasons. Patrick is presently in his second consecutive season leading the majors in earned runs allowed. It’s hard for me to grasp how far he’s fallen.