Tuesday night in Washington, there was essentially a pair of baseball games. There’s the very positive one started by Justin Steele wherein the Cubs won a six-inning game, 4-1. Textbook execution against a bad team. The continued production for Franmil Reyes as a Cub, the usual production from Nico Hoerner and even RBI from P.J. Higgins and Nelson Velázquez. That was a ho-hum, boring game from the perspective of Heroes and Goats, but a fine game from the Cubs perspective. More contributions from guys you hope are part of the roster in 2023.
Then there was the “other game.” It ended up being five innings long. It saw the Cubs fumble away a three-run lead in the seventh inning, including back-to-back homers off of de facto closer Rowan Wick to start the eighth (after he was called upon to escape trouble in the seventh). Is it possible that Wick is already off balance being used before the ninth? He’s been so good lately. But Tuesday he did not have it.
The game continued on into a “fourth” inning where the Cubs scored a run on one of the weirdest plays you’ll see, an inning ending, sacrifice fly/double play. I’d love to say that Rafael Ortega engaged in some elite baserunning play there, getting hung up in a rundown to make sure the run would score, but it was never in question. This was just bad baserunning. Then, the Cubs blew a second save opportunity. Brandon Hughes allowed a bonus runner to score on a two-out hit. This has been a rough series for Brandon who picked up the loss on Monday.
Fortunately, all is well that ends well, right? The Cubs plated two runs in the 11th on a pair of hits and they won this won 7-5. Mark Leiter Jr. continued to show some value out of the pen, notching a save, the first of his career. It’s hard to imagine the train wreck of the last five innings is actually a part of the thing of beauty that was the first six innings of this game. But, the Cubs managed to sneak it out and avoid the frustration of a second straight loss to the woeful Nats.
Let’s get to the three positives from Tuesday night’s game that I have selected. A game like this offers me the opportunity to not necessarily be completely in step with Heroes and Goats.
- Justin Steele has to get the top spot in my book. Six innings, one unearned run (though in fairness, it was his error). He allowed five hits and two walks. Justin just keeps showing signs of improvement in this his first full season as a starter.
- Nico Hoerner gets the second spot for me. He had another three hit game and has his average up to .306. He drove in a run, scored a run, had a double and stole a base. The man can fill up a scorecard.
- I’m going to cop out and select two different pitchers for the last spot. Michael Rucker threw a perfect ninth to preserve the tie and then Mark Leiter Jr. threw a perfect 11th to convert the save. There was a whole lot of calamity around these two, but these two helped deliver this win.
And now, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from Tuesday’s extra-inning win.
Game 115, August 16: Cubs 7 at Nationals 5 (48-67)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Justin Steele (.260). 6IP (23 batters), 5H, 2BB, R (0ER), 5K
- Hero: Patrick Wisdom (.238). 1-5, 2B, RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Mark Leiter, Jr (.202). IP (3 batters), 2K (Sv 1)
- Billy Goat: Rowan Wick (-.329). IP (6 batters), 4H, 2R
- Goat: Rafael Ortega (-.169). 0-2, K
- Kid: Erich Uelmen (-.167). ⅓ IP (4 batters), 3H, R, K
WPA Play of the Game: C.J. Abrams’ two-out single in the 10th against Brandon Hughes scored the bonus runner and tied the game at five. (.464)
*Cubs Play of the Game: With two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh, the Cubs leading by two, Rowan Wick got a ground ball double play off the bat of Joey Meneses. (.265)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Mark Leiter Jr.
Nico Hoerner (3-4, 2B, BB, RBI, R, SB)
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 +13.5
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
- Yan Gomes -10
- Jason Heyward -15.5
- Rafael Ortega -16.5
*For keen observers of the standings, I found a clerical error on Rafael Ortega that resulted in +1 to his season total, but then he was the Goat, resulting in a net -1 and last place for Rafael.
Up Next: The third and final game of the series is an early Wednesday afternoon game. Drew Smyly (5-6, 3.69) will start for the Cubs. He’ll be opposed by Cory Abbott (0-2, 5.94). Many of you will recall that Abbott was a second-round pick of the Cubs in 2017. For those paying very close attention, the 2017 draft keeps getting more and more interesting for the Cubs. Alex Lange and Cory Abbott are pitching for other teams. But the Cubs are getting production from Keegan Thompson, Erich Uelmen, Nelson Velazquez and Brandon Hughes from that year’s draft. Lange was part of the deal that brought the Cubs Nick Castellanos, so that’s a lot of value despite Brendon Little, that year’s top pick, struggling a bit in Triple-A.