I could have called this one three down, one up. The Cubs lost their first three games this year to the Orioles, a fringe playoff contender. Of course, at the time those three games were played, I might say a peripheral playoff contender. The Orioles were 7-14 at the end of April, two under .500 for the month of May and two over for the month of June. Since then they’ve been 26-15 (including Thursday’s game) in July and August to become a contender. This is a pretty solid win, all things considered, for the Cubs.
Also, Adrian Sampson entered this start 0-3. I know pitcher wins aren’t what they once were, but they still have at least nominal value for starters. Without a doubt, starters have a much better chance these days of losing games than winning them. After all, if you are bad for an inning or two and are pulled, you are still eligible to lose. But if you are good for four innings but get pulled, you aren’t eligible to win. Or if you throw even five or more scoreless but your team doesn’t score, obviously no win. Certainly, as a starter you should be most concerned what the team’s record is in games you started. But I imagine that it has to feel good, particularly for a fringe major leaguer like Sampson, to pick up a win.
Once again, the Cubs won with contributions up and down the roster. Brandon Hughes and Erich Uelmen each pitched a scoreless inning, with Hughes picking up his first major league save. The bullpen in August is 5-5 with a 3.47 ERA through Wednesday’s games. They’d only allowed 47 hits in 57 innings while striking out 56. Amazingly, even with the Cubs trading off arguably their four best relievers, they are still succeeding. I fear the long term sustainability like you do, but these guys who are still here are getting the job done.
Rafael Ortega had a pinch homer on a day where every run counted and three Cubs had two-hit games. The Cubs haven’t been a particularly good slugging team this season, but on Thursday they had a double and three homers among their eight hits. They slugged (and pitched) their way to victory in this one.
Let’s look at three positives from Thursday’s win.
- Willson Contreras has to get the top spot for his two-homer game. Willson has 19 now on the season to go with a wRC+ of 133 (OPS of .830). Despite the distracting season, Willson is having his best season by fWAR (2.9 even before Thursday’s game) and is on his way to his fourth season with 20 plus homers.
- Adrian Sampson gets the nod in the two spot. He pitched into the sixth, recording 17 total outs, among 23 batters faced on his way to that first win.
- Rafael Ortega gets the nod over the relievers, Ian Happ and Franmil Reyes (two hits each). His pinch-hit home run was a much needed insurance run.
And now we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from Thursday’s win.
Game 117, August 18: Cubs 3 at Orioles 2 (50-67)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Adrian Sampson (.289). 5⅔ IP (23 batters), 4H, 2BB, 6K (W 1-3)
- Hero: Willson Contreras (.201). 2-4, 2HR, 2RBI, 2R
- Sidekick: Brandon Hughes (.198). IP (4 batters), H (Sv 1)
The Cubs are 9-4 since they ended a five-game losing streak with a win against the Marlins on August 5. In those nine wins, they’ve had nine different Superheroes, including seven different pitchers. Oddly enough Yan Gomes was the Superhero in two of the four losses, but there were three more players, meaning 12 different players have been the Superhero in the last 13 games.
- Billy Goat: Nico Hoerner (-.108). 0-4
- Goat: P.J. Higgins (-.098). 0-4
- Kid: Zach McKinstry (-.084). 0-4, K
WPA Play of the Game: Cedric Mullins lined out with runners at first and second and one out in the ninth inning. The Cubs turned a game-ending double play and escaped with the victory. (.332)
*Orioles Play of the Game: Ryan Mountcastle batted with runners at first and second and no outs, the O’s down three in the eighth. Ryan singled to right to drive in a run. A bobble in the outfield allowed the trailing runner to get around to third, ultimately setting up the second run. (.188)
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.
- David Robertson +22.5
- Nico Hoerner +20.5
- Scott Effross +17
- Christopher Morel +15
- Patrick Wisdom +10.5
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
- Yan Gomes -10
- Jason Heyward -15.5
- Rafael Ortega -16.5
Up Next: The Cubs host the Brewers on Friday afternoon. The Brewers come in at 63-54, three games out of first in the NL Central. The Cubs play their next eight games at home against the top two teams in the Central, this is one of those opportunities to affect the division race.
Keegan Thompson (9-5, 3.67) has had some recent struggles, but has been a much better pitcher at home. He’ll face Andy Ashby who is having some rough luck (2-10, 4.24). Ashby has not pitched badly enough to have a 2-10 record on a team that is nine games above .500.
Author’s note: I have some scheduling issues Friday and Saturday, so I cannot say for sure when the next Heroes and Goats will run or if it will be a full edition.