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2022 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Games 122 and 123

The Cubs split a pair with the Cardinals

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday’s baseball was one of those days where I’m reminded of why I would never try to make any money betting on baseball. In Game 1, the Cubs started a guy who began the year repeating a level at Double-A against a Cardinals team that had won eight in a row. They led off one of the least productive hitters on the team and Willson Contreras was out of the lineup. They not only won that game, but Javier Assad and four relievers collaborated on a five-hit shutout.

Then in Game 2, Adrian Sampson has been in a pretty nice groove, coming off of a win in his last start. To be fair, I’d still bet on the Cardinals in that one, but if the Cubs were going to win one, that would be the one, right? Nah. The Cubs were clobbered 13-3 in a game that left me with the dilemma of if I’m going to list the three batters, three outs recorded of “reliever” Franmil Reyes as one of the positives.

The day though belonged to Assad with a very big assist from Michael Rucker. It’s becoming comical that the hallmark of the Cubs organization was that they just couldn’t develop a pitcher. In each and every instance of a pitcher seemingly coming out of nowhere, I tip my cap to the player who has worked their butt off. It’s never as easy as saying that a team has put in place infrastructure to unlock the potential of a player. That player has to buy what they are selling and do the work.

Regardless, these days it seems like pitchers are just coming out of the woodwork. The Cubs appear to be getting better and better at the combination of identifying pitchers that they can help and significantly improving the hit rate on developing those pitchers. In the last few years, they’ve had excellent luck with retread relievers. To be fair, largely the entire time since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been with the Cubs, they’ve excelled at finding a bullpen and rarely was that accomplished by spending a lot of money in that area.

The rub had been internally developing options. But, with the trade of Scott Effross, a largely unheralded player through the system, we see a pitcher that was homegrown have a significant impact, first here and then as part of a trade. Early in the year, Keegan Thompson, another fairly under the radar prospect, was having terrific success out of the bullpen before necessity put him into the starting rotation after seemingly every starter that was even conceived of for the 2022 Cubs was injured. Tuesday gave us for innings of Assad and two very key innings out of Rucker. Again, both homegrown products.

The Cardinals have been the most consistently good team in the NL Central for a while now, going back to even before the Cubs championship team’s rise and fall. The Dodgers have been a force in the NL as a whole for a long time. Both teams certainly to differing degrees make splashy free agent signings and trades for big name high dollar players. But to dismiss the success of either team as solely buying championships is totally dismissing the hallmark of both teams. That hallmark is consistently churning out talent from their minor league system. Sometimes those player make contributions internally and sometimes they are the coveted pieces in those trades for high end talent.

As two teams that are almost always picking in the back half and and even later part of the first round due to their sustained success. But their success doesn’t come solely from first round picks. It comes from success up and down the draft. It’s taken a very long time, but the Cubs system is starting to produce some of those “hits” in the draft. Effross was a 15th round pick in 2015. Rucker appears to be maybe turning a corner. If he can do so, that’s an 11th round pick in 2016.

It goes on. I’ve talked several times about the peculiar 2017 draft. So far, it is one of the few times since Theo Epstein came to Chicago that the first pick has been one of the least successful of the draft class. Of course, they were coming off a World Series win that year. But Brandon Hughes, who picked up his third save in Game 1, was a 16th-round pick (as an outfielder). Erich Uelmen, who also pitched in Game 1, was a fourth-round pick and has been generally terrific in limited opportunity since the trade deadline.

It’s too early to spike any footballs or break into end zone dances. Though I’ll note that I didn’t even mention Justin Steele above and I’ve seen several arguments on various sites recently that he is the actual belle of the ball for recent Cubs prospects. These are the glimpses of what can be. At the end of the day, you start really patting yourself on the back when you have a guy from your system taking the ball for a playoff game or when your guy is throwing in the All-Star game.

The Cubs do get at least part of a gold star for Dylan Cease. He finished his development on the other side of town, but it’s not as if he was traded and then broke out. The Cubs scouted him, drafted him, started his development and then turned that high upside into a much needed starting pitcher for a team trying to repeat as World Series champions. Unfortunately, you can’t ever divorce the NLCS loss from the evaluation of that trade. Had the Cubs won the World Series back-to-back with Jose Quintana making key contributions, there would be a whole lot less heartburn and tears over that one. I imagine there are a whole lot of you that I could go back and forth with as to if that was the wrong move or just the wrong result. For me, I hated the haul we traded in that one but always thought it was totally indefensible and have always been a little confused about how much less Q was away from the south side.

Regardless, the jury is out. There is a lot of work still to be done. But I’m not going to try to hide my enthusiasm and joy about the Cubs starting to show signs of a player scouting and development group that not only escaping the bottom of the barrel, but starting to trend very favorably towards the top. They’ll need to produce some elite results outside of first round picks and key international signings. But, the outlook is better than it’s been at any time in my memory.

For the doubleheader, I’m abandoning the normal three positives. I’m going to look at both games and just call out what I see as positive performances.

  • Javier Assad. Welcome to the show. 20 batters, 12 outs isn’t exactly world beater status, but that was a very good team and they plated zero runs. Not bad for a kid who I imagine had a whole lot going through his head all day long.
  • Michael Rucker. When Assad departed with first and second with no outs and Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado due, the game could have really flipped. He not only retired the two of them, but all six batters he faced, including two future Hall of Famers in Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols. The latter has been in an amazing hot streak.
  • Brandon Hughes only faced three batters in converting his third save. You don’t hand the role to him of course, but Hughes doesn’t look at all uncomfortable in the ninth- inning role.
  • Christopher Morel continues to flash some signs of coming out of his first prolonged major league struggles. He had a pair of hits and scored one of the runs in the first game.
  • Nick Madrigal had two of the Cubs seven hits and also drew a walk in the second game.
  • Did I mention Reyes faced three batters and recorded three outs? Hitting the red hot Pujols with a runner at third with no outs, down nine was crafty. He then induced a ground ball double play and recorded a strikeout to get out of a sticky situation only down 10.

Moving along. Let’s turn to the Heroes and Goats from game one.

Game 122, August 23: Cubs 2, Cardinals 0 (53-69)


Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.


  • Superhero: Michael Rucker (.249). 2IP (6 batters), K (W 3-1)
  • Hero: Seiya Suzuki (.139). 1-4, RBI, SB, K
  • Sidekick: Erich Uelmen (.105). 1⅓ IP (6 batters), H, HBP


  • Billy Goat: Yan Gomes (-.082). 0-4
  • Goat: Rafael Ortega (-.076). 0-2, BB, K
  • Kid: Nico Hoerner (-.059). 0-4, RBI

WPA Play of the Game: With runners on first and second and one out in the third, Seiya Suzuki singled off of Adam Wainwright to drive in the Cubs second run of the game. (.111)

*Cardinals Play of the Game: Lars Nootbaar led off the fifth inning with a double with the Cubs leading by two. (.075)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game in game one?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Michael Rucker
    (31 votes)
  • 5%
    Seiya Suzuki
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Erich Uelmen
    (0 votes)
  • 42%
    Javier Assad (4IP, 20 batters, 4H, 4BB, 3K)
    (32 votes)
  • 10%
    Brandon Hughes (IP, 3 batters, Sv 3)
    (8 votes)
75 votes total Vote Now

Game 123, August 23: Cardinals 13 at Cubs 3 (53-70)


Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.


  • Superhero: Nick Madrigal (.061). 2-3, R, BB
  • Hero: Rafael Ortega (.023). 1-2, 2B, RBI, R
  • Sidekick: Patrick Wisdom (.009). 1-4, 2B, K


  • Billy Goat: Adrian Sampson (-.189). 3⅓ IP (17 batters), 8H, 5R (L 1-4)
  • Goat: Nicholas Padilla (-.090). 1⅔ IP (9 batters), 2H, 2BB, R, K, WP
  • Kid: Seiya Suzuki (-.075). 1-4, R, K, DP

WPA Play of the Game: Tyler O’Neill homered with a runner on first in the fourth inning. Until then, it had only been a 1-0 game. (.179)

*Cubs Play of the Game: Nick Madrigal led off the bottom of the first by reaching on an error in a scoreless game. (.035)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game in the second game?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Nick Madrigal
    (41 votes)
  • 1%
    Rafael Ortega
    (1 vote)
  • 8%
    Patrick Wisdom
    (5 votes)
  • 17%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (10 votes)
57 votes total Vote Now

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 +19.5
  • Christopher Morel +18
  • Scott Effross +17
  • Patrick Wisdom +13.5
  • Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
  • Yan Gomes -13
  • Jason Heyward -15.5
  • Rafael Ortega -16.5

Up Next: The fourth of five games is Wednesday night at Wrigley Field. Luke Farrell will make his 2022 MLB debut for the Cubs after returning to the organization. The Cardinals counter with Miles Mikolas (10-9, 3.32) in what is not even remotely an even match on paper. But games aren’t decided on paper, right?