If you had told me on Sunday night before this series that the Cubs would split the first four games of this series, I’d have been very happy with that outcome. I believe my words in the comments section on Sunday were that I’d be happy if the Cubs could annoy the Cardinals too. I imagine they definitely have some frustration about only having two wins so far in this series. When you are chasing a division title, you want to beat the bad teams down the stretch and put it away.
But if you’d told me these four games would be a split, I would never have guessed that the two wins would be Games 2 and 4 of the series, started by a rookie making his debut in Javier Assad and a journeyman Luke Farrell, starting his second go around with the Cubs. The beauty of baseball is that largely on any given day, any outcome is possible. No one would expect the Cubs to win a majority of games started by those two against the Cardinals if you played it over and over. I don’t mean any disrespect to these two pitchers who both turned in nice starts, but these Cardinals are very good and these Cubs, while developing, are overmatched here.
It’s funny that there is a movie celebrating football based on the “on any given Sunday” concept. In football, when the two teams are unevenly matched, we’d expect results of 18 or 19 out of 20, particularly if the better team was at home. But in baseball, unless it is extremely lopsided, that number might only be 12 or 13 out of 20. The Rays won 18 of 19 against the Orioles last year, but that result is an extreme outlier and it isn’t a feat often repeated.
This is the joy of baseball though. Your team probably has a chance to win today. And, you know that if you watch a large amount of baseball, over the course of a year, you are going to see something you haven’t seen before. Then you can add in a dose of good stories, something like Brandon Hughes switching from hitting to pitching and possibly being on the verge of breaking through as a rising star. Add in a sprinkle of rooting for the underdog, like the unheralded prospect Assad and/or the journeyman Farrell. Then top it off with a likable ascending star like Nico Hoerner and baseball can be fun, even in a year when the team will almost certainly lose 90-plus games.
The grinding of the daily losing can, at least at times, frustrate us and become something that is not value added to a life that is already frustrating enough. This is, of course, amplified when that losing stretches on into several years time. But, one of the really great things about following baseball is that it teaches us hope and that tomorrow is another day. Your mileage may vary, but for me I was as frustrated as I’ve been in several years back in May. This team seemed like a joke. There didn’t seem to be any hope.
But here I am on the morning of August 25 and I’m hopeful for the 2023 Cubs. Oh, I don’t have them winning another World Series championship or anything. I’m not sure I even think they’ll win a division title. But I do believe my expectations will be for an above .500 likely finish and that if some things break right that they will be in contention for a playoff spot. The Cubs were a very good team for the first two months of 2021. They appear set to finish the last two months of 2022 over .500. So about one calendar year of suck and this team at least appears to be back pointed in the right direction.
I know this fanbase is incredibly frustrated with ownership. To a lesser extent, I know there has been frustration with the front office. I’ve shared some of those frustrations with you all. But I cannot say what a difference it makes having the organization run by grownups. And not just grownups but people who understand baseball and running it professionally. You can certainly justifiably argue about the way things ended with the core players from the championship era. I won’t dispute that. Fundamentally, we just witnessed either the greatest era of Cubs baseball or at least the greatest era in over 100 years. There was the equivalent of a little over a season’s worth of suck and this team has already played well enough here after the All-Star break to be a fringe playoff team. They are 19-13 since the break and have held their own even against the very good teams. That record would absolutely be in the playoff hunt if elongated to a full season.
The future is never guaranteed. But we can hope and we can dream. I think it is safe to dream about these Cubs again. They appear to be in the process of “putting the band back together.” Oh, it’s not the same band. It won’t even be the same type of band. But, I think the next good Cubs team that has been talked about so much, is coming together as we watch.
When you beat a good team 7-1, there are going to be some positives, let’s get to them.
1) I’m going to have to start with Luke Farrell. 19 batters, 13 outs, one run allowed. That’s a very talented Cardinals lineup on the other side. That’s a team that was smoking hot, having won seven in a row prior to this series. That’s an impressive performance.
2) I’m going to continue with the guy who put out the fire when Farrell ran out of gas. Rowan Wick has struggled of late, but he came in after Farrell yielded his only run on a solo homer in the fifth and he got two quick outs to get out of the inning. His sixth inning wasn’t a work of out, but he did put five outs on the board and held the line while the game was still close.
3) It feels like every few days I’m writing about a Nico Hoerner three hit game. He had another last night. Nick Madrigal has had a few of them recently. Hoerner and Madrigal could make a very unique pair of teammates. Two guys who don’t hit for much pop, particularly in the case of Madrigal, flies in the face of modern baseball. We’ve moved away from batting average as a key metric, but it’s not like hitting .300, as both did in limited 2021 action and as Hoerner has flirted with here in 2022, is a bad thing.
Honorable mentions here have to go to Rafael Ortega, who shows signs of emerging from a long slump with two hits. Zach McKinstry with a homer and three runs driven in. Brandon Hughes who not only threw a clean inning but struck out all three hitters he faced.
Now we turn to the Heroes and Goats from Wednesday’s win.
Game 124, August 24: Cubs 7, Cardinals 1 (54-70)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Luke Farrell (.130). 4⅓ IP (19 batters), 6H, R, 3K
* Luke is the 51st Cub to appear in H&G this season. Last season, an amazing 65 did so.
- Hero: Rowan Wick (.096). 1⅔ IP (7 batters), 2H, 2K
- Sidekick: Zach McKinstry (.082). 1-3, HR, 3RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Nick Madrigal (-.051). 0-4
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.037). 1-4, R
- Kid: Franmil Reyes (-.023). 1-4, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Nelson Velázquez batted with runners on first and third with one out, one run had already scored against Miles Mikolas. Nelson doubled scoring one and putting runners at second and third. (.094)
*Cardinals Play of the Game: Lars Nootbaar’s solo homer that ended the day of Luke Farrell in the fifth. (.079)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Nico Hoerner (3-4, 2R, RBI)
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.
- 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 fifth and final game of the series happens this afternoon at Wrigley. Marcus Stroman (3-5, 3.83) will start for the Cubs. Marcus has generally been much better than his numbers have indicated. Dakota Hudson (6-6, 4.33) hasn’t been dominant. This looks like a winnable game. It would be fun to take this series from the Cardinals while they are making a push for a division title.