As I’ve alluded to for two straight nights, the value of this trip north was the learning experience of playing meaningful games this time of the year. For the last two weeks, the Cubs have been playing teams that are fighting for their invitation to the playoffs. It’s not over yet, with the road trip moving to St. Louis next after a day off.
On Wednesday night, the Cubs finally broke through and won one in Toronto. To their credit, they led in all three games, but in this one, they closed the deal. This one was a nice team win. A number of guys contributed and this is one time that my selecting three positive performances from the game isn’t an easy one. Spoiler alert, one of the guys I thought of actually ended up on one of the goat podiums.
Luke Farrell started what was basically a bullpen game for the Cubs. He was the first of seven pitchers, none of whom threw more than two innings or faced more than eight Blue Jays hitters. Eight of the nine Cubs batters in this game had a hit, two had two and one had a hit and a walk. Five different players drove in a run, six different players scored a run, there were six extra base hits amongst the 10 hits. So there were a lot of guys who positively contributed to this win.
You love to see it when so many people get involved in a win like this. Stars are indispensable, but it’s pretty arguable that depth is what carries the day in the regular season. As I’ve noted in the past, this roster is likely the depth portion of a playoff caliber team. That’s not meant to be insulting, just a reality that elite talent is going to have to be added to the core of this team if it is going to be a championship caliber team.
The good news comes in two fronts. 1) Most of the salary is rolling off for this team. 2) If you’ve been following Josh Timmers day in and day out, then you know that Brennen Davis and Pete Crow-Armstrong, among so many others, are on the horizon and look likely to be some of that elite infusion of talent.
Let’s see who I settled on for my three positive performances of the game.
- Manuel Rodriguez threw two innings, faced six batters and he retired them all. He was awarded the win for his efforts. He struck out one.
- Zach McKinstry. Surely, I’m not the only one who was frustrated when this game’s lineup was released. I realize that you have to get Zach into a number of games and really get an idea of what you’ve got. But he’s pretty clearly been one of the least productive bats on the roster. So playing? Fine. Leading off? What the heck? He responded with a pair of hits, one of which was a triple. He drove in a run.
- Ian Happ had a pair of hits, one of them a double. He drove in a run and scored a run.
And now, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from Wednesday’s win.
Game 131, August 31: Cubs 7 at Blue Jays 5 (56-75)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Zach McKinstry (.157). 2-4, 3B, RBI, 2K
- Hero: Manuel Rodriguez (.121). 2IP (6 batters), K
- Sidekick: Ian Happ (.107). 2-4, 2B, RBI, R, 2K
- Billy Goat: Erich Uelmen (-.270). ⅔ IP (6 batters), 3H, 3R
- Goat: Christopher Morel (-.089). 0-4, 2K
- Kid: Franmil Reyes (-.051). 1-4, HR, RBI, 2R, K
WPA Play of the Game: The Cubs were leading 6-2 in the sixth and runners were on first and second with one out. Erich Uelmen was pitching to Alejandro Kirk and served up a three-run homer to cut the lead to one. (.220)
*Cubs Play of the Game: It was just 2-0 Cubs when Nico Hoerner batted with runners on second and third and two outs in the third. Hoerner doubled and two runs scored. (.134)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Somebody 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 +19.5
- Scott Effross +17
- Christopher Morel +15
- Patrick Wisdom +13.5
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel/Rowan Wick -9.5
- Yan Gomes -15
- Jason Heyward -15.5
- Rafael Ortega -16.5
Up Next: The Cubs have an off day Thursday, their first in almost three weeks and then they’ll play in St. Louis over the weekend. The Cardinals went to 13 innings Wednesday to beat the Reds. They too are off Thursday and should have a chance to reset. The win was their second straight and moved them to 22 games over .500 and 6½ games clear of the Brewers in the NL Central. Barring a disaster, they are heading to their record-increasing 12th NL Central title.
The Cubs have won just six of 16 games vs. the Cardinals this year and so St. Louis has already clinched the season series. The last time the Cubs were in St. Louis, just about a month ago, they were swept in a three-game series. Adrian Sampson (1-4, 3.97) will start for the Cubs. Jordan Montgomery (7-3, 3.28) will start for the Cardinals. You might recall that Montgomery threw a one-hit shutout against the Cubs in Chicago during the last homestand. His career numbers against the Cubs are disgusting (3-0, three starts, 0.79 ERA, 22⅔ innings, nine hits, four walks, 15 strikeouts). Of teams that he’s thrown at least 20 innings against, his next lowest ERA is 2.22 (against the White Sox, who he is 2-0 against in four starts).