This was the kind of game that makes you roll your eyes a little bit. Not because anything bad happened, but because the team looked so polished after getting pounded on Wednesday and then letting one get away in the ninth inning on Thursday. On Friday? The Cubs just executed. The Giants are pretty clearly a better team than the Reds at this point, but the Cubs just fired on all cylinders yesterday.
There is that old cliché about momentum being as good as that day’s starting pitcher. If that were fully true, of course, the Cubs would have won Thursday when they wasted a good start by Adrian Sampson. But, a big hat tip to Drew Smyly for making it two straight good starts for the Cubs. It is easy to hang your head after the team allows four late runs in a 4-3 loss.
Smyly upped Sampson’s performance by one inning, throwing seven scoreless and allowing only a double, two walks and hitting a batter. He did face one batter into the eighth and induce a ground ball that turned into an error. Two of those other four runners happened in the second inning and then Smyly really locked in. I hope the Cubs have been able to sell Drew on being a part of what is building here again. Like most fans, I’m good at spending Cubs money, but I’d find a way to keep him here, even if it meant guaranteeing some extra money in the form of another option year with a buyout or something like that. Certainly I’d understand if Drew wants to get on the market after a really nice season like this one though.
Drew is the easy choice for my top star of the game. The second spot has to go to Nico Hoerner. The Cubs only had five hits and he had two of them. One of those left the yard with a man on base. He also stole a base. Nico has been a star this season. He’s had a 4.1 fWAR season. The value comes more from the glove than the bat, but the bat has produce wRC+ of 110. He’ll have a chance of producing a 10 HR/20 SB season, needing one homer and two stolen bases to get there.
It’s always going to be tough for a guy without a lot of power to sustain value as they age. Defensive skills and speed erode over time. I’m wishful thinking that Nico can progress at least a little like a Ryne Sandberg who still wasn’t any kind of thundering power hitter in his MVP season of 1984. If you haven’t watched in a while, look at the swing of Ryne Sandberg in the “Sandberg/Sutter” game. He was a line drive hitter that just found the seats occasionally. Of course looking at the career progression of one of the best players ever to play the game is folly. But I’m going to dream anyway.
My third choice has to be Yan Gomes. Yan is a glove first backup catcher. But he’s having a nice homestand at the plate and he had a two-run homer and a walk on Friday. His homer in the bottom of the second (with Hoerner aboard) came after Smyly’s roughest inning and gave Drew a little breathing room. Yan provides really great value as a backup catcher. I think his bat has to leave you wanting if he’s in there every day. But he seems so steady with the glove, I’ve heard nothing bad about his game calling and he does have some occasional pop.
Heroes and Goats recognizes one player I didn’t and I’ll give the extra hat tip here. I usually only recognize a reliever if they go multiple innings or are perfect. Every Cubs fan knows just how difficult the last four outs of a game can be. But Brandon only needed five batters to record them. He did yield a single, but was otherwise nasty.
Brandon has flashed some serious potential and as is always the case with late inning relievers, you are dealing with razor thin margins. He can certainly be an excellent back of the game reliever. It’s there in front of him. He needs to continue to put in the hard work that got him here after being a late converter to pitching full time. He’ll surely be challenged next year as he develops and more and more scouting develops on him. But he has a real chance to be the next really strong bullpen product from the Cubs system.
Let’s go to the official numbers on Heroes and Goats and show you how WPA scored it.
Game 138, September 9: Cubs 4, Giants 2 (58-80)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Drew Smyly (.335). 7IP (25 batters), H, 2BB, R (0ER), 8K, HBP (W 6-8)
- Hero: Brandon Hughes (.175). 1⅓ IP (5 batters), H, K (Sv 4)
- Sidekick: Nico Hoerner (.165). 2-3, HR, 2RBI, 2R, SB
- Billy Goat: Manuel Rodriguez (-.105). ⅔ IP (5 batters), H, 2BB, R, K
- Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.042). 1-4, 3K
- Kid: Alfonso Rivas (-.034). 0-3, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Yan Gomes’ second inning two-run homer off of Carlos Rodon set the tone for this one. (.137)
*Giants Play of the Game: Evan Longoria’s two-run double with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. (.103)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Yan Gomes (1-2, HR, 2RBI, BB)
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 +17.5
- Scott Effross +17
- Christopher Morel +14
- Patrick Wisdom +13.5
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
- Rowan Wick -10.5
- Yan Gomes -13
- Jason Heyward/Rafael Ortega -15.5
Up Next: Game two of the three game set. Marcus Stroman’s numbers look pretty mundane (3-6, 3.73). One of the reasons? He’s struggled at Wrigley Field. I know he was very excited to be here. He doesn’t seem like the type that the moment would get to, so I don’t know what the explanation is. Hopefully, he can post a couple of strong starts heading into the offseason and have that behind him before 2023 gets here.
Logan Webb (12-8, 2.89) has been terrific for the Giants. This looks like a tough game. Let’s see if the Cubs can make it two straight.