With just six wins in 21 games heading into this series, against the yearlong front-running New York Mets, this looked like a series where grabbing one win would have felt like an accomplishment. Over the years, September games have gotten very lopsided. With the aggressive stances teams take at the trade deadline, the rich get richer and the poor turn their head towards next season.
The lesser team trades away talent, shuts down guys with fatigue-related impairments (such as Kyle Hendricks) and holds off on starting the clock on future talent (such as Matt Mervis). Years ago, Hendricks might have come back just to get in some work. Mervis might have come up to get a look. But in the modern world, you optimize everything. That includes not wasting pitches on the arm of Hendricks or wasting a roster spot on Mervis before you need to.
All of these things tend to lead up to a talent gap becoming a talent gulf. And no one would argue that there isn’t a chasm between the Mets and the Cubs. But, the Cubs got some strong pitching performances and just enough offense in this series to pull off the heist.
The younger generation of Cubs fans have almost no animosity towards the Mets. The two teams haven’t occupied the same division in a very long time. Even those around my age didn’t live through the misery that was 1969. I have a memory just long enough, heck even just the 2015 NLCS is enough, to not lose one minute of sleep over the dent the Cubs have made in the Mets season. Oh, the wound isn’t fatal, but that’s three losses a team with its competition breathing down its neck didn’t need.
I think WPA and I are going to be on a different page for the first time in the series and there will be little or no overlap on my three stars. First up, I’m going Drew Smyly. Offense drove this performance and if you wanted to start with one of the hitters, I totally get that. Drew was handed a six run lead before he ever took the mound. How did he respond? Five innings of work, two runs but only one earned. He allowed four hits and a walk. Throw strikes, don’t give them life. Smyly has been very good. I’ve been consistent in that I’ll be happy to see Drew back if the team can work something out with him.
Second, I’m going with P.J. Higgins. With Willson Contreras and Yan Gomes on the roster, Higgins had to figure that at best he’d get a couple of brief stints with the big club to cover for an injury. Instead, he’s closing in on 200 plate appearances. He doesn’t scream star in development, but you don’t have to squint a lot to see a guy who can carve a niche as a backup in this league, particularly with the ability to play the infield a bit. P.J. had a single, a double, a walk, a run scored and two runs driven in.
I could bottle up a lot of what I said about Higgins and repeat it about Nelson Velázquez. His first taste of the majors this year hasn’t set the league on fire. At times, he’s struggled to find at bats. But, here he is, creeping up on 200 plate appearances. Again, doesn’t scream out future star, but doesn’t look completely over matched either. For Nelson the key is going to be does he take a step forward next season. The Cubs outfield figures to get increasingly crowded with a wave of prospects coming through the system. Nelson had a pair of hits and drove in a run.
Now let’s turn it over to WPA and see how the numbers crunched as we look at the Heroes and Goats from the win on Wednesday.
Game 143, September 14: Cubs 6 at Mets 3 (61-82)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Yan Gomes (.157). 1-4, 2B, 2RBI, R, 3K
- Hero: P.J. Higgins (.092). 2-3, 2B, 2RBI, R, BB
- Sidekick: Franmil Reyes (.061). 0-4, BB, R, K
- Billy Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.077). 0-4, 2K
- Goat: David Bote (-.019). 0-4, K
- Kid: Ian Happ (-.006). 0-1
WPA Play of the Game: With one out and the bases loaded in the first inning, Yan Gomes got the scoring started with a two-run double. (.169)
*Mets Play of the Game: David Peterson struck out Patrick Wisdom with the bases loaded and no outs in the first inning. (.069)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Drew Smyly (5IP, 20 batters, 4H, BB, 2R, 1ER, 5K, W)
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 +10.5
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
- Rowan Wick -10.5
- Yan Gomes -11
- Rafael Ortega -11.5
- Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: An off day Thursday, then the Cubs host the Rockies for a three game weekend series. These two teams split a series way back in April in Colorado. The Rockies come to town one game better than the Cubs at 62-81. The Cubs will start Marcus Stroman (3-7, 3.91) in the opener. The Rockies will counter with German Marquez (8-10, 5.25).