If you had Game 146 of 2022 on your card for when the season would truly feel like a split squad game from Spring Training, kudos to you! The Cubs used six pitchers, none for more than two innings and they used 11 hitters. Eleven isn’t really a huge number to be sure, but in the DH era, there really isn’t often a need to use even 10.
Certainly, 17 players used isn’t massive. Not going to more or less unlimited rosters in September has dampened the times when it used to really feel like spring games. What made this one really feel like a split squad game is how many of the 17 players used feel like either Iowa Cubs or journeymen players. Ian Happ, David Bote and Rowan Wick are the only three names that I think would be recognizable to a casual Cub fan.
I’m certain that I’m not the only one who didn’t have Javier Assad on my radar before he debuted a few weeks ago. And really, shame on me for that one. Looking back, he’s been very good for a while and I’m just behind the curve. Esteban Quiroz? I know I’m not the only one who had to be reminded of the minor transaction that brought him to the team. Of course he is here in part because so many middle infielders are banged up. Certainly there are other considerations involving player control and the 40-man roster. But still, this felt a little like following a spring game.
That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t some fun to be had. Assad had his first bad start, allowing three runs in the first and one on a leadoff homer in the second. Four of the first eight batters scoring is not ideal in any situation. Assad gave way to the bullpen after two. It wasn’t completely uneventful, but five Cubs relievers held the Rockies scoreless the rest of the way. The names might not all be household, and the Rockies not formidable, but for a team that traded away essentially its top four relievers at the trade deadline, this is not nothing. There is growth and more than a couple of these names may play significant roles in the 2023 pen.
On the other side of the ball, the offense took some time to get going, but Yan Gomes did deliver a two-out, two-run single in the third to cut the gap to two. That also meant that there was leverage to six of those scoreless relief innings. Gomes would then lead off the sixth with a solo homer to cut that deficit to one. Without doubt Gomes is my first star of this game. He had three hits in all and drove in all three runs.
Unfortunately, the rally came up short. They got runners to first and third with two outs in the sixth but Quiroz was the batter and he’s not much noted for his bat these days, though he was an intriguing player in the Padres system as recently as 2019. Regardless, he came up empty and was the first of 10 straight Cubs outs to end the game. Credit to the Rockies for nailing the door shut after the Cubs got close.
My second star of the day goes to Manuel Rodriguez. He is certainly a pitcher that when healthy has excellent stuff. His problem has always been about command and control. That was true when the Cubs acquired him and remains true to this day. He threw a perfect inning. If he could keep the walks under control, he can be a powerful late game weapon.
My third star goes to Mark Leiter Jr. I’ve certainly been hard on him at times. But, he does seem to have some effectiveness as a reliever. He threw two innings, yielding only a walk. I’m certainly warming to the idea that Leiter could be a depth arm and emergency starter type if he and the Cubs can extend their relationship beyond this year. I don’t think the Cubs will be likely to offer much more than a spot in Iowa and an understanding that he will likely be in the mix once injuries and ineffectiveness start the attrition game that every pitching staff faces every year.
Let’s turn our attention now to Heroes and Goats and have a look at how WPA scored this game.
Game 146, September 18: Rockies 4 at Cubs 3 (62-84)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Yan Gomes (.212). 3-4, HR, 3RBI, R
- Hero: Mark Leiter, Jr (.090). 2IP (7 batters), BB, 2K
- Sidekick: David Bote (.080). 2-4, 2B
- Billy Goat: Javier Assad (-.285). 2IP (12 batters), 2H, 4BB, 4R, 3K (L 1-2)
- Goat: Alfonso Rivas (-.205). 0-4, K
- Kid: Esteban Quiroz (-.134). 0-2
WPA Play of the Game: With two outs and runners on second and third in the first inning, the game was still scoreless when Randal Grichuk singled, plating two. (.147)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Yan Gomes’ homer leading off the sixth that cut the lead to one. (.138)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Mark Leiter Jr.
Someone 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 +13
- Justin Steele/Willson Contreras/Drew Smyly +10
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
- Rowan Wick -10.5
- Rafael Ortega -11.5
- Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: The Cubs travel to Florida on Monday to begin a series with the Marlins. The Marlins check in at 60-87, a distant fourth place in the NL East. Wade Miley (1-0, 2.89) continues to try to show that he’ll be healthy and ready to go for some team in 2023. Edward Cabrera (5-3, 2.70) has been superb for the Marlins.