We say “baseball happened” when some lousy team beats one of the better teams. That scenario plays itself out basically every day somewhere across baseball. The reality that it is hard to sweep a series leads to these outcomes. It’s essentially a baseball meme to hold up what is essentially an exception as almost an expected occurrence. Fans and media romanticize these occurrences and really, who can blame them? Everyone loves an underdog, particularly if isn’t your favorite team they are upsetting.
No words are spent romanticizing when a poor Cubs team heads to St. Louis and gets stomped most of the weekend. Before that, they did hang in against two fringe contenders in Milwaukee and Toronto. They won one game in each location and hung in there for the most part across six games in those two stops on their road trip. Again, nothing too shocking there, the Cubs hung in there against the two middle of the road teams and got knocked around by the one very good team.
And so it is no real surprise that the Cubs came home and beat up on a team playing out the string. This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate the win. Writing about winning is so much better than writing about losing. It’s funny to me, thinking back to the days before I regularly wrote about baseball. There is a perception that exists that writers like to write about gloom and doom. I can tell you for sportswriting, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When the Cubs were good, I could fill this space with talk about a single issue. Who should lead off? Lineup questions in general. Who should the fifth starter be? Is the bullpen being over used? Whatever, there are so many words to be written about ways to optimize a good team. 500 words about why Christopher Morel should lead off over Zach McKinstry feels
totally accurate like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
My wife would laugh to hear me say this, but I don’t like to just harp on an issue. This year, while the Cubs were playing poorly, I aired frustration with David Ross and with the front office as a whole. I will certainly revisit those issues again if there is a new reason to be frustrated about them. But I’m never going to use this space to just lash out day after day against one person or a group of people. That just feels mean and petty. We’ve all seen exceptions through the years, but by and large everyone involved is working their butt off trying to be better. No one likes losing.
So, now that I’ve gotten us way off topic, let’s circle back. The Cubs returned home Tuesday after a rough trip. They found the Reds waiting. The Reds are pretty clearly playing out the string at this point. They are squarely in the middle of another rebuild and their cupboard is a little barren just now. Ostensibly, this Cubs team is on the rise. We can probably debate how fast they are rising and/or how far away they are. But the Cubs did what a team on the rise should do, they took care of business.
To be fair, this wasn’t a full walkover. Kyle Farmer drove in two in the first with a triple off of ex-Red Wade Miley, who was making only his fifth start of the year due to injury. Farmer returned to the scene of the crime to hit a solo homer in the third and the Reds led 3-1. For what it’s worth, those were the only two hits Miley allowed over four innings, but they were damaging blows.
The Cubs got their offense in gear in the fifth inning and never looked back. They scored in each of their last four at bats, totaling eight runs. Seven different Cubs had hits and seven also scored at least one run. So this was a team effort.
There were definitely some positives in this one. We start with the new guy. Hayden Wesneski, how do you do? Wesneski made his Cubs debut with five innings of outstanding relief work. For his efforts, he won his first game in his first appearance. We can all cringe at that stat, but this is one we don’t quibble with. There were two pitchers, Miley threw four innings and allowed three runs (two earned). Wesneski threw five innings and allowed two hits and one walk while striking out eight. That’s my top performance of the night.
Nick Madrigal did a heck of a job in the leadoff spot, as he has largely done down the stretch of this season. He had a pair of hits and a walk, one a double. He stole a base and he even drove in two runs. In 105 plate appearances since coming off the injured list, Nick has a line of .301/.375/.344 (wRC+ 109).
In this one, Nico Hoerner was in the middle of the lineup. Ironically, Madrigal led off and drove in runs and Nico batted in the middle and scored runs, three of them to be exact. He too had a pair of hits and a walk, his extra base hit was a triple and he was also hit by a pitch. Yes, he also matched the stolen base. It’s not hard to imagine Nico and Nick being a real terror in a more menacing lineup. They aren’t going to beat you with 450-foot homers, but if you don’t have good execution of your plan against them, they are going to be a menace.
Certainly, on a night like this, there were many to choose from, but those were my three top performances of the night. Let’s see how WPA scored it.
Game 135, September 6: Cubs 9, Reds 3 (57-78)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Nick Madrigal (.235). 2-4, 2B, 2RBI, BB, SB
- Hero: Seiya Suzuki (.217). 1-3, HR, 3RBI, 2BB, K
- Sidekick: Hayden Wesneski (.196). 5IP (18 batters), 2H, BB, 8K (W 1-0)
- Billy Goat: Yan Gomes (-.146). 0-4, SH, DP
- Goat: Wade Miley (-.135). 4IP (17 batters), 2H, 2BB, 3R (2ER), 6K
- Kid: P.J. Higgins (-.105). 0-1, BB, R
WPA Play of the Game: Seiya Suzuki batted with a runner on third and two outs in the fifth, the Cubs down two. He homered and the Cubs were tied. (.253)
*Reds Play of the Game: Kyle Farmer was just the third batter of the game when he batted with two on and nobody out. He tripled to give the Reds an early lead. (.171)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Nico Hoerner (2-3, 3B, 3R, BB, HBP, SB)
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
- Scott Effross +17
- Nico Hoerner +16.5
- Christopher Morel +15
- Patrick Wisdom +13.5
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel/Rowan Wick -9.5
- Rafael Ortega -13.5
- Yan Gomes -15
- Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: Game two of the three-game set. Javier Assad (0-0, 0.90) will make another start for the Cubs. He’ll be opposed by Mike Minor (3-10, 5.98). Minor is surely ready for this season to end.