When you watch and follow baseball for years and years, you get kind of a sense of what’s going to happen. Of course, just when you think you can see the script playing out even before it happens, the script flips on you. This series has definitely been one of those. I’ve certainly bought into the second half surge for the Cubs. Certainly then, against a struggling, undermanned Reds team, two out of three was pretty much the floor I saw for this series.
Wrong. Further, one of the things I usually expect is for a bad team to lose once it falls behind. Obviously, no one likes losing. You have to play out the string and so you might as well win some games. So I believe that most teams show up to the park thinking today is a fine time to win a game. But you can almost see the air seeping out of the balloon late in the season for bad teams. They’ll fall behind early and they kind of resign themselves to defeat.
And so, when the Cubs plated a run in the fifth and then another in the sixth, the Reds just go away, right? But then in the seventh inning two things collided. First, Adrian Sampson made a rare appearance in the seventh inning. Of course he’d thrown six shutout innings, I get it and I support that decision. The second? Kyle Farmer. He already had more homers against the Cubs than any other team in his short career than any other when he connected for a solo homer. Farmer has played at an All-Star level in his career to date against the Cubs.
But the Cubs still led by one. That is, until the Cubs bullpen melted down in the eighth. Do you know what makes life easier for a bad team? When you start issuing walks. Manuel Rodriguez and Rowan Wick combined to allow a single and three walks as the Reds tied the game in the eighth.
The Cubs took the lead in the eighth though, and we’ll get back to that. But then the Cubs turned to... Mark Leiter Jr. with a lead in the ninth inning. Yeah, didn’t see that one coming. If this was anything other than a 90+ loss season, I’d be pissed about that one for some time. In a lost season? I get it, I guess. He’s pitched better out of the pen. I can see increasing the leverage of his opportunities. But closer? Whatever. A leadoff walk, a triple and a single and the Cubs had blown the lead and the game.
In the end, I suppose the decision-making is fine. Not decisions I think I’d have made, but again this is a season well on its way to 90-plus losses. There are no prizes for the best second half record or most improved or any of that. So you try some things and see what works I suppose. In a decent season, this is the kind of game that can frustrate you for days though.
Getting to the good things from the game explains some of the frustration. First, Adrian Sampson threw six shutout innings. Four hits, no walks. That’s a great outing. Then he threw to that one batter in the seventh and it backed off from great to very good. The one quibble? He only struck out one batter. If you can’t strike hitters out, you are going to have trouble over time.
Second, Seiya Suzuki had an excellent day at the plate. A double, a homer, two runs scored, a run driven in. The solo homer with one out in the eighth inning gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead. That’s a clutch hit in a big situation. I can bet we’re going to talk about this at bat one more time before we are done today.
I’m going to hat tip to Nico Hoerner with a double, a triple and a run scored and probably belongs in my third spot. But I’ve just got to highlight the day of P.J. Higgins. He played the whole game but only had one official at bat. That at bat was a single. He was also hit by a pitch, had a sacrifice and a sacrifice fly. It’s an interesting feat to have three different non-at bat plate appearances.
Now we turn our attention to Heroes and Goats from Thursday’s loss.
Game 137, September 8: Reds 4 at Cubs 3 (57-80)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Seiya Suzuki (.276). 2-4, HR, 2B, RBI, 2R, K
- Hero: Adrian Sampson (.234). 6IP (21 batters), 5H, R, K
- Sidekick: P.J. Higgins (.100). 1-1, RBI, SF, HBP, S
- Billy Goat: Mark Leiter Jr. (-.660). ⅔ IP (5 batters), 2H, BB, 2R, K (L 2-7)
* This is the second worst WPA game score of the season by a Cub
- Goat: Rafael Ortega (-.154). 0-2, 2K
- Kid: Rowan Wick (-.143). ⅓ IP (3 batters), 2BB
WPA Play of the Game: With the Cubs leading by one in the ninth inning, Alejo Lopez batted with a runner on first. He tripled, tying the game and setting up the go ahead run. (.503)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Seiya Suzuki’s solo homer with one out in the eighth gave the Cubs the lead and unfortunately set up the heroics of Lopez. (.296)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
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
- Scott Effross +17
- Nico Hoerner +16.5
- 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: The Giants are in town for the weekend at Wrigley Field. The Giants are 65-72 and will not be returning to the playoffs this year. Drew Smyly (5-8, 3.84) starts for the Cubs. Carlos Rodón (12-7, 2.92) will continue his excellent season for the Giants.