Before I get to the Heroes and Goats from Tuesday’s big comeback win, I need to update you on some changes for Monday’s game. I’ll keep it short. I’ve noticed in the past that Fangraphs sometimes has to go back and do some corrections after an extra inning game. I believe this started with the Manfred Man, as many call it. Anyway, literally almost everything changed, so here are just the revised numbers, with no narrative.
Game 9, April 10: Cubs 3, Mariners 2 (5-4)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Keegan Thompson (.308)
- Hero: Nico Hoerner (.178)
- Sidekick: Drew Smyly (.142)
- Billy Goat: Michael Fulmer (-.207)
- Goat: Yan Gomes (-.157)
- Kid: Patrick Wisdom (-136)
WPA Play of the Game: Jarred Kelenic’s homer. (.355)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Nico Hoerner’s walk-off (.174)
Now, on to the big game Tuesday.
I started trying to figure out how to write this one up around the fifth inning. Full disclosure, my schedule constantly looks like fitting 20 pounds of stuff into a 10 pound bag. Today as a for instance, I completed my normal workday (thankfully I work from home full-time), grabbed my son and went to vote in a local election, then back home for dinner (my wife made a terrific lasagna from scratch). Then I dropped my wife and son off at bowling. I had my neck fusion in September, so I sat out the season in our Tuesday league. Then I had a massage. Let me tell you, as I try to get back physically to where I was, the massage once a month helps. I made it home in time for the second inning (I listened to Eugenio Suarez hit his one millionth career homer against the Cubs in the car — really it seems like that many but in reality it’s “only” 30, his most against any team).
That paragraph is a long way of saying that with the Cubs down 7-0 in the second inning, my TV went to one of the many shows I’m behind on watching. The laptop I stream the games on was still set up next to the TV so I could watch, but wasn’t listening. So I was aware of what was happening in real time. I even remember being disappointed when Ian Happ popped out in the third. I remember thinking that after getting one back in the second and a leadoff single in the third that maybe they could claw back. But in my scenario, the team needed Happ to contribute. Thank you, Trey Mancini, for immediately homering and making me mentally look stupid.
So Al gets the recap. I’m not going to take you through play-by-play. You know what happened by now. If you don’t, go read Al’s recap, watch the highlights if you missed this one. Here you get Tom’s stream of consciousness. What is that for this game? We start at the end. All’s well that ends well. This was an ugly win. We take the good ones and the bad ones in these parts, so I’m not throwing this fish back by any means. Though I’m not going to lie, if the injury to Dansby Swanson is in any way significant, I’d trade a win, I’d trade several of them not to lose that guy. The Cubs have a plethora of infield options. David Bote could come up and Nick Madrigal can slide into the lineup. None of that can possibly replace Dansby. Not even if Seiya Suzuki can come up and contribute right away. You can’t replace a player like Swanson. I’m going to be crossing my fingers for sure.
So what else do we say about this one? This front office talks about the need for a player to struggle as part of his development. The first start for Hayden Wesneski was a rough one. But, he scuffled and limited the damage in that one. But on Tuesday night, Hayden could not stop the bleeding. With the benefit of errors and unearned runs, on one hand the line doesn’t look horrible. On the other hand, he faced 15 batters and recorded four outs. Five hits, four walks. Nothing was working. To be fair, I thought the umpiring was terrible (in both directions) again. There were multiple borderline pitches and at least one checked swing that I thought could have been called. I’ll say it this way. Hayden hasn’t been good, but he doesn’t seem to have caught a single break yet. No borderline calls his way. No well hit ball that goes right at a fielder for a double play. Nothing that could just slow things down for him.
In a sample size of 10 games, that’s my first impression of the new rules. I mean, beyond the obvious pace of the games that is. But here’s the bigger picture effect, as you’ve no doubt heard it talked about by some of the people in and around the game. When an inning is going sideways, it can be hard to stop the momentum. Suddenly, baseball is like basketball and a team gets on an 8-0 run and you need the coach to call timeout just to stop things from getting out of hand. If the players can’t just get used to this, they’ll have to adjust for this. Catcher visits to the mound, pitching coach visits to the mound, something just to pause. Even if you go out there and just tell him to breathe and then remind him to execute the game plan and forget about the things that have already happened.
Until there is an adjustment, it’s going to be important that teams have an awareness that big innings can develop rather quickly. Leads might not be as safe. We’ll see if that bears out or if this is some small sample size oddity. It feels like the runs can happen in clusters. Again, perception bias? Or is it real? We shall see.
This was one for the record books, no doubt. Of course, as I sit here writing this from Tampa, there are things going on in baseball locally that are going to be all over the record books. It will forever be one of the most interesting things about baseball that even with 150 years of history recorded, there are still things that happen that are either rare or completely unique.
With the win, the Cubs move to two games over .500 for the first time this year. As it turns out, they were 6-4 last year too before the wheels fell off. So this isn’t blazing any trails yet. Let’s look at three key performances from another Cubs win.
- We were robbed of seeing what was in store for Dansby Swanson,who had four hits in the first five innings. He drove in two and scored one. The power hasn’t yet arrived, but a near .400 batting average through 10 games has been a lot of fun to watch.
- With a hat tip to Trey Mancini’s two hits, a homer, three RBI and a run, I’ve got to go with Adbert Alzolay for the last spot. One of the questions I had about him was the ability to work in back-to-back games. He did so here and retired all six batters he faced. He only struck out one, but lost in the comeback was him shutting the door on the Mariners while the offense was flipping the game on them.
And now, we turn our attention to our featured attraction, the Heroes and Goats.
Game 10, April 11: Cubs 14, Mariners 9 (6-4)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Nelson Velazquez (.384). 3-4, HR, 2B, BB, 4RBI, 3R
- Hero: Dansby Swanson (.168). 4-4, 2RBI, R
- Sidekick: Adbert Alzolay (.115). 2IP (6 batters), K
- Billy Goat: Hayden Wesneski (-.404). 1⅓ IP (15 batters), 5H, 4BB, 7R (2ER)
- Goat: Michael Rucker (-.036). 2⅔ IP (10 batters), 2H, R, 3K (W 1-0)
- Kid: Cody Bellinger (-.034). 2-5, 2R
Note: The Cubs only had three players with negative WPA in this game.
WPA Play of the Game: Nelson Velazquez hit his first major league grand slam with one out in the third and it gave the Cubs the lead at 8-7. (.315)
*Mariners Play of the Game: Eugenio Suarez batted with a runner on first and one out in a scoreless first inning. After his two-run homer, it was scoreless no more. (.174)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Poll Winner: Nico Hoerner (Superhero is 7-2 - even after correction)
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.
- Marcus Stroman/Justin Steele/Dansby Swanson +6
- Keegan Thompson +5
- Ian Happ +4
- 3 tied at -3
- Hayden Wesneski/Jameson Taillon -5
- Cody Bellinger -7
- Yan Gomes -9
Through 10 games of the season, the Cubs have used 27 different players and 25 of them have appeared in Heroes and Goats at least once. Only Luis Torrens and Brad Boxberger have so far failed to appear here.
Up Next: The Cubs have won their second consecutive series by winning four of five. They’ll have a chance Wednesday afternoon to complete their first sweep of the year. They’ve already won this season series with the Mariners, but they’ll try for the second time to add a cherry on top. They couldn’t do it the first time, hopefully the second time is the charm.
They’ll send Marcus Stroman to the mound to do it. Marcus has been spectacular through two starts (2-0, 0.00, 12 IP). The Mariners will counter with lefty Logan Gilbert (0-1, 3.60, 10 IP). A year ago Gilbert made 32 starts with a 3.20 ERA for the Mariners. In 2021, he started 24 games for them with a 4.68 ERA.
Both teams are going to be looking for some length after their starters combined to record just 11 outs on Tuesday. The Mariners managed to only use three relievers, while he Cubs had to use four. Keegan Thompson will probably be the only multi-inning reliever available to the Cubs unless they want to use either Boxberger or Michael Fulmer for two. Stroman is my pick for best Cubs starter so far this year, I’m going to trust in him to get it done and complete the sweep.