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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 12

Five long balls, a return and a fantastic start

Chicago Cubs v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Well, this was a fun one. Baseball is different than other sports. Other sports tend to look at “big games” or “tough matchups” and treat them as whatever your cliché is. Measuring stick. Barometer. It’s the same concept. We want to as consumers of professional sports that certain games have larger meaning. One doesn’t have to have an encyclopedic Cubs knowledge to remember a Cubs team that went to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers and had a dominant win in the first game of the series — and then had the bottom drop out on the season. That cemented a change in direction for the organization.

We can hope that this five homer outburst holds up better and longer than the combined no hitter the Cubs threw in June 2021. Certainly, we have some confirmation bias. The 2023 Cubs are following the footsteps of a 2022 team that finished strong and left the impression that the compass was pointing straight up for this team. Certainly, an 8-2 win running the Cubs early season record to 7-5 feels good. It feels like indeed, this team is turning a corner.

To be fair, that 2021 team started out fantastic. They were 42-33 after that no-hitter. But, they had a first year manager with no managerial experience. That isn’t to say the collapse was David Ross’ fault. That team had certainly become increasingly disappointing with each successive year. A rookie manager is not ideally suited to holding things together when the ship starts sinking. That said, if the Titanic has hit an iceberg, it doesn’t really matter much how good its Captain is at bailing water.

Let’s not dwell over the demise of the last competitive window. With each game for the next few weeks and potentially months, we will look for signs that the next one is opening. Certainly on Friday night when facing one of the National League favorites, this team looked like that window was wide open.

Let’s see how many different headlines are “playable” out of this game. First, I’ll tell you that this game somehow went so well that Dansby Swanson going 0-for-5 with five strikeouts will not merit a mention in almost any writeup you see of this game. Sorry, Dansby. I study box scores and that just jumped off the page.

It would be hard to tell the story of this game without talking about Justin Steele. Justin allowed just three hits over seven innings, needing only 25 batters to record 21 outs.

It would be hard to tell the story of this game without talking about Ian Happ. Ian reached base in all five plate appearances. Included were a homer, two doubles, a walk, three runs driven in and a run scored. It’s early, but this is the kind of game that helps send a player on a return trip to the All-Star Game.

The built-in headline for this game was the return of Seiya Suzuki. Homering in his first game back made that return particularly notable.

Yan Gomes had a three-hit, two-homer night that also included a stolen base. I’d heard that stat earlier this year that Yan was a perfect seven for seven stealing bases in his career, so when he took advantage of Noah Syndergaard’s penchant for ignoring base runners and working slowly, I knew he’d reached eight. I’m not sure if I’m more stunned by the steal or the two homers he later hit.

That’s four headliners. That ignores the Patrick Wisdom homer, Nico Hoerner stealing two bases of his own and two relievers facing a total of six Dodgers to close this out. This was a dominant win.

Which way to go for the three top performances?

I’m going to give Justin Steele the win in a photo finish with Ian Happ. I have to pick one over the other. I’m going off of the sustained success of the Dodgers offense the last few years coupled with being the highest scoring NL team heading into this game. Despite two homers allowed, Steele was dominant.

Yan Gomes takes the third spot in what feels like an afterthought, but shouldn’t be. Three hits, two of which left the yard and a stolen base will probably be good enough to win the top spot in more than half of the games this season.

And now we turn our attention to Heroes and Goats.

Game 12, April 14: Cubs 8 at Dodgers 2 (7-5)


Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.


  • Superhero: Ian Happ (.279). 4-4, HR, 2-2B, BB, 3RBI, R
  • Hero: Justin Steele (.184). 7IP (25 batters). 3H, BB, 2R, 8K (W 2-0)
  • Sidekick: Yan Gomes (.170). 3-4, 2HR, 2RBI, 2R, SB


  • Billy Goat: Dansby Swanson (-.087). 0-5, 5K
  • Goat: Edwin Rios (-.044). 0-4, K
  • Kid: Nico Hoerner (-.030). 1-4, BB, 2SB, K

WPA Play of the Game: The score was 3-1 Cubs when Max Muncy homered off of Justin Steele leading off the seventh inning. (.145)

*Cubs Play of the Game: The game was scoreless in the third inning when Ian Happ faced Noah Syndergaard with two outs and a runner on second. He hit a ground rule double for the Cubs first run of the night. (.122)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Ian Happ
    (69 votes)
  • 48%
    Justin Steele
    (102 votes)
  • 18%
    Yan Gomes
    (40 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (0 votes)
211 votes total Vote Now

Last Game Winner: Cody Bellinger (Superhero is 9-2)

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 +8
  • Ian Happ +7
  • Keegan Thompson +5
  • 3 tied at +3
  • 3 tied at -3
  • Cody Bellinger -4
  • Hayden Wesneski/Jameson Taillon -5
  • Yan Gomes -8

Up Next: Game two of the three-game set tonight in Los Angeles. Another late one, particularly for those of us out here on the East Coast. Though I stayed up and saw nearly all of last night’s game. Jameson Taillon (0-2, 7.00) is still looking for his first strong start of the season. The Dodgers start 2018 second round pick Michael Grove (0-1, 14.73). Grove is making his third start of the year and just the ninth of his young career. He has a 6.63 ERA over his previous nine major league appearances.