Monday night’s game was a lot of fun. You love to get some of those games once in a while. Sure, it was close for a few innings, but it ended up being a walkover. Especially after a weekend where it seemed like every inning was a war in Los Angeles. Tuesday night, it was back feeling like that. Marcus Stroman and the Cubs bullpen were terrific. The A’s loaded the bases in the first inning, then never saw third base again. In fact, they only saw second base in two other innings.
That sounds like the recipe for another laugher. But, this game was anything but. We fall victim sometimes of looking at the matchups on paper and making an assumption. Ken Waldichuk had been knocked around in his first two starts of the year and the A’s in general have been one of the worst teams in baseball. Of course, in one of those two starts he ran into the rampaging Rays who battered him for eight runs over three innings. That game was in Tampa and that was the worst of catching a team at the wrong time.
Waldichuk was a fifth-round pick of the Yankees. He averaged more than a strikeout an inning everywhere he went in the minors and only at one stop did he have an ERA over 4. He wasn’t a dazzling prospect the way the Cubs opponent will be Wednesday afternoon, but he was a talented pitcher who had worked his way through the minors before his first taste of the majors with the A’s last season. All of this to say, a talented foe.
Waldichuk and the A’s pitching staff matched zeroes with the Cubs for seven innings. It was the kind of game that could get away from you on the road. It looked for a long time like it might be the kind of game where one run was going to mean the difference. One ball landing in an inopportune part of the spacious Oakland outfield. One ball that caught too much of the plate and was taken out of the park. One fielding miscue. One stolen base.
Any of those things could have happened but instead it was the relentless Cubs offense that won the game. For seven innings they were largely held in check. But not the eighth. That’s when they finally broke through and fittingly, it was Seiya Suzuki, the most relentless on Tuesday, that started off a four run rally for the win.
The eighth inning went walk, double, single. That produced the first run. Ground out, ground out. A second run was in. Single, Error. Two more runs. Fly out. Other than noting that Seiya started the inning with that walk, I don’t mention a specific batter. The key to that inning? You might say that in their third inning of work, the A’s bullpen just couldn’t hold the line. That’s probably fair. But I think more importantly, eight Cubs batted. Seven of them put the ball in play. The one that didn’t was a walk. The two ground outs moved runners along, one scoring a run. Another play resulted in a defensive miscue.
Dropped third strikes rarely lead to a baserunner or advance a runner. So with only a very rare exception, when you are striking out, you aren’t applying pressure to the defense to make plays. We are well into an era of pitchers who are so impressive and have so much dazzling stuff that it is difficult to put a ball into play. So kudos to the Cubs offense for putting seven balls in play in a row when the game was on the line. It netted them four runs and the bullpen closed it out for another win.
The battle for the top spot of the three positive performances was tight. I probably could label them 1 and 1a.
- In the end, I think Marcus Stroman has to earn the top spot. His fourth consecutive six inning start. In 24 innings across four starts, he has one two-run inning allowed. The other 23 have been scoreless. He had a rough first, allowing a single and two walks. He allowed one hit the rest of the way. Elite.
- Seiya Suzuki had two hits and three walks in five trips to the plate. He scored the eventual winning run. That’ll give a nice boost to the on-base percentage.
- Nick Madrigal came into the game as a pinch runner and stayed in long enough to get one at bat. It was an RBI-single and he would eventually score as well.
Game 16, April 18: Cubs 4 at A’s 0 (10-6)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Marcus Stroman (.333). 6IP, 22 batters, 2H, 2BB, 5K
- Hero: Seiya Suzuki (.174). 2-2, 3BB, R
- Sidekick: Mark Leiter Jr. (.081). IP, 4 batters, BB, 2K (W 1-0)
- Billy Goat: Ian Happ (-.095). 1-5, 2K
- Goat/Kid: (tie) Dansby Swanson/Eric Hosmer (-.064). Swanson: 0-4, BB, 2K; Hosmer 0-4
WPA Play of the Game: With a runner on first and no outs in the eighth inning, Patrick Wisdom doubled. (.207)
*A’s Play of the Game: Jace Peterson drew a leadoff walk to start the seventh inning. (.058)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Mark Leiter, Jr.
Nick Madrigal (1-1, RBI, R)
Somebody else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Patrick Wisdom (Superhero is 10-5)
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 +11
- Justin Steele +8
- Keegan Thompson +7
- Patrick Wisdom +5.5
- Mark Leiter, Jr. +4.5
- Cody Bellinger -4
- Julian Merryweather -4.5
- Michael Fulmer -5
- Trey Mancini -7
- Yan Gomes -8
Up Next: Having secured a fourth straight series win, they’ll look to sweep the three-game season series from the A’s. The Cubs have had two previous chances to sweep a series and failed both times. They’ve matched their season high of three straight wins and set a new high at four games over .500. So there are a number of season firsts at stake. The Cubs were last four games over on June 29, 2021. Right after that team hit the iceberg and the ship sank. They had been nine over, so unless this team gets into some pretty rare air, all of the last times are going to relate back to that season. I still forget that the turnaround was so dramatic that season that they went from nine over to two under in one long skid.
Sorry for that interlude to worse times. Let’s hope this team is able to avoid trouble like that. Justin Steele (2-0, 1.42, 19 IP) looks to keep things rolling for the Cubs. Justin has allowed only 10 hits across three starts while striking out 19 (6 walks). Mason Miller, one of the A’s top prospects, will make his major league debut this afternoon. He has 11 games pitched in the minors. The 6-5 right handed pitcher has three Triple-A starts, two last year and one this year. He threw five innings, struck out 11 and walked no one. In total, he has 19 strikeouts and no walks in 8⅔ innings of work this year and a 2.83 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 28⅔ innings in his professional career. With a fastball that records 100+, he’ll pose a challenge to the Cubs who will have little film on him to study.