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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 2

The bullpen was unable to hold a lead and the Cubs lose 3-1

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

I have to start with a personal note today. A lot of you took time to share personal stories and well wishes for me. That was entirely not something I expected. When I write this section, I give you more or less stream of consciousness and when I look back on 2022, that all was part of my story. I’m on a journey to something better and I give all of you who offered supportive words credit. Your words lifted me as they warmed my heart. So thank you.

But this section is about baseball. That doesn’t mean I won’t give you a few behind the scenes stories as we progress, but I’m extremely optimistic that what is going to take place on the field is going to be the lead story in this space. I believe in what is going on around the Friendly Confines. Can I or anyone say that another World Series championship is in this team’s future? No. Because to win, you have to have a convergence of talent and things breaking right for you. There are going to be a handful of teams each year who can win. But only one will have that convergence. I think this team is drifting towards being in that handful some day soon.

One of the things I’ll do here is go out on a limb. A real shaky limb. Like this one. If the Cubs starters maintain a 0.00 ERA and the starting pitcher is the Superhero every day, this team is going to be in the postseason. Obviously it won’t. But you have to be quite the Grinch to look at the first two games of this season and be throwing around bah humbugs. The pitching and defense has been everything it was advertised to be. So far.

Also, Craig Counsell can still manage the heck out of a baseball team and a baseball game. He pushed all of the right buttons in this one and one seeing eye grounder doomed the Cubs. Perhaps the first of which might have been completely different were it not for the shift rules. I’m never going to belabor it. Rules change. But the idea that I can’t position my defense where I know they should be is particularly stupid to me.

One of the things I’ve done in this space is look for three positives to the game. Sometimes they’ll closely mirror the Heroes and Goats that we name objectively. But this is subjective. I might recognize a guy for extending a hot streak or ending a cool streak. I might recognize a great defensive play. Or, I might be stuck recognizing the one pitcher who worked a scoreless inning on a day when the pitching staff got knocked around.

My first positive is obvious. Justin Steele was terrific. Might the Brewers be an offensively challenged team? Maybe. But maybe not. The future is never pre-written. Six innings, three hits, one walk, eight strikeouts and no runs. I don’t care who you faced. That’s getting it done.

Dansby Swanson. Already in rare air, his torrid start has people searching record books. Six hits in the first two games. Against some of the best arms a talented Brewers pitching staff has to offer. He’s not going to hit .750, folks, or challenge 500 hits. But, if healthy, he is going to continue to be a menace to opposing pitchers. He’s everything you want in a big free agent plunge, a guy who appears to make everyone around him better.

No way I’m not grabbing Ian Happ for the third spot. Ian has had a very nice start to the season. He had a hit and two walks in the opener and he had two more hits in this one, including a solo homer that accounted for the only run the Cubs scored. An All-Star and gold glover in 2022, he’s looking to build upon that success heading towards free agency.

If one were trying to reconcile that I tied for the lowest win projection among Bleed Cubbie Blue and my generally optimistic tone here, this game is a perfect example. In August and September, when the Cubs were posting playoff-caliber results, they were having that convergence I talked about above — the intersection of talent and good fortune. One of those things I’ll label good fortune is not a lot of games like Saturday. The Cubs played well and a player I believe could be part of a bright future, struggled in the moment on Saturday and it cost the Cubs a win on a day when the offense only produced a single run.

No dwelling on the loss. Gotta put it in the past and move forward. Let’s get to the numbers and take a look at the Heroes and Goats from a hard fought loss.

Game 2, April 1: Brewers 3 at Cubs 1 (1-1)


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


  • Superhero: Justin Steele (.350). 6IP (21 batters), 3H, BB, 8K
  • Hero: Ian Happ (.257). 2-4, HR, RBI, R, 2K
  • Sidekick: Dansby Swanson (.166). 3-4, 2B


  • Billy Goat: Cody Bellinger (-.348). 0-4, 2K, DP
  • Goat: Javier Assad (-.337). 1⅓ IP (7 batters), 2H, BB, 3R, 2K
  • Kid: Michael Fulmer (-.193). ⅓ IP (3 batters), H, BB, K

WPA Play of the Game: William Contreras batted with the bases loaded and two outs against Michael Fulmer, the game tied 1-1. He singled and two runs scored. (.335)

*Cubs Play of the Game: Ian Happ homered with two outs in the sixth to break a scoreless tie. (.194)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    Justin Steele
    (113 votes)
  • 1%
    Ian Happ
    (2 votes)
  • 10%
    Dansby Swanson
    (13 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave a suggestion in the comments)
    (0 votes)
128 votes total Vote Now

Previous Player of the Game: (according to your voting): Marcus Stroman

Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)

  • Marcus Stroman +3
  • Dansby Swanson +3
  • Justin Steele +3
  • Yan Gomes -2
  • Javier Assad -2
  • Cody Bellinger -6

Up Next: The Cubs and Brewers meet in the third and final game of the series, with the winner taking the series. The Cubs will start free agent acquisition Jameson Taillon. The Brewers send lefty Eric Lauer to the hill.