Nothing like a little afternoon baseball on in the background while you are finishing your work day. By the time I got off of an afternoon call, the Cubs were already battering Dodgers starter Julio Urias. I tuned in just in time for the top of the third, as Drew Smyly was recording his fifth and sixth consecutive strikeouts. Sometimes you just know when you tune in. There was something in Jim Deshaies’ voice and I knew Smyly was sharp.
I saw Cody Bellinger and Troy Mancini go back to back. You could have offered me pretty strong favorable odds that the Cubs would win consecutive games started by Urias and I’d never take the bet. Through three, the Cubs had two doubles, a triple and two homers. Not to mention drawing a pair of walks. Urias was on the ropes and Smyly was nine up and nine down. Holy freaky Friday!
The fourth was fairly mundane, save Nico Hoerner’s single chasing Urias. Well, other than the side show that was Jake Reed’s funky delivery. For two batters, it looked like the Cubs batters wanted no part of Reed. Smyly was back out for the fifth and quickly dispatched three more. At this point, the win felt safe, but it was starting to feel like there could be history.
Then the dam broke for Reed. A walk and six straight hits and he too was headed to the showers unceremoniously. The only remaining question was if there would be any history. Sadly, it was not to be. No one can say that Smyly and Yan Gomes didn’t leave everything on the field going for it. They nearly killed each other trying to field a topped ball on the third baseline. Gomes had to field that if there was any chance. And in virtually any scenario it would have taken a miracle.
Smyly was so dominant that it is tempting to just drop three positives and Player of the Game and give it all to him. However, that’s not the formula and that’s not fair to the excellent team assault the Cubs launched on the perennial National League favorite. They all count the same, but this one sure feels like a little extra. Not only that Urias and the Dodgers are a formidable opponent. But also chalk one up for being able to shake the Etch-a-Sketch and put a frustrating Thursday loss behind them.
17 hits, four walks and 13 runs later, the Cubs are doing things they haven’t done in more than 100 years. That takes note of six double-digit scoring games this quickly. But going further, it’s pretty unusual for the Cubs to have three of them in five games. The team posted its fourth shutout already. There are some extremely special things.
We aren’t super early anymore, though it’s still plenty early. But Patrick Wisdom is running a 77 homer, 153 RBI pace. Cody Bellinger is on pace for better than 40 homers and 110 plus RBI. That ignores that Yan Gomes would have a 20+ homer season, Nico Hoerner a 70+ steal season and four Cubs (Wisdom, Bellinger, Hoerner and Dansby Swanson) all on pace to score well over 100 runs. In fact, the Cubs offense is odd. Wisdom, Bellinger and Hoerner have all scored 17 times. Swanson 16 and Ian Happ 12. No one else has more than seven. The Cubs are scoring in bunches, but by and large it is only five players. Interesting stuff. All would pace out to 100 runs scored with Happ sneaking in at 102.
We’ve been here before, right? There will be harder days. It’s been an unseasonably warm spring for the most part at Wrigley. But the weather hasn’t even really turned warm yet. The wind was fairly aggressive Thursday night, but we all know both things are true. The fast start will see some regression later. But also the conditions for scoring runs at Wrigley Field generally improve as the season wears on. If this team stays healthy, it’s hard to imagine we won’t see one or two special seasons out of this blazing start.
Buckle up and enjoy the ride. I think we’re going to see some things before it is over. Let’s get to the three stand out performances from a stand out game.
- It would be larceny to list anyone other than Drew Smyly. 21 up, 21 down. A fluke single. Two more outs recorded before leaving. He hadn’t completed six yet and now he almost completed eight against a potent Dodgers team. He struck out 10 of the 24 batters he faced while allowing one hit and no walks. That could end up the most dominant start of the year against the Dodgers.
- Nico Hoerner had a monster game. Four hits, including a three-run homer. Four RBI in all. He’s approaching 100 plate appearances with a .365 batting average.
- Trey Mancini had three hits and now has five over two games. One of Mancini’s hits was a homer. He drove in three and scored two. I’m sure Trey is still disappointed with his season to date. But this mini streak has his average up to .246 and his OPS to .619.
Game 19, April 21: Cubs 13, Dodgers 0 (12-7)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Drew Smyly (.186). 7⅔ IP, 24 batters, H, 10K (W 2-1)
- Hero: Seiya Suzuki (.120). 2-4, 2B, BB, 2RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Ian Happ (.076). 1-4, 2B, BB, 2R, 2K
*Special note: The Dodgers had five players record .000 scores due to a wave of late substitutions. If you want to get all math geek, the Dodgers had no players with a positive WPA. I would have recorded David Peralta as their Superhero for having the only team hit.
- Billy Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.018). 2-5, HR, 2B, 3RBI, 2R, 3K
- Goat: Yan Gomes (-.017). 1-5, R
- Kid: Jeremiah Estrada (.000). 1⅓ IP, 6 batters, 2BB, 3K
WPA Play of the Game: The game was scoreless as Seiya Suzuki stepped in with runners on second and third with one out in the first. He doubled and the Cubs were out to a 2-0 lead. (.119)
*Dodgers Play of the Game: In the first inning, Trey Mancini batted with runners on first and second with two outs, the Cubs up two. He hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. (.029)
*Special note: The David Peralta single and the two subsequent walks were both .000 events. No Dodger at bat produced measurable WPA.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Nico Hoerner (4-5, HR, 4RBI, R)
Trey Mancini (3-5, HR, 3RBI, 2R)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Player of the Game: Cody Bellinger (Superhero is 12-6)
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
- Keegan Thompson/Justin Steele +7
- Ian Happ +5
- Mark Leiter, Jr./Dansby Swanson +4.5
- 4 at -3
- Julian Merryweather -4.5
- Trey Mancini -6
- Michael Fulmer -8
- Yan Gomes -10
Jeremiah Estrada became the 30th different Cub to appear in Heroes and Goats. 30 players have played for the Cubs so far.
Up Next: Game three of the four game set between the two teams. The Cubs start Hayden Wesneski (1-0, 6.23, 13 innings). Hayden is coming off his best start of the season to date and will be looking to carry the momentum forward. The Dodgers will counter with Dustin May (1-1, 3.00, 24 innings). The right-handed May is coming off of his worst start of the year, allowing five runs over 5⅔ in a home start against the Mets. May has a lifetime 3.22 ERA over parts of five seasons. His career high at the MLB level is 56 innings in a season.