Saturday afternoon’s Cubs game was one of those that ends up playing out almost like two games. If you get the first part, then Heroes and Goats is going to look odd to you. When Justin Steele walked off of the mound after the top of the sixth inning, the Cubs were leading 3-1. Through that portion of the game, it was a fairly tense game with each pitch mattering.
That ends up being in stark contrast to a final score of 10-3. The Texas Rangers defense was shaky throughout the game and those miscues ultimately broke the dam wide open and the Cubs pulled away comfortably in this one.
The end result was a lot of fun. As much fun as Justin Steele working his way out of trouble over and over was, the indelible image was a relentless offense that just kept adding on. In Justin Steele, we continue to watch a young player who gives frequent flashes of an ascending star. We can’t know yet, but it sure seems that over the last year plus, we’ve watched Justin and Nico Hoerner ascending to stardom. In Hoerner, we have a first-round pick. To be fair, he wasn’t picked at the top of the round where the stars of stars reside. Still, a first-round pick carries expectation.
Justin Steele never really gave the impression of stardom along the way. He’s got a distance to go. He does give you glimpses of a guy who might be one of those rare guys who just clicks later and ends up being more than anyone who doesn’t carry the last name of Steele ever expected. It’s fun to watch. Certainly, on Saturday, he wasn’t the best that we’ve seen him. Yet he just kept skirting trouble and avoiding disaster.
The biggest question I walk away from Saturday’s game is what is this going to look like when the competition improves? No offense to Nathan Eovaldi who didn’t pitch badly at all. Still, the Cubs will face pitchers as the season wears on who just won’t be beaten by a team that is scoring its runs on a barrage of singles. The Cubs will face defenses that don’t just yield extra bases and create their own trouble with a host of miscues. The Cubs don’t boast a significant amount of power. They also don’t have the team speed of, say, the Brewers. The Cubs sneaked up on people and became one of the leading base stealing teams in 2022. Will they be able to do so again in 2023? They certainly do show continued aggression. Can that speed be enough of a weapon to balance some of the lack of power?
A lot of questions certainly persist. For today, we won’t have any answers. We can just rest knowing that the Cubs have won three straight games, a season high. They’ve matched an early season high of one game over .500. They just won in convincing fashion and in the early stages of the season, this team has pretty much competed in all seven games that they have played. Certainly, many of us are looking for much more than just competing. We’d like to turn competing into wins. Time will tell.
Let’s pull together three top performances. In a game like this, there were so many to choose from.
- Justin Steele. It starts and ends here. Six innings, one run. He wasn’t as sharp as we’ve sometimes seen him. But in some ways, my brain loves that he succeeded even when he didn’t turn in a dominant performance.
- Again, I’m going to recognize here the types of production that will tend to have the most value. Trey Mancini didn’t light up the scorebook. He drove in a run and scored one. But three hit games are going to provide all kinds of value. Even without the benefit of a walk or extra base hit, that’s a 1.200 OPS day.
- Among a bevy of choices, I came down to the table setter and the run producer for the last spot. Dansby Swanson was on base three times and generally disrupted the Texas Rangers defense, culminating in a daring dash to the plate for the 10th run. But I’m going with Patrick Wisdom in this spot. Patrick has been terrific in the early going. He had two more hits, including his team-leading third homer. He scored two and drove in the one run. On a team without a ton of power, Patrick gives some credibility to the lineup if he can produce enough to stay in the lineup.
Let’s turn our attention to Heroes and Goats from Saturday’s win.
Game 7, April 8: Cubs 10, Rangers 3 (4-3)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Justin Steele (.220). 6IP (26 batters), 4H, 4BB, R, 3K (W 1-0)
- Hero: Dansby Swanson (.155). 2-4, BB, RBI, 2R K
- Sidekick: Patrick Wisdom (.125). 2-4, HR, RBI, 2R, 2K
- Billy Goat: Nico Hoerner (-.070). 2-5, 2R, SB, 2K
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.055). 1-4, BB, 3RBI, K, CS
- Kid: Yan Gomes (-.037). 1-4, HR, RBI, R, K
WPA Play of the Game: It was only 2-1 Cubs when Patrick Wisdom led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a solo homer. (.103)
*Rangers Play of the Game: With runners on the corners with one out in the third, Josh Jung singled to tie the game at one. (.081)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Trey Mancini (3-5, RBI, R)
Somebody else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Marcus Stroman (Superheroes are 5-1)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 4/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 +6
- Patrick Wisdom/Dansby Swanson +4
- Julian Merryweather/Drew Smyly/Miles Mastrobuoni -3
- Cody Bellinger -6
- Yan Gomes -7
Up Next: With the season series against the Rangers already won, the Cubs will look for a sweep and their fourth consecutive win. For those wondering, the Cubs were also 4-3 after their first seven games last year. The Cubs will send Jameson Taillon (0-1, 6.75 ERA) to the hill. He’ll be opposed by Jon Gray (0-1, 2.84) for the Rangers. Taillon will be looking to bounce back from a rough first outing. Gray would surely take a repeat performance, but perhaps a bit more support.