I think it is important to start with the historic start. Justin Steele had tied a modern Cubs record for consecutive starts allowing two earned runs or less. Tonight was his chance at owning that record by himself. Alas, Justin wasn’t as dominating as he’s been over that stretch. Seven hits and three walks ain’t great. So Steele had to settle for a minimum qualification quality start. The average quality start is much more than the minimum and many of Justin’s starts have been as well. But we all had to settle on this one.
Jake Arrieta’s streak and his peak time as a Cub is as good as anyone has been in the wildcard era of baseball. I don’t think anyone is ready to put Justin up in that rare air. But that doesn’t mean this streak wasn’t pretty damn impressive. Jake’s peak ended much sooner than anyone hoped for. Let’s hope for Justin, his next 20, his next 50, his next 100 look at least a little like these last 14 leading up to tonight.
The good news was the offense emerged from hibernation. When the Cubs beat the Dodgers 13-0 on April 21, the offense was scoring 10+ runs for the sixth time in 19 games. Again, things that ended too soon. Sometime you just don’t know you are witnessing something that you might not see again for a while. But here we are 18 games later, giving the Cubs their seventh double digit scoring game of the year. Surely it was therapeutic to do it against the Cardinals. They won the battle, but perhaps on the way out the door, they’ll be all too clearly reminded of how bad things have been and how deep the hole is even if they can course correct.
Is it a coincidence that the resurgent offense lined up with the return of Yan Gomes? Almost certainly. Yet there was Yan right in the middle of the offensive explosion. He clubbed his sixth homer in a three hit night. He’s my player of the game and first positive of the night. It was great to have his bat back. No offense to Tucker Barnhart, whose offense just continues to decline, or Miguel Amaya who produced some encouraging at bats but is still shaking off the rust of three frustrating years. But Gomes really gives the club a different look. It’s good to see that the concussion didn’t derail his resurgence as an offensive player.
My second positive contribution of the night goes to Christopher Morel. Spoiler alert, WPA didn’t love it, but I did. Two more hits and two more RBI. This was a start that maybe was an Eric Hosmer start earlier in the year. Again, Morel just lengthens the lineup. I’m sure there are going to be struggles along the way. But in the almost calendar year he’s been around the club, I’m on the Morel bandwagon. I want to see the Cubs give him every chance to succeed.
My third positive is going to go to the one who got things started on the rout. The Cubs were down 2-1 after Seiya Suzuki doubled in Dansby Swanson who had doubled himself. Patrick Wisdom then launched his 12th homer of the season. That gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead and they never really looked back. It’s been a hot minute since Wisdom went deep. It isn’t always going to be pretty with him, but until the Cubs lineup gets so long there is no place for him to get his swings, I’m happy to ride with him.
Every team would love to get and keep nine studs, but with salaries and financial structures, that’s a pretty tall task. You can do a lot worse than Wisdom. He’s on pace for 50+ homers. I don’t know how real that number is, but I wouldn’t fall over shocked if he did. If he continues to get regular playing time, I do expect him to blow by 40. I’ve said it once already.
My only question is if Morel’s at bats have to come at least a bit at the expense of Wisdom once Nico Hoerner returns. I’m probably envisioning something a little like Morel, Wisdom, Trey Mancini and Matt Mervis splitting playing time among three positions. Every now and then one of the other five players will need a game or two off and that group has the positional flexibility thanks to Morel and Wisdom to cover all of them.
For my Cliff’s Notes readers, the top three are:
- Yan Gomes
- Christopher Morel
- Patrick Wisdom
Game 37, May 10: Cubs 10, Cardinals 3 (18-19)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Yan Gomes (.196). 3-3, HR, BB, 2RBI, R
- Hero: Patrick Wisdom (.194). 1-4, HR, BB, 2RBI, R, DP
- Sidekick: Seiya Suzuki (.111). 2-4, 2B, BB, RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Nick Madrigal (-.069). 0-5, R, DP
- Goat: Christopher Morel (-.055). 2-4, HR, 2RBI, R, K
- Kid: Ian Happ (-.028). 2-5, 2B, R
WPA Play of the Game: Patrick Wisdom’s two-run homer with two outs in the third inning gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead. (.226)
*Cardinals Play of the Game: In the top of the first inning Nolan Arenado batted with a runner on first and two outs. He tripled in the game’s first run. (.115)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Dansby Swanson (Superhero 26-10)
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.
- Justin Steele +13
- Marcus Stroman +11
- Ian Happ +10
- Mark Leiter Jr. +9.5
- Dansby Swanson +4.5
- Julian Merryweather -4.5
- Michael Fulmer/Jameson Taillon -5
- Nico Hoerner -6.5
- Trey Mancini -8
Up Next: The Cubs get a much needed off day Thursday. Since the late April/late May weather largely cooperated, the Cubs played 16 consecutive games since their last off day on April 24. They were 6-10, so they did not pass this test with flying colors. We still don’t play games on paper, but this next stretch certainly looks harder. It begins Friday night in Minnesota. The Cubs will start left Drew Smyly (3-1, 3.05, 38⅓ IP). Drew has been excellent, but he struggled the last time out. He allowed two runs on three hits and three walks in just 3⅓ innings. He’ll look to bounce back. He’ll likely have to, as this is a tough matchup.
The Twins will start Sonny Gray (4-0, 1.35, 40 IP). The Twins right-hander has been outstanding in the early going. The former first-round and 18th overall pick of the A’s is no stranger to Cubs fans after pitching for the Reds for three years. Gray’s best work was for the A’s back in 2014-2015. But he’s been very good when healthy for the Twins. Hopefully, the bats can carry some momentum into the weekend series. With any luck Nico Hoerner will return for the series. His bat is so important at the top of the lineup.