Quick someone come up with a witty “S” nickname for this team’s starting rotation. With the dynamic start to the season out of the Cubs offense, it’s easy to overlook some of what Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele and Monday’s starter Drew Smyly have done. Drew had an unfortunate first start in Cincinnati, but he’s done a whole lot more than that near-perfect start against the Dodgers. Monday night, he took advantage of an aggressive Nationals team to throw seven innings that one has to suspect could have been eight if they’d needed it.
Of course, that dynamic offense was on display. Particularly early on. It felt at least a tiny bit like they were trolling BCB front page writers. There was Seiya Suzuki with an RBI single and a walk early while the game was in question, just after Al wondered if it was time for Seiya to get a day off after a rough weekend at the plate. Then there was Dansby Swanson. He was on second ahead of Suzuki’s single with a hustle double. When I was bemoaning the slow start to his power numbers, I was probably looking more for a ringing double off of the wall. But the hustle ones just about always have the same result and I’m just not that picky.
Later Dansby did break out the power stroke with a two-run homer. That was part of a three-hit game. He had a decent weekend at the plate and appears to be heating up again. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that some old familiar NL East foes helped to give him a boost. Ian Happ was a late entrant in Monday night’s game, but he too added a homer. He added another single besides. Gotta love when a guy who didn’t even start the game ends up being one of the most productive players.
This is one of those games Al talks about with the complaint department firmly closed. The gloves produced some value. The relirvers went six up, six down. We’ll talk about one of them in a minute. The closest thing to something complaint worth would probably be ex-Cub Jeimer Candelario’s long backswing hitting the head of Yan Gomes and causing an early exit. Nelson Velázquez had a little bit of an adventure in left field that didn’t cause any issues. I don’t know if he tweaked something or what, nothing was ever said and then Happ was in the game.
Let’s take a look at the three star performances of the night. I probably had more than a handful of decent choices.
- Drew Smyly. Seven innings, six hits, no walks, one run. He’s won three of his last four starts and over his last five, he’s given up five runs in 30⅓innings. He’s only allowed 17 hits and four walks while striking out 26 over that time. Two of his wins have come at the expense of the Dodgers.
- Dansby Swanson’s three hit, homer, a double, two runs driven in, a run and a stolen base. Reminding me to just be patient and enjoy the show.
- Mark Leiter Jr. had a relatively low leverage situation. Still, even against a bad team, three runs isn’t exactly insurmountable. It’s documented that the Nationals don’t strikeout a ton. But there was Leiter striking out all three batters he faced. I still can’t understand how none of the other 29 teams wanted to see more of him as a reliever after the Cubs waived him in the offseason.
Game 28, May 1: Cubs 5, at Nationals 1 (15-13)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Drew Smyly (.289). 7IP, 26 batters, 6H, R, 2K (W 3-1)
- Hero: Dansby Swanson (.181). 3-5, HR, 2B, 2RBI, R, SB
- Sidekick: Seiya Suzuki (.088). 1-3, BB, RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.058). 0-3, BB, 2K
- Goat: Nick Madrigal (-.055). 0-4
- Kid: Nelson Velazquez (-.043). 0-2, K
WPA Play of the Game: The Cubs were up one in the fifth when Dansby Swanson batted with a runner on first and no outs. His two-run homer gave the Cubs plenty of breathing room. (.162)
*Nationals Play of the Game: The Cubs needed that breathing room because Lane Thomas took Drew Smyly deep with two outs in the second and the Cubs up two. (.102)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Mark Leiter Jr. (IP, 3 batters, 3K)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments below)
Yesterday’s Winner: Cody Bellinger (Superhero 18-9)
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 +10
- Marcus Stroman/Ian Happ +8
- Mark Leiter Jr. +7.5
- Drew Smyly +6
- Four Players -4
- Julian Merryweather -4.5
- Seiya Suzuki -5.5
- Nico Hoerner/Michael Fulmer -6
Up Next: The Cubs look to win back-to-back games for the first time since sweeping a series in Oakland. Hayden Wesneski (2-1, 5.24, 22⅓ IP) will make his 10th career start and sixth of 2023. He’s won two of his last three starts with a loss to the Dodgers sandwiched between two wins. He’s righted the ship a bit with 16⅓ innings, 14 hits, two walks and five runs, while striking out 11 in those three starts.
A guy the Cubs are definitely familiar with, Trevor Williams (1-1, 4.10, 26⅓ IP) starts for the Nationals. Trevor is on a string of three straight no decisions. He’s not pitched terribly over that stretch, with 16 innings, 17 hits, five walks and seven runs. He struck out 10. As we learned during his stint with the Cubs, Trevor can sneak up on you. With due respect, I hope not in this start.