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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 50

And in the 50th game, they were shut out.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Side note to start, I have no idea what was happening in the picture. It vaguely looks like Javier was throwing to first, but the ball has entirely the wrong trajectory. The caption on the photo describes the action as Javier Assad bumps the ball.

What do I say here? I couldn’t bring myself to read what Al had to write about this one. I didn’t watch any part of the game. But the game pretty well speaks for itself, right? But we try to stay positive in this space. There’s not a whole lot to be positive about when your team loses by nine runs for the second straight day.

With eight games in which the pitching staff allowed six or more runs in the last 12 games, five of them blowout losses and nine of them losses overall, what was once a healthy cushion in run differential has largely been wiped out. What had once been a fairly significant gap between the Cubs’ actual record versus their expected record is closing. As I feared at the time, the subpar play is actually drowning out the solid play and not vice versa.

Of course, nothing is set in stone. There is a fair bit of talent in that locker room. Without studying teams across the league, I can bet safely that there are teams with less talent and better records. So it doesn’t have to be this way. Further, between returning players like the Cody/Codi’s, that is Bellinger and Heuer. There’s more talent on the horizon.

Your mileage will vary. But I’m at what for me is the worst place in the stages of grief. I’m at acceptance. I predicted before the homestand that the Cubs would win four of nine. They’ve won two of four and four looks slightly more than five with six and three both being possibilities. So I didn’t expect it to go well and I’m not surprised at these back to back clunkers.

I mean maybe a little surprised that Justin Steele got rocked. Twice in three starts and I’m afraid there is a glass slipper or a pumpkin for a minute, then I dismiss. He was good across a season break. When success runs across a season break, I tend to buy quite a bit more into the staying power of the success. But no one is good every time out.

But no, I’m not surprised by uneven play. That’s been the biggest constant. There’s no reason to rule out a 10-0 win or something like it today. Or another loss. Am I allowed to say Jameson Taillon is due? Is that a thing?

It’s way too soon for wait til next year. Yet that’s how I feel. I think I’m less frustrated about that because I do believe the future is brighter. I think I am frustrated because not withstanding today, it feels like Justin Steele and several members of the offense are having what could turn out to be career years. It feels like the sum of the parts is less than the individual pieces.

I have to attempt to stick to three positives. The sarcastic part of me was looking for a third after: the game ended, there is another game tomorrow and then what? Wrigley Field is still the best place on Earth to watch baseball? Let’s take this seriously for a moment. Here we go.

1) Christopher Morel led off the eighth inning with a single. The Cubs were down seven, but it extended the current streak of not being no-hit. I mean here’s the deal, the Cubs were so mad about being no hit for the fifth and sixth time in their long history in 1965 that they followed with 50 years of not being no-hit. Future Cub Cole Hamels broke that when he threw one for the Phillies in 2015. And the Cubs are creeping up on another 10 years of not being no-hit. So one time being no hit in 58 years of baseball. For all of the bad, the Cubs are exceptionally good at not being no-hit.

2) After an out, Miles Mastrobuoni added a second single. Shockingly, clustering the two hits together didn’t light up the scoreboard. But credit to Miles for trying to keep the streak of not being shut out going. Alas, all streaks big and small eventually come to an end.

3) Ian Happ drew a walk. I’m reaching here. But this was his 35th walk of the year. Good for tied for fourth in MLB with former teammate Kyle Schwarber. Barring injury, he’s unlikely to lead the league. Juan Soto already has 48. I have to say, Soto is obviously a good player, but he isn’t so good that I can readily understand why he’d have such a large lead in walks.

Game 50, May 26: Reds 10 at Cubs 2


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


  • Superhero: Javier Assad (.004). 3⅔ IP, 19 batters), 7H, 3BB, 2R, 4K
  • Hero: Mike Tauchman (.003). 0-3, BB, K
  • Kid: Adbert Alzolay (.000). ⅓ IP, 1 batter

*Executive judgment applied. Edwin Rios tied at .000, but I deemed Alzolay’s performance to be vaguely positive.


  • Billy Goat: Justin Steele (-.306). 3⅔ IP, 22 batters, 10H, 6R (5ER), 4K, L (6-2)
  • Goat: Nico Hoerner (-.038). 0-4
  • Kid: Trey Mancini (-.033). 0-3, 2K

WPA Play of the Game: The third batter of the game, Spencer Steer, tripled with a runner on first and one out. It certainly felt demoralizing, but you wouldn’t have known that the game was basically over at that point. (.140)

*For reference, the Cubs top offensive play was Mike Tauchman’s walk with two outs in the first inning. (.013) Walks with two outs and already down two don’t have a whole lot of positive value.

*Cubs Play of the Game: The Cubs were down two with two outs and runners on first and second in the first when Justin Steele struck out Kevin Newman. (.032)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Javier Assad
    (33 votes)
  • 2%
    Mike Tauchman
    (2 votes)
  • 19%
    Adbert Alzolay
    (15 votes)
  • 35%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (27 votes)
77 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Dansby Swanson (Superhero is 34-15)

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 +13
  • Justin Steele +10
  • Mark Leiter Jr. +9.5
  • Ian Happ +7
  • Drew Smyly +6
  • Michael Fulmer -7
  • Trey Mancini -9
  • Jameson Taillon -10
  • Patrick Wisdom -10.5
  • Nico Hoerner -12.5

Up Next: The Cubs will try to keep from losing a third straight and potentially dropping into last place in the NL Central. In a rare Saturday night game at Wrigley Field, Jameson Taillon (0-3, 8.10, 26⅔ IP) takes the hill for the Cubs looking for his first win as a Cub. Last time out, he allowed six runs while only recording seven outs while losing to the Phillies.

The Reds start 25-year-old lefthander Brandon Williamson (0-0, 3.60, 10 IP). The former second round pick (59th overall) in the 2019 draft by the Mariners is making just his third big league appearance and start. At 9-5, games against left handed starters remains one of the Cubs’ last positive splits.