I can’t decide if I won this one or really, really lost it. You see, I didn’t watch much of this game. I was at the bowling alley (where I can tell you that the Rays game was actually on the TV, a nice change). The good news is I bowled a 217, the best I’ve done since I moved to Florida. The bad news is that it wasn’t in league, so it doesn’t count for much. It was the most creative 200+ game I’ve ever bowled. I had a strike, then a gutter/spare, then five strikes, then a gutter spare, then a strike. Certainly could have challenged my all time high. Still, a lot of fun.
This is not the content you came here for, so I’ll get back to the point. I was driving while Patrick Wisdom was homering to tie the game. I made it home in time to see Keegan Thompson to pitch. So the upside was I didn’t see Trevor Williams largely stopping the Cubs cold. The downside was I saw the decisive runs score.
With the loss, the Cubs are now 4-8 since they swept Oakland. This team losing eight of 12 isn’t going to doom their season by any means. But, it certainly suggests there is a lot of work to be done before this team is a championship-caliber team. Twenty-nine games into the season, the Cubs are who I thought they were. They have good starting pitching when healthy. That is boosted by strong defense. There are lingering questions whether this team can consistently score runs. They have scored 38 runs over their last 10 games. Not world-beating, but probably at least an average team offensively when healthy.
Of course, it is disingenuous for me to disregard the 19 games before that when the Cubs were scoring runs in bunches. I just said there are questions, not that I can conclude the offense is less than that. I do think it’s fair to note that they’ve been at full health, save for Seiya Suzuki’s injury that cost him Spring Training and the first 11 games of the regular season.
The Cubs bullpen continues to be inconsistent. It certainly is disconcerting that Keegan Thompson has now allowed five runs over his last three outings, recording just six outs over that time. Thompson had been their best pitcher. Is that now Mark Leiter Jr.? Adbert Alzolay? A team that is unsure of its bullpen is always going to struggle to win games late.
It’s an unfair criticism, but this team certainly isn’t the kind of offensive juggernaut that the 2016 Cubs were. Progress is being made. Of that, there is no doubt. When the team feels comfortable that Christopher Morel and/or Matt Mervis are ready, the lineup stands to get a little longer and the bench more formidable. Spreading playing time will be the real challenge.
Not counting two months of last year, the Cubs rotation looks to be the strongest it has been in several years. But the bullpen hasn’t yet emerged as the kind that can routinely steal a game late. To be fair, they were terrific on Saturday, covering most of a game. Just inconsistent at this point. So there is an inconsistent offense and an inconsistent bullpen. That means that the biggest challenge facing this team could be the excellent starting pitching not starting to press.
Let’s find three stars in this loss.
- Hayden Wesneski didn’t dominate. We’re going to take one run on five hits, no walks over six every time, right? Even with only two strikeouts. He took an aggressive team and pitched to contact and let his defense do the work. Very effective for the third time in four starts.
- Cody Bellinger continued the terrific start to his season with two more hits, one a double.
- Dansby Swanson needed one extra plate appearance, but had his third straight multi-hit game. One of those two hits was a double.
Game 29, May 2: Nationals 4, Cubs 1 (15-14)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Hayden Wesneski (.172). 6IP, 23 batters, 5H, R, 2K
- Hero: Cody Bellinger (.128). 2-4, 2B
- Sidekick: Patrick Wisdom (.083). 1-4, HR, RBI, R, 2K
- Billy Goat: Keegan Thompson (-.360). ⅓ IP, 5 batters, 4H, 3R
- Goat: Nico Hoerner (-.158). 0-5, K
- Kid: Eric Hosmer (-.099). 2-4
WPA Play of the Game: Patrick Wisdom led off the seventh inning with a game-tying, solo homer. (.194)
*Nationals Play of the Game: CJ Abrams batted with a runner on second with one out in the seventh, the game tied. He singled to put the Nationals ahead for good. (.168)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Drew Smyly (Superhero 19-9)
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
- Michael Fulmer -6
- Nico Hoerner -8
Up Next: The Cubs will try to get back in the win column. They’ll send Marcus Stroman (2-2, 2.29, 35⅓ IP) to the mound. Marcus was good in his last start, when he threw 6⅓ innings and allowed two runs on six hits and two walks in a game against the Marlins that the Cubs ultimately lost. It appears that the Nationals will look to righty Jake Irvin, who will be making his major league debut. The 26-year-old is 2-2 with a 5.64 over 22⅓ innings for the Nationals Triple-A team at Rochester. Irvin was the fourth round pick of the Nationals in 2018 out of the University of Oklahoma.