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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 55

The one that got away

MLB: Miami Marlins at Chicago Cubs David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t take credit for this quote that I read on Twitter this afternoon, but it essentially said that only the Cubs could make us feel bad about taking two out of three from the best team in baseball (to date). To that end, let’s start by being overjoyed that the Cubs had a great series against a very strong team. They reminded us that as bad as they’ve been the last month or so, they can still be pretty good too.

That said, it was hard not to be a bit distracted by the early exit of Justin Steele. No one can breathe completely easy with possibly the best player on the team exiting with a forearm issue. There are a lot of bad things that could be, but we’ll hope that Steele himself was right when he said that he believed he was fine and that it was just precautionary. That said, I won’t be surprised if the Cubs decide to put him on the injured list, let Hayden Wesneski take his turn in the rotation and just make sure everything is absolutely okay.

If you were able to focus on the game, you saw a strong performance from Wesneski. He recorded 11 outs in 14 batters faced. He left with a runner on first and two outs and ended up charged with a run. It was another reminder of how good he can be when he is on. Maybe some time in Iowa cleared some things up. We all know he can contribute to this team in some role. But again, the Cubs want to get it right so he can help them for several years.

It was Mark Leiter Jr. that allowed that inherited runner to score. That was when he was greeted with a home run. Then after recording the last out on a strikeout, he went back out and allowed a walk and another homer. He hadn’t allowed a homer since April 22 against the Dodgers. He’d allowed 1.59 homers allowed per nine innings in his career, so sadly he was due. It’s just unfortunate that he allowed two of them in one game. If he doesn’t allow the second one, it’s very possible the Cubs sweep the series as they were winning 3-2.

So this is one of those half full/half empty moments. The good news? The Cubs outscored the Rays over 27 innings of baseball. They won two and were in position to win the third. In a series where you’d have to have thought that winning one was a good outcome, indeed only winning two ended up being disappointing. The bad news? The Cubs bullpen faltered again. The Cubs wasted a ton of opportunities on the bases.

Before I get to three positives from this game, let’s reset. We’re 55 games into the season, just over one third of the way through. Where is your glass right now? Did this series change your thoughts?


The glass, where is it now?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Half full!
    (74 votes)
  • 43%
    Half empty.
    (79 votes)
  • 15%
    Completely empty. It was spilled everywhere!
    (27 votes)
180 votes total Vote Now

So, there were clearly three positives even in the loss.

  1. Hayden Wesneski gets the top spot for me. One hit and two walks out of facing 14 Rays hitters? That’s a strong performance. If Mark Leiter Jr. does what he’s done most of the year, the outing looks even better.
  2. Seiya Suzuki continued his surge. He had a single, a double and a run scored. That OPS is creeping towards .900. He looks like a safe bet to eclipse last year’s 2.1 fWAR.
  3. There are a lot of potential choices for the top spot. But it was nice to see Nico Hoerner with a single, a walk, a pair of stolen bases and a run scored. He slowed his running games the last month or so, but I do like that weapon in the Cubs lineup.

Game 55, May 31: Rays 4, at Cubs 3 (24-31)


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


  • Superhero: Hayden Wesneski (.216). 3⅔ IP, 14 batters, H, 2BB, R, 4K
  • Hero: Nico Hoerner (.197). 1-3, BB, R, 2SB, K
  • Sidekick: Patrick Wisdom (.168). 0-4, CS

* This may be one of the weirdest looking lines ever for a Sidekick spot. Patrick reached twice on errors, was caught stealing after one of them and received .203 on the last one as it loaded the bases with one out in the ninth. A reminder that hitting the ball is good.


  • Billy Goat: Mark Leiter Jr. (-.774). ⅓ IP, 4 batters, 2H, BB, 3R, K (L 0-2)

*This is the second worst WPA game score of the season, behind one of Michael Fulmer’s appearances earlier in the season.

  • Goat: Yan Gomes (-.270). 0-1
  • Kid: Dansby Swanson (-.244). 0-4, K

WPA Play of the Game: Jose Siri batted with a runner on second and no outs in the eighth inning, the Cubs had just retaken the lead. Siri homered, giving the Rays the lead and the final runs of the game. (.354)

*Cubs Play of the Game: That Patrick Wisdom play in the ninth inning when he reached base to load the bases with one out. (.203)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    Hayden Wesneski
    (106 votes)
  • 5%
    Nico Hoerner
    (8 votes)
  • 19%
    Seiya Suzuki (2-4, 2B, R)
    (29 votes)
  • 5%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (8 votes)
151 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Adbert Alzolay (Superhero is 38-16)

Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings:

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 +16
  • Justin Steele +10
  • Mike Tauchman +8
  • Dansby Swanson +7.5
  • Mark Leiter Jr. +6.5
  • Drew Smyly/Adbert Alzolay +6
  • Keegan Thompson/Matt Mervis +5
  • Seiya Suzuki +4.5
  • Ian Happ +4
  • Nelson Velazquez/Brad Boxberger/Hayden Wesneski +2
  • Tucker Barnhart/Christopher Morel/Javier Assad +1
  • Edwin Rios +.5
  • Brandon Hughes 0
  • Miguel Amaya -.5
  • Yan Gomes -1
  • Cody Bellinger/Nick Madrigal/Kyle Hendricks -2
  • Jeremiah Estrada/Caleb Kilian -3
  • Julian Merryweather -3.5
  • Luis Torrens/Eric Hosmer -4
  • Michael Rucker -5
  • Miles Mastrobuoni -7
  • Patrick Wisdom -8.5
  • Nico Hoerner -9.5
  • Michael Fulmer/Jameson Taillon -10
  • Trey Mancini -13

*The full list, by request

Up Next: An off day Thursday ahead of a trip west. They start their trip with a game Friday night in San Diego. The Padres are only one game ahead of the Cubs at 25-30. They will play Thursday afternoon in Miami before the Cubs get them Friday.

In the opener, Jameson Taillon is scheduled. He is still looking for his first Cubs win (0-3, 8.04, 31⅓ IP). In fact, in his ninth start of the year, he’s still looking for his first quality start. Maybe the change of scenery will help. His last three starts have seen him allow 14 earned runs in 11⅔ innings. I don’t know how much longer the Cubs can ride with him if he doesn’t start to turn this around.

On the other side, the Cubs will see a familiar face in an unfamiliar place. 31-year-old righty Michael Wacha feels like he has been around way longer than that age would suggest. The 2012 19th overall pick by the Cardinals is 5-1 with a 3.45 ERA in 57⅓ IP on the year. Those numbers are great, but he’s heating up. Over seven starts he is 3-0 with a 2.41 in 41 innings. I certainly have selective memory of Michael. He is 4-8 with a 6.45 ERA in 21 appearances (19 starts) against the Cubs. The Cubs have an .877 OPS against him in that time. That’s his fourth worst against any team. The eight losses are the most he has against any team and the next closest team is at five.