Before I dive in, what a beautiful photo! A perfectly captured moment.
Without butchering the famous James Earl Jones quote from Eight Men Out, Baseball! A game that can make us want to pull our hair out. A game that sometimes makes us argue, even with a dear friend. It can make us so crazy. Terrible lineups! Poor roster construction! Bad strategy! Who to keep? Who to get rid of? These things frustrate us. They get under our skin. How many of you have snapped at a loved one, a co-worker or a relative at least in part because you were annoyed with how the Cubs played/are playing.
Certainly, Marcus Stroman pitching his heart out again. But there he was through six innings, losing 1-0. Would the Cubs blow it for Stroman, perhaps going through his best stretch as a major leaguer? There was Seiya Suzuki getting caught stealing. Another Matt Mervis strikeout. Dansby Swanson striking out with the tying run on third. Christopher Morel squaring one up, only right at a fielder and it turns into a double play. Tucker Barnhart playing, while Yan Gomes and Miguel Amaya sat. Nick Madrigal leading off.
So much frustration in a week that had seen the Cubs lose Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. But then there was a single and a walk. A productive out. A hit batter. The bases were loaded. Nico Hoerner’s night off ended early. A single! Two runs!!!
A wild pitch, a walk. Another single! By Barnhart?!? A 3-1 lead? Could it be? But you didn’t even want to talk about it. Nine outs is a lot of outs. But Stroman’s still in the game. He can’t finish it, but how far can he carry the torch? A strikeout. Eight. A double, get the pen ready. But a groundout. Seven. Mark Leiter Jr. was summoned. Our most consistent reliever this year.
Except for his last few leverage spots. A single. The lead was one. But then a strikeout. Six. A leadoff single from Suzuki, but no help. Leiter’s back out. A strikeout, a groundout a lineout. In quick succession. He retired four of the five batters he faced. Just 3 to go and they are up one.
Another leadoff single! Nico took six innings off and then delivered two hits in two tries! No help again. Three outs. One run. Which one would reach the finish line first? Adbert Alzolay. A fly out, a strikeout, a strikeout. Adbert is pumping his fist. He said: “That’s what I’m talking about!” as clear as can be. And I’m no expert in lip reading. I think the young man likes closing. Get him some opportunities!
I think this feeling is joy. I remember it. Baseball. When it’s going good, we float through the day, counting the hours until we can watch them again. Something to be looked forward to. Something to be cherished. Sometimes.
But we’re Cubs fans. Somehow, some way, we all made a terrible deal. We get so much pain. Like every win. Every postseason appearance has to be fought for with heroic effort. Some teams make it look so easy. The Cubs always manage to make it look so hard.
But here we are. I don’t care how stupid the lineup was today. I don’t care how poorly the roster is constructed. I don’t care how frustrating it is that the Cubs can’t consistently produce productive major league talent. I almost don’t care that Isaac Paredes hit two more homers for the team with the best record in baseball. I don’t even care that I barely remember the Tiger the Cubs got in return. A catcher, maybe? His dad was an executive with the Tigers? Or a reliever? Nope. Don’t care that I don’t remember which trade they added him to.
The Cubs won a game. We don’t get to sing the song, because they weren’t at home. But hey Chicago, they won one. Right here and right now, all of the frustration can take a few hours off. We’re allowed to enjoy one win. To be happy for Nico and Marcus and Adbert. They got us a win!
Surely, there were three positives in this one. So cruel to number them. They needed all three to get it done.
- Nico. Of all of the problems, getting the runs in is the biggest problem. Somehow, someway, year after year, the Cubs end up being among the worst at getting runners in with less than two outs. And if the numbers don’t support that, you know it sure feels that way. Nico came through with a huge two-run single. They ended up scoring three and they needed ’em all.
- The complaint department will only be open in my direction. It’s criminal to pass over Marcus twice. Alzolay. The next biggest problem is getting the outs after the starter departs. An honorable mention and I’ll stick it here. Despite allowing the one inherited runner, Leiter retired four of the five batters he faced to preserve the lead.
- Five straight starts he’s won. I work in the insurance industry, is anyone surprised that out of all of the BCB writers, I was the only one that went with the safe pick? The ace? Marcus Stroman. I love him because he puts his heart out there. He’s not afraid to get smacked or to look silly. He’s out there in the conversation all of the time. Probably none of us agree with everything he says or everything he does. But it’s hard not to enjoy him. He’s going to let you know where he stands. And he’s going to give it everything he’s got. This wasn’t the sharpest he’s been over these five games. But he got it done. Again. Wouldn’t it be fun if he could start the All-Star Game?
Game 63, June 9: Cubs 3 at Giants 2 (27-36)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Nico Hoerner (.273). 2-3, 2RBI
- Hero: Adbert Alzolay (.192). IP, 3 batters, 2K (Sv 3)
- Sidekick: Marcus Stroman (.182). 6⅔ IP, 28 batters, 6H, 4BB, 2R, 5K (W 7-4)
- Billy Goat: Christopher Morel (-.128). 0-3, BB
- Goat: Mike Tauchman (-.123). 0-4
- Kid: Dansby Swanson (-.093). 0-4, K
WPA Play of the Game: Nico Hoerner’s one-out, bases loaded, two-run single in the seventh inning turned a one run deficit into a one run lead. (.250)
*Giants Play of the Game: In the third inning, there were runners on first and third in a scoreless game. Thairo Estrada doubled, a run scored and there were two in scoring position. (.127)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Someone else - apologies to Drew Smyly (Superhero is 43-19)
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 +20
- Ian Happ/Adbert Alzolay +11
- Dansby Swanson +10.5
- Justin Steele +10
- Nico Hoerner -7.5
- Michael Fulmer -8
- Jameson Taillon -10
- Patrick Wisdom -11
- Trey Mancini -13
Up Next: Game two of the three-game set Saturday night. The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks (0-2, 4.70, 15⅓ IP) to the mound looking for his first win of the year. He didn’t appear to pitch too badly last time out in San Diego. But then he did allow four runs in six innings. No walks, but his first homer allowed. That came on a pretty good pitch. It’s still too early to know what the Cubs have here.
The Giants have 33-year-old righty John Brebbia (2-0, 3.65, 24⅔ IP). Yes, the Giants have gone to the opener on five occasions with Brebbia this year. He’s not pitched longer than two innings in any outing and that one was a relief outing. The Giants did eventually have Sean Manea throw 4⅔ innings in the last one, but he was the third pitcher.