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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 70

Five alive! Cubs squeak by Orioles, 3-2.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

For those of you who didn’t hear it somewhere, how many of you knew when the Cubs last had a streak of five or more wins? I was a little disappointed that I didn’t remember it from last September. I should have. I remember tracking the late surge and looking for them to reach .500 over the last 100 games. I thought that would be a neat accomplishment. Looking back at what I wrote in game 159 when they reached that mark, I noted that they’d completed a 54 game stretch at 31-23. A cool 93-win pace. That seven-game winning streak marked all seven games of their final homestand of the year.

I also wrote that day that this past offseason would be the most normal one since the 2018-2019 offseason. With the pandemic and then the CBA, things had been unusual. I noted that if the front office made the right moves that this team would be playing competitive baseball into September and possibly into October. Folks, I don’t know where this ride ends. Certainly, I’m so conditioned to bad things happening that I sort of live my fandom out waiting for the next bad thing.

I think I have to say it again. If this front office handles the next 40 plus days well, this team can be competitive into September and possibly into October. The Cubs will wake up this Father’s Day in fourth place. Probably a little disappointing. They are four games under .500. Probably a little disappointing. They are three games out of first. Not awful. They’ve won five in a row. All right, I like where you are going with this. But they aren’t even the hottest team in the division, that would be the Reds, who have won seven straight and are a game over .500. Wait, the Reds? Is this a fever dream?

That’s another story for another day. Much of that really is. Sure, it’s natural to peek at the standings every so often and just take a reading of where things are. But I’m a long time believer that you just try to win as many games as you can before September and then you just see where things sit. Of course, that’s tricky for the front office. Do they make some trades? Or stand pat? We’ll debate that quite a bit as that day draws closer.

For now though, we tip our cap to this team. They appear to have bottomed out in Anaheim and have now won six of seven. I hadn’t heard it previously, but apparently there was a players only meeting after that series in Anaheim. Who knows if that made the difference or if things are just now coming together? It doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that this team is suddenly competitive every day. Even then, how typical for this team that the one loss was a 13-3 loss? The win Saturday? 3-2. The second such win with that score in the eight games since they left Anaheim. Also how typical? The Cubs are now 26-3 when they hold the other team to two runs or fewer. The first place Brewers? 17-3 in such games. The Rays? 27-5. The Cubs hold their opponents to two or fewer almost 40 percent of the time. When they do so, they are winning close to 90 percent of their games.

The bad news for the rest of the central? As long as this rotation stays healthy, Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele, Drew Smyly and Jameson Taillon. Kyle Hendricks. A bullpen that is starting to sort things out behind Adbert Alzolay, Mark Leiter Jr. and Julian Merryweather. The starters are more consistently getting into the sixth and seventh innings. The bullpen isn’t overworked and it’s able to be effective when only nine or so outs are needed to close it out. Saturday it was four innings.

The next question is going to be if the Cubs are willing to be aggressive enough to try some of their prospect arms that are inhabiting the Iowa bullpen. There is some impressive stuff hanging out in the bullpen there. It’s always a tricky decision to make, but there certainly appear to be at least a few guys there who might be able to step in and help right now. Again, too early to talk about it. But one option would be to deal a Michael Fulmer and/or a Brad Boxberger. Particularly if they can flash improvement and draw something in return. It’s at least an interesting thought.

For now, let’s just look at three positives.

  1. Nico Hoerner had two of the Cubs four hits, including a two-run double. The other hit was a double as well.
  2. It sure was good to see Justin Steele back out there. He gave the Cubs five innings in his return. He allowed five hits, one walk and two runs while striking out four.
  3. The whole bullpen was good, but I have to give the nod here to Mark Leiter Jr. It took him eight batters to do so, but he threw two scoreless innings with the game on the line.

Game 70, June 17: Cubs 3, Orioles 2 (33-37)


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


  • Superhero: Mark Leiter Jr. (.214). 2IP, 8 batters, H, BB, 2K
  • Hero: Nico Hoerner (.211). 2-4, 2-2B, 2RBI, K
  • Sidekick: Adbert Alzolay (.160). IP, 4 batters, BB, 2K (Sv 4)


  • Billy Goat/Goat: Seiya Suzuki/Ian Happ (.075). Suzuki: 0-4; Happ: 0-4, K
  • Kid: Christopher Morel (.059). 0-3, K

WPA Play of the Game: Adley Rutschman batted in the fifth inning with a runner on first and two outs, the Orioles down two. In this situation, the run expectancy is .23. So very unlikely to produce any kind of rally. He homered to tie the game. (.238)

*Cubs Play of the Game: Nico Hoerner batted in the third inning with two outs and runners on first and second. The game was still scoreless when he doubled, scoring two. With a run expectancy of only .43 there, there is some likelihood of at least one run scoring. (.212)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Mark Leiter, Jr.
    (33 votes)
  • 46%
    Nico Hoerner
    (73 votes)
  • 8%
    Adbert Alzolay
    (14 votes)
  • 18%
    Justin Steele (5IP, 21 batters, 5H, BB, 2R, 4K, W)
    (30 votes)
  • 4%
    Yan Gomes (1-3, 2B, R, 2K)
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (1 vote)
158 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Christopher Morel (Superhero is 48-21)

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 +16
  • Adbert Alzolay +12
  • Justin Steele +10
  • Dansby Swanson +9.5
  • Miles Mastrobuoni -9
  • Jameson Taillon -10
  • Patrick Wisdom -12
  • Nico Hoerner -13
  • Trey Mancini -14

Up Next: The third and final game of the series, the sixth and final game of the homestand. The Cubs are trying to sweep both. Jameson Taillon (2-4, 6.70, 48⅓ IP). Jameson has had a rough start to his Cubs career, but things have been picking up a bit. He’s 2-1 and has allowed eight earned runs over 17 innings of work. Last time out, he notched his first quality start of the year to start this homestand. The Orioles are plenty familiar with him from his Yankee days.

The Orioles will start 27-year-old, righty Dean Kremer (7-3, 4.74, 76 IP). Dean is making his 15th start of the year already. He’s been trending better than his numbers show with a 4-2 mark and 17 runs allowed in his most recent 40⅓ IP. He also won his last start, allowing two runs in six innings against the talented Blue Jays lineup. He is certainly no pushover.

Hopefully, the Cubs can stay smoking hot and finish sweeping this homestand.