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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 71

If two out of three is meatloaf, what is five out of six?

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

This is one game where I had my writing figured out before the game was even played. If they had gone on and swept the homestand, there would have been the appropriate celebrating. But the obvious story here is that this team is nowhere near good enough to nitpick that they “only” got five of six. Especially when both teams arrived in town over .500 and one of them has been among the best teams in baseball this year.

Actually, without even being someone who follows the Orioles in any meaningful way, I’m positive that there is some stat for when that team started to turn things around last year. From that time to present, they have to be at or near the very top of everyone in baseball. I know they were coming on late and they just carried it right over into being a contender so far this year. I’ve misled you guys with some stats lately, so I did double check this. They were 11 under .500 on June 10 last year. They only finished four over, but they reached as high as 10. Still, a 15 game improvement from June 10 to the end and then 17 over with the win today. Without reference to the number of games, we know that in just over one year, they are 32 games over .500.

So the story now is really pretty clear. The Cubs will head on the road. Three more with the Pirates, a couple of days off and then two games in London against the Cardinals. I’d really like them to get greedy and get at least four of the games this coming week. But absolutely, you really need three. I know, I know. Baseball. They could lose winnable games here and then win difficult games later. It totally can work that way. But this team has given up an awful lot of its cushion. So let’s start really dialing in on continuously positive chunks on top of one another.

There’s no way anyone is going to get up and run away with this division. So these chunks don’t have to be as impressive as this week’s 5-1. But in a stretch like this, at least 3-2. Keep advancing on .500. If this team is going to be competitive, they really should start stacking positive stretches of baseball. I still think with five starters who are capable of giving you a quality start more often than not, this team can really start to stack wins.

It certainly wasn’t meant to be on getaway day. Very similar to the series with the Rays a while back, it’s not that the game wasn’t there for the taking, but a very good team just kept applying pressure and this team clearly doesn’t have all of the firepower to go toe to toe with the best. Not yet. But this roster is definitely better than last year’s. We have to hope that it will take another jump next year. I have to believe that some talent is going to start trickling out of the system. There have been teases this year. But it’s only a matter of time before the system produces another star after producing Steele.

I haven’t been as consistent with my glass half full/half empty bit. Even with the Sunday loss, I assume the overwhelming majority of you will be sitting half full after a homestand like this. But if any of you are feeling different, give me your argument for why you are still a little pessimistic. Is it just a running out of runway thing? Or are you still concerned that there are just too many flaws on the roster to hang around even in a terrible division? As someone who said “75 wins” coming into the season, I’m certainly going to be receptive to your not ready for prime time takes.

I think my number one mantra of 2022 was that the road to the top is rarely linear. This team was better in 2022 than 2021 and one of the biggest reasons was a torrid finish to the season. But I wanted to caution that there was no guarantee that the momentum would carry forward. It’s a fun narrative that the team would continue to progress and would win 80-ish games. They certainly still can. As this team creeps towards the half way pole, how confident are you? And how much does it weigh in that this division has been so ordinary?

Let’s get to three positives on a day where the team came up short.

  1. There were only three hits. So the top two have to be the two home run hitters. I’m going to give the top spot to Mike Tauchman who added a walk and a stolen base to his day.
  2. That means that Christopher Morel has to get the second spot. I saw someone suggest Morel as an All-Star. My first reaction was to laugh. My second one was to wonder particularly why he couldn’t be. I’m fairly certain he won’t be. But it isn’t really preposterous.
  3. With the offense so anemic, I needed to pick a pitcher for one of these spots. But then three of the four pitchers allowed runs and the other faced one batter. But let’s be fair. If Hayden Wesneski started, threw six innings, allowed two runs on six hits and struck out four without walking anyone, barring an offensive outburst, he’d be one of my three. So when you halve every one of those numbers, I think that’s good enough for us.

Game 71, June 18: Orioles 6 at Cubs 3 (33-38)


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


  • Superhero: Christopher Morel (.176). 1-4, HR, 2RBI, R, K
  • Hero: Nick Madrigal (.038). 0-2, HBP, SB, K
  • Sidekick: Miles Mastrobuni (.034). 0-0, SB


  • Billy Goat: Anthony Kay (-.249). ⅓ IP, 3 batters, 3H, R
  • Goat: Jameson Taillon (-.174). 5⅓ IP, 24 batters, 8H, 2BB, 4R, K, HBP (L 2-5)
  • Kid: Nico Hoerner (-.167). 0-4

WPA Play of the Game: Christopher Morel batted with a runner on third but two outs in the fourth inning, the Cubs down one. Even with a runner on third, run expectancy is just .36. You expect to score a run about a third of the time with the expectancy poking a little higher for those outlier outcomes like this one. Morel hit a two-run homer to give the Cubs the lead. (.246)

*Orioles Play of the Game: In the top of the sixth, Jameson Taillon was nursing the lead Morel gave him. He had allowed a leadoff single to Ryan O’Hearn. That brought Aaron Hicks to the plate. Those leadoff baserunners are huge. That’s a .87, so you expect to score probably about four times out of five and then have some crooked numbers pushing it up. Unfortunately, this was a crooked number. Hicks doubled and set up the big inning. (.173)

**Illustrating how win probability ebbs and flows and how run expectancy plays in, the next batter was Ramon Urias. He steps in with the run expectancy at 1.97. So you are expecting to score almost every time and in fact expecting to put up a crooked number much more than not. His sac fly registers as (-.038) WPA. You don’t need to trade outs for runs in that spot. So then Adam Frazier steps in with a runner on second, one out and a tie game. RE is down to .67. That’s where those moves in WPA come from. But then Frazier singles for a (.137) event. The Cubs start that inning with a bit over a 60 percent chance of winning and end it with a 75 percent chance of losing,


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    Christopher Morel
    (56 votes)
  • 0%
    Nick Madrigal
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Miles Mastrobuoni
    (0 votes)
  • 47%
    Mike Tauchman (1-3, HR, BB, RBI, R, SB)
    (53 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (1 vote)
111 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Nico Hoerner (Superhero is 48-22)

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/Michael Fulmer -8
  • Patrick Wisdom/Jameson Taillon -12
  • Trey Mancini/Nico Hoerner -14

Up Next: The Cubs head east to face Pittsburgh. The Pirates (34-36) had a disastrous week. After being swept by the Cubs, they traveled up the expressway to Milwaukee and got swept again. Also, if you haven’t seen it, their charter bus driver reportedly was pulled over on a suspected DUI. That’s a horrible week. As much as I hate to see it go so bad, so fast for anyone, I’m going to hope they spin out at least three more days. Were the Cubs to sweep, they would pass the Pirates. if they win two out of three, they will be right on their heels.

I’m calling this week get greedy week. Drew Smyly (6-4, 3.59, 77⅔ IP). Drew is going through a bit of a rough patch after a terrific start to the year. Over his last seven starts, half of his season, he is 3-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 39⅓ innings. That is only the slightest of upticks in the second chunk compared to the first in workload. Drew allowed five runs in six innings against the Pirates Wednesday, but was fortunate enough to win due to great run support. That was a game I gave Drew kudos for two scoreless innings to save the bullpen.

Osvaldo Bido (0-0, 2.25, 4 IP) made his MLB debut last Wednesday in that game at Wrigley. It clearly looked that the Cubs made some adjustments between the first time through the order to the second. So now it is up to Bido to make the next move. This is always a big step for a minor leaguer, stepping up to see a team twice in succession. Of course, this isn’t as unusual as it used to be. Now with six-game series being more or less the norm in the minors, some of these guys are actually in this spot more there than here where the balanced schedule in MLB doesn’t have you with home and home series nearly as much.

The first step to an excellent road trip is winning the first game. Time to get greedy.