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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 72

Back in the win column!

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

One down. I dubbed this “get greedy” week. The Cubs have five games this week. They’ll certainly all be winnable. When you go on the road, .500 or better is plenty acceptable. A 3-2 trip is necessarily a fine result. I’ve been around too long to fall for the must-win game or must-win series stuff. But I’m certainly pointing out that the very fine homestand against two teams, with winning records and in the fight for the respective division titles, means a heck of a lot more if they can carry it forward.

I’m looking for four wins. This makes one. Three of four doesn’t seem quite as lofty as 4-1. The benefit of banking a win. This one wasn’t always pretty, but when you look back, an 8-0 win is a thing of pure beauty.

Before I touch on the game, I want to comment on the thoughts about the bigger picture. I mostly saw some guarded optimism and some wait and see. I can see why y’all are hanging out with me around here. I think that’s just perfect. We certainly all want to be excited, but we’ve also all been around this block before. IF, intentionally capitalized, if they can “get greedy” and take four or five on this trip, I’m going to move to some guarded exuberance. You’ve been warned. Get your fingers ready for the comments, once I go to exuberance, I get carried away sometimes with oversimplification and overgeneralization.

So I’ll take a closer look at this game and combine it with my three positives. I have to start with Drew Smyly. What a magnificent box score. Five innings, three hits, no runs. Four strikeouts even. Wait, is this a misprint? Nope. Smyly walked five Pirates. Drew was battling it tonight. Recall though that these Pirates scored five runs in six innings. And, in fact, they scored five in the first four innings. Smyly gutted out two scoreless innings at the end of that and the Cubs offense came off of the mat with the win. Drew will tell you this wasn’t his best. But at the end of the day there was a row of five zeroes. That’ll play.

While I’m on the pitching, I’m going to honorable mention Michael Rucker. Six batters, six outs. A pair of strikeouts. He had a huge lead. But just like those last two innings for Smyly last week, these two inning by Rucker matter. If he struggles, the Cubs have to reach deeper into their pen. Julian Merryweather was the only “A group” reliever that got into this game. He faced five batters. Merryweather hasn’t worked consecutive games since the end of May. So we probably won’t see him Tuesday. But Mark Leiter Jr. and Adbert Alzolay were able to stay rooted to the bench.

While we’re on the topic, Merryweather has now made 12 appearances since the last run he’s allowed. 11⅔ innings. 50 batters, nine hits, seven walks, 19 strikeouts. There’s a lot of baseball left, but Merryweather is an unqualified success to this point in the season. With a full season ERA of 3.16, we’re firmly entering the territory of not needing to take out that terrible first outing.

While we are talking about players that proclamations were made about that just look silly in hindsight, let’s talk about Mike Tauchman. I said just a week ago that he shouldn’t be leading off. With three singles, three runs batted in and two runs, Mike stayed scalding hot. That brings his season line up to .301/.417/.373 (wRC+ 126). Suffice is to say, Mike would be one of my favorite guys on the team just on his connection to Bradley University. But as he crosses the 100 plate appearance mark, this isn’t a tiny sample size anymore.

I’m going to guess the .381 BABIP isn’t going to hold up for a guy without prodigious power or blazing speed. But I have to give credit where it is due. Tauchman has been fantastic and there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with going back to the hot hand as long as he stays hot. There’s plenty of time to revisit later. He’s walking the most he has in his career and striking out the least. As it turns out, those are really great trends. There’s really no reason he can’t be a productive piece on this team and at present, he is likely one of the nine most productive bats most nights.

My third positive performance of the day goes to Yan Gomes. On base percentage machine. Wait, Yan doesn’t actually usually excel in that area, even when he’s going good. He has been good for more or less .050 on base over batting average through his career. But here in 2023, that gap had been running at just .029, despite otherwise being a strong year at the plate. Well, even 155 plate appearances in, two singles, a walk, and a hit by pitch pushes him to plus .041 on the year. Being on base four times, he scored two runs.

Game 72, June 19: Cubs 8, at Pirates 0 (34-38)


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


  • Superhero: Drew Smyly (.247). 5 IP, 22 batters, 3H, 5BB, 4K (W 7-4)
  • Hero: Mike Tauchman (.237). 3-5, 3RBI, 2R, K
  • Sidekick: Michael Fulmer (.055). IP, 4 batters, BB


  • Billy Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.071). 1-5, 2B, RBI, 2K
  • Goat/Kid: Christopher Morel/Ian Happ (-.038). Morel: 0-4, BB, R, K; Happ 0-4, BB, SB, 3K

WPA Play of the Game: The bases were loaded with two outs in the second, the game still scoreless. Mike Tauchman was the hitter. The run expectancy stood at .77. That’s an interesting number, because we only expect any given hitter to get a hit about 25 percent of the time. We add in things like a wild pitch, a passed ball and errors. Walks and hit by pitches score a run. But also, most singles are going to score two, doubles and triples three and homers four. So that .77 bakes in a lot of crooked numbers. And that’s what this one was. Tauchman singled and two scored. The Cubs did in fact go on to score three. (.171)

*Pirates Play of the Game: With the Pirates down three in the third, Henry Davis led off with a single. We’ve talked before about the probability in any given inning is .5 runs. Remember that includes crooked numbers and doesn’t just imply one run every other inning. Davis’ leadoff double positioned the Pirates to claw back into the game. (.061)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Drew Smyly
    (39 votes)
  • 76%
    Mike Tauchman
    (143 votes)
  • 0%
    Michael Fulmer
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (3 votes)
186 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Christopher Morel 56-52 over Tauchman. (Superhero is 49-22)

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 +14.5
  • Adbert Alzolay +12
  • Mike Tauchman +11
  • Justin Steele +10
  • Miles Mastrobuoni
  • Patrick Wisdom/Jameson Taillon -12
  • Trey Mancini/Nico Hoerner -14

Up Next: Game two of the three game set is Tuesday night. The Cubs would, for at least a day, move into third place with a win. Marcus Stroman (8-4, 2.45, 91⅔ IP) has been the winning pitcher in his last six starts. He’s allowed eight runs, seven earned over that time. That is a span of 41⅔ innings. Quite simply, Stroman has been one of the best pitcher’s in baseball in the first half. He allowed two runs in six innings against these Pirates last time out and saw his ERA actually go up.

For the second straight day, the pitching matchup is a repeat. Johan Oviedo (3-6, 4.40, 75⅔ IP). Johan has made exactly 14 starts, so his last seven starts is half of his work to date. In that time, he’s 1-3 with a 3.26 ERA in 38⅔ innings. Not withstanding the four runs the Cubs scored against them in just 4⅓.

Let’s stay greedy and get another win.