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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 78

We return to the realm of moral victories.

Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

I’ve not spent any time as the fan of another team. I mean, I live here about half an hour outside of Tampa. I’m sure I just move in the wrong circles, but I’m not aware of the collective voice of Rays fans. But I’m going to go out on a limb. I bet Yankees fans don’t look at an 8-5 loss and think that it’s some moral victory because the team was down six at one point. Or Red Sox fans. Or Dodgers fans. Or Astros. Probably not any time recently for the Braves.

I know I’ve read comically hot takes from St. Louis that I’m pretty sure want to fire everyone currently or formerly associated with the Cardinals organization. I used to know White Sox fans who weren’t particularly happy when they won 7-6. Particularly if a Cubs loss was the first story on the 10 o’clock news.

Hey, the Cubs finally recognized that Aaron Nola just isn’t as good as he once was. That’s something I suppose. 78 games into the year, I can’t do it. I mean if this team was riding on 45 wins or so, I’m pretty sure I’d cut a little slack that even in loss, the team came off the mat. This team announced its return to contention over a recent two-week period. For sure, that was in part because of how inept the NL Central was. But they were in the playoff picture.

And Sunday morning, they stormed out to a 4-0 lead. One muffed ball and the team collapsed like a house of cards. I mean, I don’t think the ghosts of Cubs past haunt this organization the way they did 10-15 years ago. Sunday was just one frustrating loss, though, no big deal, right? Then another loss on Tuesday, one where the team was down five by the fifth inning and only put up one belated run. And now on Wednesday, the team was down six in the fourth before getting close enough to frustrate Philly fans.

Let’s spell it out here in terms of WPA and run expectancy. Ian Happ batted with the bases loaded with no outs and the Cubs down five in the fifth. The run expectancy in that spot in 2.33 runs. Happ hit a grounder back to Nola. The Cubs pulled to within four. Dansby Swanson also grounded back to the pitcher with Nico Hoerner out trying to score. Cody Bellinger popped out to finish the inning with a whimper.

The Cubs didn’t send a single batter to the plate with a chance to tie the game or put them ahead after Christopher Morel made the third out in the first inning in a scoreless game. Drew Smyly was rocked for a pair of homers and five runs in the second.

Last year, a Philly team that came off the mat to reach the World Series lost all six games they played against the Cubs. They’ve won four of the first five this year with one to play. Maybe they’ll come off the mat again. Right now, they are sitting in third place, two games out of the third wild card spot and way behind a marauding Braves team (that the Cubs have yet to play).

Let’s look for three positives in this one.

  1. Hayden Wesneski saved the Cubs bullpen. When Drew Smyly didn’t make it out of the fourth, it could have taken a slew of relievers to finish this one. Hayden recorded 13 outs while facing only 16 batters. He did allow a solo homer, but you can live with that. With four strikeouts, this was a good performance.
  2. Nick Madrigal added three more hits, one a double. He also scored a run.
  3. I’ve gotta give the nod to Jared Young who slugged his first major league home run. I’ll forgive you if you don’t remember him getting into six games and having 22 plate appearances last year. He even stole a base. But this was the first homer. He did have a small sample size 113 wRC+ last year.

Game 78, June 28: Phillies 8, Cubs 5 (37-41)


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


  • Superhero: Nick Madrigal (.057). 3-4, 2B, R
  • Hero: Hayden Wesneski (.019). 4⅓ IP, 16 batters, 2H, BB, R, 4K
  • Sidekick: Miguel Amaya (.016). 1-2, R, K


  • Billy Goat: Drew Smyly (-.388). 3⅔ IP, 22 batters, 9H, BB, 7R, 2K (L 7-5)
  • Goat: Cody Bellinger (-.059). 1-4, K
  • Kid: Trey Mancini (-.043). 0-1, K

WPA Play of the Game: Edmundo Sosa batted with a runner on first and one out with the game scoreless. He homered and the Phillies never trailed. (.184)

*Cubs Play of the Game: With the bases loaded, no outs and the Cubs down six, Christopher Morel walked, moving the line. (.068)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Nick Madrigal
    (49 votes)
  • 35%
    Hayden Wesneski
    (39 votes)
  • 0%
    Miguel Amaya
    (0 votes)
  • 18%
    Jared Young (1-2, HR, RBI, R)
    (20 votes)
  • 2%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (3 votes)
111 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Cody Bellinger (Superhero is 53-24)

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 +18.5
  • Adbert Alzolay/Justin Steele +12
  • Matt Mervis +8
  • Miles Mastrobuoni -8
  • Patrick Wisdom/Nico Hoerner -12
  • Trey Mancini -13
  • Jameson Taillon -15

Up Next: The Cubs will try to avoid a sweep Thursday night. Kyle Hendricks (3-2, 2.60, 34⅔ IP) will start for the Cubs. Kyle has allowed three runs on eight hits over 19⅓ innings in his last three starts, all wins. It has the appearance of the return of The Professor.

The Phillies start Taijuan Walker (8-3, 4.10, 83⅓ IP). He’s been red hot, 5-1 with a 1.71 over 42 innings in his last seven starts and in five of those seven he’s allowed one run or fewer. He threw 5⅓ innings against the Cubs back on May 21 and allowing only two hits, three walks and no runs. He didn’t figure in the decision in that game, but this is going to be a tough one.