This organization man. If you are new to being a Cubs fan, run and hide. This fandom isn’t for the faint of heart. They suck you in and then they rip out your heart and stomp up and down on it. We all know it’s coming again, right? I mean that’s always how it goes. Anyway, I warned you. Proceed with caution.
You’re still here? Holy cow, people. This team. I’ll leave it to the real historians to tell us how unusual it is for four consecutive games to be decided by one run. But here we are and that’s just what we’ve seen. And, perhaps in a thing we don’t often notice, we are seeing a progression and not a regression in a statistic. The Cubs had been spectacularly bad in them, losing 10 of their first 12. That’s so bad that even during this stretch of three out of four wins in that situation, they haven’t even won a third of those games overall (5-11). But they’ve left spectacularly bad and moved on to just bad. Does it hurt to hear that the A’s who are barely winning more than 20 percent of their games are 8-10 in such games (and 4-37 otherwise).
These haven’t just been any wins though. The Cubs have allowed six runs in four games. Four of those were charged to the bullpen. One of those reliever runs was in his fourth inning of relief and scored against a different reliever after being inherited on first base with two outs. Not the kind of run that regularly happens.
Three of the reliever runs were allowed by arguably their most consistent reliever. So in a sense, not particularly stressing. A journeyman reliever wasn’t going to become perfect. But he snapped right back to being excellent tonight.
Two runs charged to the starters in four games. Granted, Justin Steele only threw three innings in his start. But also, two of those starts were by Kyle Hendricks and Jameson Taillon. Those two guys both notched their first “quality” starts of the season. Yeah, the definition of a quality start was a low enough bar and now in modern baseball, five innings with the lead is a good day’s work. But all snark aside, I tip my cap particularly to Jameson Taillon. He won’t be one of my three stars tonight, but he could be and that’s a big step forward. I’ve been hard on him, so I’m delighted to see him bounce back.
So there it is, this team has won three of four. One of the two opponents has legitimate World Series dreams, regardless of whatever the rest of the season brings for them. The other, certainly came into the season with World Series dreams. But if they are still a contender, then are the Cubs too? I kid, mostly, but the Padres have the same number of wins as the Cubs after this game. I wouldn’t have taken that bet with pretty much any odds.
It’s a strange world. Four games ago, the Cubs bottomed out with the worst record in the National League. Since then, three wins in four games. There are now four teams below them in the NL including two teams in the Cardinals and Phillies who also thought they had chances of going deep into the postseason. One of those teams played in the World Series last year (even if that was a little bit of a fluke). The Reds and Padres each stand with that solitary game in the win column ahead of the Cubs. If the boys in blue can win Saturday night (surely a decent sized if), they have a fair chance to be ahead of six teams and sneaking into the middle of the NL pack.
We’ll dream about the chances of bouncing back to get into contention in the division or the wild card race if this hot streak extends a bit. Until then, let’s go to three stars of the game.
- The Cubs had four hits in this game. They did draw five walks, but two runs is pretty impressive out of that output. Dansby Swanson is one of the reasons why with a solo homer that ended up being the decisive run. I think this guy might be pretty good.
- Adbert Alzolay did one of my favorite things that a reliever can do. He faced two batters, struck out one and recorded three outs. That was enormous. He gets the cover photo for good reason. I think he might be enjoying this relieving thing and the chance to impact games more often.
- Mark Leiter Jr. did the other really impressive thing a reliever can do. Three batters, three strikeouts. One save. Baller move. What a bounce back from Wednesday’s unfortunateness. Get right back on the horse and stick the landing. Yes please.
Game 56, June 2: Cubs 2, at Padres 1 (25-31)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Adbert Alzolay (.375). IP, 2 batters, K
- Hero: Dansby Swanson (.199). 3-4, HR, RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Mark Leiter Jr. (.185). IP, 3 batters, 3K (Sv 3)
- Billy Goat: Julian Merryweather (-.185). ⅔ IP, 4 batters, H, BB, 2K
- Goat: Trey Mancini (-.099). 0-4, 4K
- Kid: Patrick Wisdom/Yan Gomes (-.090). Wisdom: 0-4, K; Gomes 0-3, K
WPA Play of the Game: Adbert Alzolay was summoned with runners on first and second with no outs in the eighth inning and the Cubs up one. The first batter? Xander Bogaerts. Big moment, big result. Alzolay got a grounder to third that went around the horn for a double play. (.265)
Padres Play of the Game: Rougned Odor led off the eighth inning. He had already doubled and scored the only run. This time it was a single and Mike Tauchman misplayed the ball in center, allowing Odor to reach second safely. (.176)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Mark Leiter Jr.
Jameson Taillon (5 2⁄3 IP, 20 batters, 3H, R, 3K)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Wednesday’s Winner: Hayden Wesneski (Superhero is 39-16)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings:
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 +16
- Justin Steele +10
- Dansby Swanson +9.5
- Mike Tauchman +8
- Mark Leiter Jr. +7.5
- Patrick Wisdom -9
- Nico Hoerner -9.5
- Michael Fulmer/Jameson Taillon -10
- Trey Mancini -15
Up Next: Game two of the three-game set. The Cubs will look to make it four wins in five games. They’ll have Drew Smyly (5-2, 3.45, 60 IP) on the mound. Drew is coming off one of his rougher outings this year. He allowed five runs in 4⅔ innings. Make what you will of it, but Smyly has allowed 12 runs (11 earned) in 9⅓ innings against the Reds. In his other nine starts, he’s allowed 14 earned runs in 50⅔ innings. 3.45 is a perfectly good ERA. He has a 2.49 when not facing the Reds.
The Padres will start our old pal Yu Darvish (3-4, 4.64, 56⅔ IP). Yu got blown up by the Yankees in New York in his last start, allowing seven runs while only recording eight outs. In Yu’s first year as a Cub, he only made eight starts due to injury and recorded a 4.95 ERA. That would be his only season worse than this year. One has to think Yu will bounce back against his old team. This could be a tough one.