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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 95

More eighth-inning magic!

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Does this become the Tauchman game? Mike Tauchman had three hits, all for extra bases, drove in the first three Cubs runs and was along for the ride on Nico Hoerner’s grand slam after drawing a walk. The former Bradley Brave enjoyed the best game of his career and kept the Cubs flickering playoff hopes alive. Obviously, there is a lot of baseball still to be played. Also, the Brewers have gotten hot again and with the trade deadline looming, the Cubs had to feel it would have been a lost opportunity not to get at least two out of this series.

Not quite the to same extent as Tuesday’s contest, but this one was again two different games. Through seven innings, the Cubs led 3-1. Mike Tauchman had three hits, three RBI and a run scored. Kyle Hendricks allowed one run on five hits over six showing again that the tank isn’t on empty. That game felt like it was going to be the kind of win the Cubs haven’t had a lot of recently. The Cubs have had a whopping 34 games this year in which they have allowed two or fewer, winning 31 of them. However, only one has been in the month of July and only two since the club returned from London.

To be fair, summer baseball can present different challenges on run prevention. The weather warms and in most stadiums the ball carries better. Also, injuries and fatigue wear both on individual pitchers and on the staff as a whole. The Cubs have seen a little bit of that with Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman not quite as dominant as they were earlier in the year.

Unfortunately, the 3-1 win keyed by Hendricks and Tauchman didn’t hold up. Julian Merryweather, another guy who had been dominant for a long stretch, surrendered two runs in the eighth and the lead with it. For Julian, he’s now been scored upon in four of his last seven appearances. In that time, he’s allowed eight runs, seven earned, over 6⅔ innings. That follows a stretch of 15 appearances and 14⅔ scoreless innings.

But the Cubs, fresh off of an eight run eighth on Tuesday had lightning strike in the same place twice. This time, the Nationals had one of their decent relievers on the mound. Mason Thompson came into this game at 3-2 with a 3.68 ERA in 44 innings. He’d walked 16 of 182 batters and only been charged with 18 earned runs. His appearance Wednesday was a nightmare. It went single, walk, single (on a two-strike bunt attempt), sacrifice fly for the go ahead run, strikeout and walk. He faced six batters and retired only two. He allowed one run while he was in the game and left the bases loaded.

Nico Hoerner faced ex-Cub Cory Abbott. Abbott, who first reached the majors with the Cubs in 2021 for seven games, including one start, hasn’t had a ton of big league success. He’s appeared in 32 games (10 starts) across three seasons with a 5.53 ERA. Nico has had a rough go of it lately. Uncharacteristically, he’s even been striking out a lot, striking out in a quarter of his July at bats prior to Wednesday. Over that time, he had a line of .175/.235/.222 (wRC+ 28). Those numbers actually include a three hit game Tuesday, the numbers were quite a bit worse before that. But Wednesday night, with the bases loaded in the eighth, he gave the Cubs four insurance runs with a blast over the left field wall for his first career grand slam. That one came in his 1,296th plate appearance. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take that long for the second.

Daniel Palencia locked down the ninth, quite possibly that will not be the last time in his career he gets that assignment.

There’s no great mystery to the three stars of this one. The only drama is what order to list them.

  1. Mike Tauchman gets the top spot. Three extra base hits, three runs batted in, then a walk to keep the eighth inning going. It’s Tauchman by a nose for me.
  2. Kyle Hendricks. One run over six, no walks. Everything you can ask for out of a starter in 2023. Totally defensible choice for the top spot.
  3. Nico Hoerner has spent more time in the leadoff spot than any other Cub this year (62 games). That makes it all the more unusual that he leads the team with 54 RBI after his slam. He’s actually opened up a 12 RBI lead over Ian Happ.

Game 95, July 19: Cubs 8, Nationals 3 (45-50)


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


  • Superhero: Mike Tauchman (.266). 3-4, HR, 2-2B, BB, 3 RBI, 2R
  • Hero: Kyle Hendricks (.256). 6 IP, 24 batters, 5 H, R, 5K
  • Sidekick: Nico Hoerner (.081). 2-4, HR, 4 RBI, R, K


  • Billy Goat: Julian Merryweather (-.178). 1⅓ IP, 8 batters, 4 H, 2 R
  • Goat: Ian Happ (-.062). 0-4, BB, K
  • Kid: Trey Mancini (-.053). 0-3, K

WPA Play of the Game: Luis Garcia batted with runners on first and second with two outs in the eighth, the Cubs still up one. The run expectancy in that spot is only .43 and with the Nationals offense down to only four outs, the hour glass was running low. Garcia came through though, singling to tie the game up and send another runner to third. (.265)

*Cubs Play of the Game: Mike Tauchman batted with a runner on third with two outs in the fourth, the game tied at one. Again, these two plays show up because of the low run expectancy. The Cubs are expected to score .36 runs after having a runner on third with two outs. Tauchman doubled though and gave the Cubs and Kyle Hendricks a lead to work with. (.128)

Julian Merryweather getting the third out in the eighth checks in at .119. Jeimer Candelario’s homer leading off the eighth was next at .118 and Nico Hoerner’s grand slam at .115.

Yan Gomes’ sacrifice fly for the lead checks in way down at .018 because it trades an out for a run in a spot where the run expectancy after the bases loaded and no outs is 2.33. That out drags the run expectancy down to .91. So you bank a run, but lose almost a half a run of expected value.


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    Mike Tauchman
    (132 votes)
  • 14%
    Kyle Hendricks
    (28 votes)
  • 13%
    Nico Hoerner
    (26 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (1 vote)
187 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Seiya Suzuki (Superhero is 63-31)

Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)

  • Marcus Stroman +21
  • Ian Happ +16.5
  • Mike Tauchman +14
  • Justin Steele +11
  • Cody Bellinger +9
  • Michael Fulmer -7
  • Julian Merryweather -9.5
  • Patrick Wisdom -11
  • Jameson Taillon -17
  • Trey Mancini -19

Up Next: The Cardinals come to town for four games. The Cardinals come in at 43-53 even after winning five in a row and eight of 10. The inevitable Cardinals run may have started. But at a full 10 games behind the Brewers (and 9½ out of the wildcard race) this is almost certainly too little, too late for them. It sure would be nice for the Cubs to throw them back on ice this weekend.

Marcus Stroman (10-6, 2.88, 118⅔ IP) gets the start for the Cubs. Marcus has cooled off a bit, only going 4-2 with a 3.86 in 39⅔ innings over his last seven starts. However, he was very good against the Red Sox on Saturday, allowing one run on three hits and a walk over six innings as he picked up his team-leading 10th win. Marcus has two starts against the Cardinals this year and he’s lost them both. He’s allowed eight runs, five earned over 9⅓ innings against them.

32-year-old lefty Steven Matz gets the start for the Cardinals. This season has been a rough one for Steven. He’s 0-7 with 4.86 ERA over 20 appearances (12 starts). He’s thrown only 76 innings. He lost his spot in the rotation after his start on May 24. At that time, he was already 0-6 with a 5.72 ERA. After eight appearances out of the pen, he returned to the rotation on July 9. In two starts back, he’s thrown at total of 9⅔ innings and allowed five runs, four earned. One of his relief appearances was against the Cubs in London. He threw 3⅓ innings in that one, allowing two hits, one walk and no runs.

The Cubs do boast a 17-12 record against lefthanded starters. The Cubs do boast a .762 OPS versus lefties (.716 vs righties), including .816 against left handed starters. Those numbers are in no small part due to Cody Bellinger having a 1.066 OPS in 89 plate appearances against lefty pitchers.