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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 96

The Cardinals continue their success versus Marcus Stroman.

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Three series on this homestand. Four losses (so far). This season will perhaps best be remembered as one that alternated tantalizing and frustrating. Arguably six different starters who have flashed dominance at least once, and four of them several times. A small handful of relievers who have flashed the ability to get tough outs in key situations. An offense that has scored seven or more runs 24 times.

Also a team that doesn’t have nearly enough power. A team that lacks depth up and down the roster. This is a team that sucks you and then leaves you hanging. Leaves you wanting more. The car you see on the lot. It’s exactly the make, model, style package and color that you are looking for. You see it there when you are driving home from work one night. You drive past again the next afternoon and it is still there. You grab your significant other and take them back that night. Only to find that this car that you were already picturing yourself riding in has sold.

Maybe next time. Today? It’s just another frustrating day.

Strained metaphors aside, after a couple of fun finishes against the Nationals, the arch rivals came to town Thursday night. Rather remarkably, Marcus Stroman is 10-4 against all of the teams that don’t play the majority of their games in St. Louis. But he’s now 0-3 against them in three starts. The Cardinals have the seventh-worst record in baseball, but they’ve beaten Stroman three times in three tries. Weird. And frustrating.

Willson Contreras? A .238/.331/.421 line (OPS+ 105). Certainly not an awful stat line. And also one of the worst of his career. This would be his second lowest batting average (.237 - 2021), lowest on base percentage, and third lowest slugging percentage (.390 - 2018, .407 - 2020). The frustrating part? This was his sixth game against the Cubs. He’s now had 26 plate appearances in those games. He’s had eight hits in 22 at bats, three doubles, four runs batted in, and four walks. That is a .364/.461/.545 line, well beyond the best numbers he’s ever put up. Because, of course they are.

And of course, the last indignity. The inevitable Cardinals run has begun. This marks six straight wins. They’ve now closed their gap behind the Cubs to 1½ games. The only slight sympathy is that the Cubs would have to be swept to fall behind the Cardinals. But that’s not going to happen. Right?

Three positives? Let’s see what we can do.

  1. Yan Gomes had a three-hit game that included two triples. I mean, the first of those certainly didn’t feel like a triple, but modern scoring is pretty forgiving if you never get a glove on the ball. Gomes now has two triples this year, and 10 in his career. Did I need to check that he’d never had a two-triple game before? Probably not, but I can now tell you that twice before he’s had two-triple months.
  2. There really wasn’t a lot of good in this one. I’ll give the nod to Javier Assad in the second spot. He had four innings of relief to save the bullpen. He only faced 13 batters to get there, despite a hit and three walks. That’s pretty efficient pitching even if it wasn’t always pretty.
  3. I could argue any of a small handful of choices, but I’ll choose Cody Bellinger, who had the Cubs first hit at a time when the game was still in question. If you picked one of the other two Cubs who had hits, your choice is certainly defensible.

Game 96, July 20: Cardinals 7, at Cubs 2 (45-51)


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


  • Superhero: Yan Gomes (.030). 3-4, 2 3B, RBI, K
  • Hero: Cody Bellinger (.015). 1-4
  • Sidekick: Javier Assad (.013). 4 IP, 13 batters, H, 3 BB, 4 K


  • Billy Goat: Marcus Stroman (-.260). 3⅔ IP, 23 batters, 7 H, 4 BB, 5 R (4 ER), 4 K (L 10-7)
  • Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-053). 0-2, HBP, K
  • Kid: Ian Happ (-.050). 0-4

WPA Play of the Game: The Cardinals were only up one when Jordan Walked batted with a runner on second with no outs in the fourth inning. He changed that in a hurry with a two-run homer. (.131)

*Cubs Play of the Game: Yan Gomes batted with a runner on third and two outs in the fourth inning, the Cubs down five. It looked like the Cubs might let a gift double go to waste until Yan tripled, driving in a run. (.047)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    Yan Gomes
    (70 votes)
  • 20%
    Javier Assad
    (19 votes)
  • 3%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (3 votes)
92 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Mike Tauchman (Superhero is 64-31)

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

  • Marcus Stroman +18
  • Ian Happ +15.5
  • Mike Tauchman +14
  • Justin Steele/Cody Bellinger +11
  • Michael Fulmer -7
  • Julian Merryweather -9.5
  • Patrick Wisdom -13
  • Jameson Taillon -17
  • Trey Mancini -20

Up Next: Game two of the four-game set Friday afternoon. Justin Steele (9-3, 2.96, 97⅓ IP) gets the start for the Cubs. Justin has cooled off a bit and is only 3-2 with a 4.25 ERA in 36 innings of work over his last seven games. Last time out, he allowed six runs in six innings in a loss to the Red Sox. He’s made two starts against the Cards this year and has won both. He’s gone six innings in each, allowing three runs in one and only one in the other. Let’s hope he can make it three for three.

Jack Flaherty (7-5, 4.29, 98⅔ IP) starts for the Cardinals. Injuries sidetracked the career of Flaherty, this is already the most innings he’s thrown since 2019. But, he doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Rather, he appears to be improving of late. He’s 4-1 with a 3.54 ERA over his last seven starts, covering 40⅔ innings. He’s made one start against the Cubs and that was way back in May. He allowed three runs over five innings and got a no-decision in that one, though he was in line for the win when he left and the Cardinals bullpen coughed up a lead before they eventually won the game.