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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 104

Eight is great! Cubs continue to roll in 5-1 win.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Your intrepid writer is feeling the effects of too many nights up burning the midnight oil writing these things. If you haven’t caught me saying it before, I virtually always write these pieces before going to bed here on the East Coast so that Al can edit it and get it on the schedule the next day. Al has been overly gracious for years giving me open mic night to say just about anything I want here. He’s indulged me no matter how far away from Cubs games I’ve drifted or how long I’ve written. In return, I make his life easier by knowing it’s going to be there when he starts his day. It’s always been a pleasure working here.

And that paragraph reads like it wants a giant pivot to the “but.” It isn’t really. I’m wiped. This week has been emotional with this amazing run. And, of course, with ever increasing intrigue building into this season, there is so much to say. Tonight, I’m going to hit you with some bullets and try to save some in the tank for what will be another animal Sunday night into the start of next week with the trade deadline. So I’m just going to spray around a bit.

Eight in a row. Amazing. I certainly didn’t see it coming. I called time of death enough times on this team to be embarrassed. I’m so proud of these guys pulling a “Major League” and not letting ownership sell for a third straight season.

It’s funny, I remember the time before I was a blogger. I remember long discussions about whether the media takes a sadistic delight in the team being bad. I didn’t think so then and I don’t think so now. But, these last three seasons have unquestionably been more fun for me than the three that preceded them.

The 2021 trade deadline is the most traumatic thing I’ve ever experienced as a Cubs fan. Jerry Krause tore down the Bulls after the second three-peat in a big hurry. But, even as someone who followed the team incessantly, that team was done. But I guess that isn’t it. The Cubs championship team was done. But those guys became like family. I hurt when off the field problems took away two of them. I hated that Kyle Schwarber felt like a scapegoat the year before. Bryzzo and Javy all leaving at once, along with everything else that wasn’t nailed down, was rough. I don’t ever want to experience anything like that again.

But the end of 2021 was actually a lot of fun. That team looked to be a full out dumpster fire, but they overachieved. Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom and Rafael Ortega became household names and the team, improbably, had a seven-game winning streak down the stretch.

The second half of 2022 and particularly after the trade deadline was amazing. Nico Hoerner ascending. Justin Steele ascending. Trading four relievers and then having the whole pitching staff shove in August and September and more overachieving. Again, it culminated with a seven-game winning streak down the stretch.

Then there is this team and this run. I’m not sure this team could have started their run any later and had it forestall pieces being traded off. We know this front office is willing to jump the market and get out there first. I will be more surprised if we don’t learn over the weeks and months to come that there were trades that were simmering even while this run was fledgling.

I sometimes find it amazing that so much of Cubs baseball social media is so grumpy, so much of the time. I realize that more and more, the world is a negative place. But this organization has been a safe harbor in the storm for me many more days than not over the last decade. There is no doubt this last decade has been the Golden Age of being a Cubs fan in modern baseball.

In some ways, I dislike the trade deadline more when the team is good than when it is bad. First, and most reasonably, this front office has done excellent in its deals trading away players. Many of the top prospects in the Cubs system were someone else’s prospect. They don’t win ’em all. But they certainly have a winning record. But it is hard for the team trading away prospects to win the trade in the end.

But more than that, I hate to see anyone go. I’m loyal to a fault and it’s hard. It feels almost like you are deciding which one of you kids is expendable. Don’t get me wrong, I love a shiny new toy as much as anyone. But there is no one that will go that will not be a little traumatic. I talked with Josh some tonight and he made the perfect point. All we can hope is that the kids go off to a good team and a good opportunity. You know, and that the guys we trade for help elevate this team to a higher level.

There will be so much more to say, but I’ll just say again how proud I am of these guys and the way they have pulled together. As every winning streak tends to be, it’s hard to find a guy on the roster who hasn’t been chipping in — even most of the guys who have bounced back and forth between Chicago and Iowa.

Let’s name three stars.

  1. Six innings, two hits, one run. An impressive performance. Four walks is too many. But, the transformation has been wonderful. And I’ll just keep giving the kudos. It would be easy to throw the chips in and reset next year. But Jameson Taillon kept working and we are seeing how good he can be now.
  2. I read multiple times this morning that Ian Happ’s power is gone. Yeah, I’d love for him to have twice as many bombs. He continues to hover near the .800 OPS level that many look at as the demarcation line of stardom. He was a 3.6 fWAR player last year. We are just shy of two thirds of the way through this season and he’s been worth 2.2. He’s within the margin of error for a mid 3 fWAR again this season. I wish more people spent more time on all of the positives a player brings than dwelling on the things they don’t bring.
  3. Mike Tauchman, three more hits, one a double. He scored a run and drove in another. We are all living in Mike Tauchman’s dream. I don’t think there is probably enough runway left for him to be a qualified hitter, but Tauchman also is rocking an OPS within shouting distance of that .800 OPS level. He’s been worth 1 fWAR and that includes a negative defensive rating that must include things I haven’t seen while watching. He lacks the next level skills of Cody Bellinger, but that’s a tough bar. He always seems to make all of the plays when I’m watching.

Honorable mention: Daniel Palencia and Javier Assad are largely “B” relievers. Michael Fulmer is the bridge between the A and B groups. He tends to be fourth in line. The Cubs got three innings without using Adbert Alzolay or Julian Merryweather who have been leaned on heavily as this team continues streaking. It wasn’t lockdown, but kudos to the relievers for keeping the game under control.

Game 104, July 29: Cubs 5, at Cardinals 1 (53-51)


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


  • Superhero: Ian Happ (.230). 1-3, HR, BB, RBI, R, K
  • Hero: Jameson Taillon (.182). 6 IP, 23 batters, 2 H, 4 BB, R, 4 K (W 4-4)
  • Sidekick: Yan Gomes (.138). 1-4, HR, 2 RBI, R, K


  • Billy Goat: Nico Hoerner (-.130). 0-4, K, DP
  • Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.067). 1-4, 2 K
  • Kid: Dansby Swanson (-.033). 1-4

WPA Play of the Game: Ian Happ batted with a runner on first and two outs, the Cubs down one in the third. That is they were down until Ian slugged a two-run homer giving them a lead and all of the runs they ended up needing. (.234)

*Cardinals Play of the Game: Paul Goldschmidt was the second hitter in the lineup for the Cardinals. He batted with a runner on first and no outs and he singled putting runners on first and third with no outs.


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Ian Happ
    (23 votes)
  • 66%
    Jameson Taillon
    (103 votes)
  • 0%
    Yan Gomes
    (1 vote)
  • 17%
    Mike Tauchman (3-5, 2B, RBI, R)
    (28 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (1 vote)
156 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Mike Tauchman received 248 of 254 votes (Superhero is 69-34)

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

  • Cody Bellinger +20
  • Ian Happ +18.5
  • Marcus Stroman +15
  • Justin Steele +14
  • Mike Tauchman/Adbert Alzolay +10
  • Drew Smyly -9
  • Michael Fulmer -11
  • Patrick Wisdom/Jameson Taillon -13
  • Trey Mancini -20

Up Next: The Cubs will go for nine straight including seven straight against the Cardinals. They wake up this morning three games behind the third wild card and 3½ games out of first in the division. This team is squarely back in the race. The Marlins and Diamondbacks are now only 2½ games ahead of the Cubs and the Cubs have done what they needed to do. The Cubs have now split their last 76 games.

Kyle Hendricks (4-4, 3.45, 70⅓ IP) starts for the Cubs. He has not yet faced the Cardinals in 2023. However, he has more wins against the Cardinals in his career than any other team. He is 13-3 with a 2.69 ERA. Recall that the Cardinals have essentially been a playoff team throughout his career.

Steven Matz, the 32-year-old lefty (1-7, 4.34, 87 IP), starts for the Cardinals. His one win was 10 days ago against the Cubs. He allowed one run over five innings in that one. Despite the ugly record, Matz is 1-0 with a 2.12 over his last seven appearances, four of those starts. Sweeping is never easy and particularly on the road.