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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 84

Weird baseball continues, but the Cubs win one.

Hayley Kolar

I mean, it was only a four-run lead this time. But holy cow, did essentially the same scenario play out for a third straight day? And once again with the game on the line was it 6-6 again? These last three days have been as quirky as any three I can remember.

My first thought continues to be amused with numerology. I wrote after the Saturday game that the Cubs were undefeated when they score seven runs (or more) and strangely, they’ve struggled even in games where they’ve scored six. Is there any significance or predictive value to this? Of course not. Did I feel they were going to win just because they scored that seventh run? Nope. I was concerned with how tense a situation this was for the major league debut of Daniel Palencia. More on that in a bit.

That second thought? Some of you will dismiss this as a writer seeking a narrative and finding one to fit their story. Regardless, here goes. After watching the first two games of this series, I have to wonder if the Brewers spent extra time scouting Cubs relievers. All four of the Cubs starters in this series have flashed unhittable stuff at times. Sure, Drew Smyly’s is a while ago now and sure Kyle Hendricks’ has only been recently. But Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman have dominated more than not.

I don’t think you don’t scout the starters, but I’m wondering if you really sit on the relievers. A) They know that these games are monumental for the Cubs. Just as the Cubs did a few weeks ago against the Pirates, the Cubs really have to win this series. B) The Brewers have also fumbled away an opportunity to blow this division away. With the Reds believing they are a contender, they aren’t just going away. It’s starting to look like every win is going to matter if they are going to win the division. Without any question, the Achilles heel of the Cubs pitching staff is their bullpen.

Maybe I’m just connecting dots arbitrarily, but for whatever reason, the Cubs key relievers of Adbert Alzolay, Mark Leiter Jr., and Julian Merryweather have been dominant for more than a month and all three have been hit in this series. The Brewers offense isn’t particularly a juggernaut. So it’s not like when the Dodgers were embarrassing Cubs relievers earlier this year. That’s a team that has marauded the National League for a number of years.

Enter Daniel Palencia. Without a doubt, as someone who has perused box scores for years, Daniel just put together one of the weirdest lines I’ve ever seen. Of course, some of this is the product of modern baseball and the “ghost” runner or whatever you like to call the placed runner in extra innings. We’ve certainly all seen the reliever who only faces two batters to get through an inning after getting a double play or a caught stealing involving an inherited runner. Palencia, known for control issues in the minors, threw 12 pitches and nine were strikes.

That was unusual enough. But how about two innings pitched, four batters, one hit? What? Certainly, you all know the story of Ian Happ throwing out two runners trying to score in consecutive innings. If no one has pointed out to you, I will here. You just saw the defensive equivalent of the Sandberg game. Happ threw out the potential winning run in the 10th and the potential tying run in the 11th. You can’t make this stuff up. What a crazy way for the rookie to make his debut. Without a doubt, he’ll never forget this one. I have to say, the next one has to feel pretty ordinary after this one.

Before I go further talking about this game, I have to stop and do a hat tip here. I’m often critical of how this team is run. I don’t do it often, but when I do, I’m not really shy about criticizing personnel decisions. The Daniel Palencia stuff is excellent franchise management. I’ll defer to the stuff that I’ve read from AZ Phil and assume it’s accurate. Particularly, because regardless of how complicated what he writes about is, I’ve never seen him wrong. This was literally the perfect day to bring Palencia up from a team control perspective. I’m not going to reproduce his excellent reporting. This considers options, a player that had to be added to the 40 man this fall, the perfect day to move Brad Boxberger to the 60-day injured list. This aggressive and intelligent roster management.

Before I leave that point, know that there was also a key date for David Bote. Don’t be surprised if the next time the Cubs need a bat from Iowa if Bote is back. Again, follow AZ Phil. I don’t often point to stuff away from Bleed Cubbie Blue, but Phil posts stuff that we don’t particularly have an expert on. There was a key date with Bote and the Cubs being able to outright him without guaranteeing his salary. If the Cubs are going to pay Bote, they certainly want him to be an asset they can utilize. And if he goes, he walks away from his contract. They did right by Bote and signed him to a long-term contract despite him not being a star player. They want to get the full utility out of that bat (while doing their part and paying every bit of that contract).

We go to three key performances from this game. This is a tricky one. I don’t know how to balance the contributions in this one. So I’m going to note them largely in chronological order.

  1. Kyle Hendricks was terrific again. Six innings, one earned run. One unearned run that was a tsunami of horrible timing. Miguel Amaya probably should have just held that ball. The runner was certainly not in the running lane. If you aren’t going to call that rule, then I’m not sure what the point of the runner’s box is. Third, I don’t think it goes without mention that Trey Mancini was at first again. I didn’t play a lot of first, so my fundamentals might be off, but I believe the correct play on that, or a bunt or a dropped third that bounces off in front of the plate is to offer a distinct target for the throw. You have to read the angle of the runner and offer a target that tries to take the throw away from the runner. If someone with some experience at first or a coach wants to correct me on that, I’m happy to hear it. Regardless, Hendricks was terrific again. He pitched well enough to earn a win.
  2. Offensively, the production was relatively balanced up and down the lineup. There are a number if people who make sense here, but I’m going with Cody Bellinger. He had a pair of singles, drew a walk, drove in a run and scored two.
  3. It would be criminal not to put Ian Happ up here. Clearly, I don’t put a lot of defense up here, but this was a lightning bolt day for his defense. Every now and then you’ll hear an announcer point out a shortstop, a second baseman or even a first baseman have the kind of day that “wins them” a gold glove. Of course, that’s over simplifying. That said, people around the Brewers, needing to vote for a non-Brewer, may well remember this game. Two outfield assists in an enormous situation.

I’m giving a couple of honorable mentions on a game like this. First, Daniel Palencia. Nice debut! Second, Julian Merryweather. Nice bounce back performance! Finally, last but not least, Nico Hoerner. no other guy I want at the plate with the game on the line.

Game 84, July 4: Cubs 7 at Brewers 6 (39-45)


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


  • Superhero: Daniel Palencia (.755). 2IP, 4 batters, H (W 1-0)

*This is the highest WPA score of the season for the Cubs, surpassing two Marcus Stroman starts.

  • Hero: Nico Hoerner (.227). 2-6, RBI, K
  • Sidekick: Kyle Hendricks (.182). 6IP, 22 batters, 4H, BB, 2R (1ER), 5K


  • Billy Goat: Adbert Alzolay (-.396). 1⅓IP, 9 batters, 4H, 2R, 3K, HBP
  • Goat: Jared Young (-.264). 0-1, R
  • Kid: Patrick Wisdom (-.141). 0-2, K

WPA Play of the Game: Bryan Turang came to the plate with one out and a runner on third against Daniel Palencia. The Brewers run expectancy in this spot is .94, so the tie is nearly certain there. Turang hit a fly ball to left that certainly could have been a sacrifice fly to tie the game. But Ian Happ completed the catch and made a throw to the plate in time to get Owen Miller trying to score and preserve the win. (.413)

*Brewers Play of the Game: An unusual situation when both plays of the game are “negative” plays. Such is the way of a game like this. Jared Young batted with runners on first and second with no outs in the tenth inning against Elvis Peguero. The run expectancy is 1.49 there, so not only was one run expected, but a fair chance at a second. Young hit the ball hard, but Willy Adames snagged it and completed a double play, getting Christopher Morel out for a double play. (.264)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Daniel Palencia
    (30 votes)
  • 2%
    Nico Hoerner
    (7 votes)
  • 10%
    Kyle Hendricks
    (25 votes)
  • 70%
    Ian Happ (1-5, R, two crucial OF assists)
    (177 votes)
  • 4%
    Miguel Amaya (1-4, 2B, BB, 2RBI, two crucial catch and tags)
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (1 vote)
250 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Christopher Morel 53-43 over Michael Fulmer (Superhero is 57-26)

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

  • Marcus Stroman +20
  • Ian Happ +17.5
  • Justin Steele +15
  • Matt Mervis +8
  • 3 Players at +6
  • Julian Merryweather -6.5
  • Miles Mastrobuoni -8
  • Trey Mancini/Patrick Wisdom -13
  • Jameson Taillon -17

Up Next: Game three of the four-game set. The Cubs will be hoping for a more mundane win to make it two straight. Justin Steele (9-2, 2.43, 85⅓ IP) has secured an All-Star appearance. Next up? He’ll try to earn the coveted starter spot. This will be his final start pre-break. He’ll be on proper rest for the game. That isn’t nothing. Justin had tailed just a bit in mid to late May, possibly explained by some very stiff competition. Both of his losses came in that stretch. He’s been outstanding since returning from his brief injured list stint. In three starts, he is 3-0 and has allowed only three runs in 17⅓ innings. Justin threw six scoreless innings back on April 1 against these Brewers.

30-year-old righty Adrian Houser gets the start for the Brewers. He is 3-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 46⅓ innings. He’s made eight starts out of 10 appearances. Houser was still dealing with a groin issue that first surfaced in late 2022 when the season started. He didn’t make his first start until May 7. After a string of seven starts to begin his season, Houser was sent to the pen after a start where he lost to the A’s (and made comments about them being a forgotten team). He made two appearances out of the pen over a 20-day period. There he threw a total of five innings and allowed two runs, one earned. His first start back in the rotation was in the Mets series where he returned to the rotation with six innings of two run ball and picked up a win.