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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 106

The Cubs go down fighting in a 6-5 loss to the Reds.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Look, I’m not blowing smoke at anyone. Losing two straight and be back at .500 after the mad dash to get above water sucks. Marcus Stroman’s struggles continuing is awful. The situation with Seiya Suzuki is maddening. Was anything likely to change the ninth inning? Would it be nice if Cody Bellinger had gotten an at bat in that spot than Seiya? I mean, we are looking at a .902 OPS coming in versus .722. And I don’t have to look for splits against lefties, because I know off the top of my head that Bellinger has crushed them. Lineup construction matters and the insistence on Ian Happ batting third is odd. The Trey Mancini signing has been a disaster. A man with largely no position and a .635 OPS not to mention no speed just has no value to the roster.

We haven’t done it in a while, but my glass is at least half full and probably more so. The Reds came in and punched the Cubs in the mouth in the third inning. I’m still deciding if they are a good team emerging or a bad team that doesn’t know it is. They certainly aren’t eye-popping on paper. There are some good numbers there and a lot of youth. More than anything, there aren’t a ton of lousy players. The efforts of the last few years are certainly showing some fruit.

If I wasn’t fully impressed with the Reds on paper, I have to say seeing them live was just the opposite. They are a talented and aggressive young team. My first look at the new-look Reds impressed me. I have to say that they feel a little like a college basketball team that covers up some weaknesses by looking to fast break at every opportunity. If you aren’t used to seeing aggression, they will catch you off guard.

They look like a team really stressing situational awareness and applying pressure through aggression. They are stealing bases and taking the extra base at the slightest opportunity. I know there was one spot where a Bellinger throw would have taken away one of the runs they scored but for a bad hop. But that’s the point of what they are doing. They are making you make the play. We’ve seen incarnations of the Cubs that played that way before. It isn’t the be all end all, but if you have enough team speed, you can really take some extra bases and take advantage of sloppy defense.

All of that said, I’m heartened. This team continues to fight. They put five on the board and there is certainly chance that they might have tied the game in the eighth if a close call had gone the other way. You can’t assume anything, but you sure hate that an umpire took the bat out of Mike Tauchman’s hands in the eighth with a runner in scoring position and a fast one at that. I also wasn’t thrilled with one of the strike calls on Nico Hoerner that took the bat out of his hands.

Still, the Cubs lost this one because their starting pitching failed them. You do give the Reds credit for squaring pitches up and making the Cubs pay for every mistake early. That said, I’m seeing that the Reds were held to two hits and three walks over the final six innings. Six innings in which they didn’t score.

There are no moral victories, but I saw an offense that fought to the last out and I saw a bullpen, that was identified as the weakness of this team and written off by many, shut those Reds down. These next two weeks are going to be rough. The meat of the Cubs remaining schedule is right here. There will be other tough series, but the worst of it is right here, right now. You have to come through these next two weeks alive in the race.

I’m also excited that the players did what they had to do to keep the team together. That lead to the front office pursuing the kinds of moves that I envisioned. The Cubs acquired Jeimer Candelario, identified as the best bat known to be available. I’ve no doubt that the Yankees or the Dodgers or the Astros will coax some team to trade some elite player who was totally not available. But this was a good get. Jeimer is having a terrific season, brings pop, switch hits, plays both corner infield spots and is known to more than a handful of people in the organization. He was always noted as a good guy.

The Cubs had to give two talented young players back. Both were going to be left unprotected in a roster crunch ahead of this fall’s Rule 5 draft and DJ Herz had an above average chance of being picked up and stashed in someone’s bullpen for a year as a lefty reliever while they worked things out. You never want to see guys who you developed have to go away and you always wish them well when they go, just like you did with Jeimer when he left. He bloomed and now he’s back. You never know, but he is certainly the kind of player that you might be able to form a relationship with and try to extend that relationship beyond this season if he turns out to be a good fit.

The Cubs also obtained Jose Cuas. I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve never heard of him. I’ve read a few things and looked at a couple of clips. He strikes out a lot of hitters. That’s a tricky one. I almost wonder if you have to consider an IL stint for Stroman, slide Smyly and Wesneski into the rotation for now and use Cuas out of the pen for a little bit. That probably depends on if there are any more moves before the Cubs take the field tomorrow. Anthony Kay is the other spot on the roster that looks most open to change. But you’d have to hope that spot will go to a lefty reliever acquisition.

On the offensive side, it isn’t clear how the Cubs will juggle the roster. It has improved over the course of the year and everyone is healthy. Barring a move that deals someone from the roster, your options to improve the roster involve moving on from Trey Mancini or getting rid of the luxury of three catchers.

In the trade for Cuas, Nelson Velázquez goes. He had the WPA moment of the season with his grand slam against the Mariners. I hate to see him go and the Cubs will tell you the same. But this team doesn’t do a very good job of hiding when a player just doesn’t click with them. I trust them to evaluate talent, so surely they are aware of things that I haven’t seen. But I always felt that Nelson just needed more opportunity. I’ve little doubt he’ll go to the Royals and hit. I’ll be happy for him, and hope that he becomes a Royal pain in the butt to the White Sox and all of the rest of the American League.

My three positives of this game:

  1. Yan Gomes stays hot with three more hits, one of them a double. God bless, he was thinking three on it too. He had an RBI and a run scored. The fountain of youth has brought Gomes one of the most productive years of his career.
  2. Until Gomes’ third hit, I had Javier Assad in this spot. He faced 15 batters and retired 11 of them. He struck out four. No one loves three walks, but he almost finished four innings against a red hot offensive team.
  3. Nico Hoerner had a pair of doubles and was hit by a pitch. He scored a run. They also doubled him up. No easy task with how well Nico runs.

Game 106, July 31: Reds 6 at Cubs 5 (53-53)


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


  • Superhero: Yan Gomes (.186). 3-4, 2B, RBI, R, K
  • Hero: Javier Assad (.132). 3⅔ IP, 15 batters, H, 3 BB, 4 K
  • Sidekick: Nico Hoerner (.053). 2-4, 2-2B, BB, R, K


  • Billy Goat: Marcus Stroman (-.386). 3IP, 17 batters, 6 H, 2 BB, 6 R, 2 K (L, 10-8)
  • Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.250). 0-4, SF, RBI, 2 K
  • Kid: Ian Happ (-.179). 0-4, RBI, SF, 2 K

WPA Play of the Game: With a runner on second and one out in the eighth inning, the Cubs were down by two. Christopher Morel doubled and put the tying run on base. (.168)

*Reds Play of the Game: Luke Maile batted with runners on second and third with two outs, the Reds only up one at the time. He lined one into the gap and two runs scored. (.159)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Yan Gomes
    (46 votes)
  • 55%
    Javier Assad
    (61 votes)
  • 0%
    Nico Hoerner
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    Daniel Palencia (1 1⁄3 IP, 5 batters, H, 2K)
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Nick Madrigal (0-2, BB, HBP, R, SB)
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (0 votes)
110 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Kyle Hendricks nudges out Yan Gomes 53-45 (Superhero is 69-36 with three straight losses)

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

  • Cody Bellinger +20
  • Ian Happ +17.5
  • Marcus Stroman +12
  • Yan Gomes +11.5
  • Mike Tauchman/Adbert Alzolay +10
  • Drew Smyly -9
  • Michael Fulmer -10
  • Patrick Wisdom/Jameson Taillon -13
  • Trey Mancini -20.5

Up Next: Game two of the four game set. The Cubs will wake up Tuesday five games out of first in the division but still 312 out of the wild card. The Cubs send their ace Justin Steele (11-3, 2.87, 109⅔ IP) to the mound. Justin is 5-1 with a 3.24 in 41⅔ innings over his last seven starts. He won his last two starts, both against the Cardinals, allowing three runs over 12⅓ innings. He did have one start against the Reds back on May 26. He lost that one, allowing six runs, five earned in just 3⅔ innings of work. The Cubs are only 1-5 against the Reds so far this year. That accounts for most of the difference between them in the standings.

31-year-old righty Ben Lively (4-6, 3.76, 67IP) starts for the Reds. His last seven appearances have been starts and he is 1-3 with a 4.34 in 37⅓ innings. He has not faced the Cubs this season. He lost his last start, getting the start against the Brewers and allowing two runs on eight hits over 6⅔ innings of work. There is no question that this is the most favorable matchup on paper for this series.