I have just one hope. Let’s hope the Cubs don’t become one of “those” teams. You know, the kind of team that beats the good teams but then does less than exceptional against the lesser teams. Instead, I like to think that the core of the Mets team that was put together with an eye on getting back to the World Series for the first time in more than a decade. That series felt like a trap and then it acted like one.
But this game saw the Cubs bring that intensity that we saw from them on the last homestand when they won five of seven from the Reds and Braves. Nico Hoerner and Cody Bellinger each homered in the top of the first so that Javier Assad could have some support to work with. Then Assad went out and dominated for seven innings. Along the way, the Cubs added three more runs, and so even a late homer against Michael Fulmer wasn’t too scary.
The Cubs won their 60th game and they did it more than a month earlier than they did in 2022 (September 13). The Yankees beat the Marlins on Friday night and so the Cubs are back in the third Wild Card spot, an eyelash ahead of the Reds who also won Friday night. This series felt like one where you hoped to just not get blown out of the water. The Brewers are playing the White Sox in Chicago and the Reds are playing the Pirates in Pittsburgh. It seems likely that both of them will have a strong weekend. But the Cubs have two important things on tap just after this series. One is a schedule that lightens up on paper and the other is two extra days off, allowing everyone to catch their breath ahead of the home stretch.
The other thing about this weekend, the Jays are certainly a terrific team, but the Cubs will send All-Star Justin Steele and red-hot Jameson Taillon to pitch this weekend. Nothing is going to be easy in this one, but you have to always feel comfortable right now when those two are throwing for you. With any luck, a recharged Marcus Stroman will rejoin the Cubs shortly and make this team all the tougher. He sure would slot nicely into the Drew Smyly spot in the rotation, letting Friday night’s star Javier Assad get at least one more start.
46 games. That’s what’s left for the Cubs and they are sitting in the third wild card spot. They are within sight of the division leading Brewers. My brain and my heart argue about the Brewers. On the one hand, I see a Brewers team that just doesn’t feel quite as “Brewer” as their recent incarnations. On the other, I see a team that finishes strong over and over again. Ignoring the wacky 2020 season, the Brewers have had a winning record every September since 2015, including a 20-7 record in 2019 and 19-7 in 2018. That 2015 Brewers team was the year Craig Counsell took over as Brewers manager. That team only won 68 games, but did finish September at 13-15.
This Cubs team just keeps adding wins and they are within striking distance of those Brewers. Nothing is guaranteed and the Cubs have a team that is playing with a ton of confidence and is winning baseball games. This last few days has been great. After the offense carried the Cubs for weeks, the starting pitching has snapped back with decent starts out of Taillon, Kyle Hendricks and now Assad. With Steele and Taillon, it would be great to see them keep this rolling. When this team is pitching well, they are very tough to beat.
Depending on who you trust for your playoff odds, the Cubs are really in good shape. Baseball Reference had them at 71.1 percent to make the playoffs coming into Friday’s game. Suffice is to say, that win won’t make it less likely. If they stay sharp and win the vast majority of the games against lesser teams, they will have a chance to really stack wins. They still have two games against the White Sox, three against the Royals, three against the Tigers, seven against the Pirates, seven games against a free falling Diamondbacks team (eight straight losses through Friday), and six against the Rockies.
That’s 28 of the remaining 46 games against those lesser teams. If they could win 18 of 28 against those lesser teams and eight of 17 against the better teams, that would add 26 more wins for a total of 86. No guarantees, but that looks like enough to reach the playoffs and it could be enough to win the Central. It’s there for the taking. Game on.
Let’s look for three star performances in another excellent Cubs win.
- There’s no way I can give this to anyone other than Javier Assad. Seven innings, one walk, four hits, and one run. Very strong outing.
- Cody Bellinger takes my second spot. The two-run homer in the first had to make Assad quite a bit more comfortable. He added a single and he continues to play at an MVP level.
- Once again, there are a lot of choices, but I’m going to go with Seiya Suzuki as he tries to bounce back from a horrendous slump. He had a double and a walk in this one. He drove in two and scored a run. For all of how bad things were, after this performance he is at .255/.333/.409 (wRC+ 102) and is a little better than a league-average hitter.
Game 116, August 11: Cubs 6, at Blue Jays 2 (60-56)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Javier Assad (.196). 7 IP, 26 batters, 4 H, BB, R, 2 K (W 2-2)
- Hero: Cody Bellinger (.146). 2-4, HR, 2 RBI, R
- Sidekick: Nico Hoerner (.112). 2-5, HR, RBI, R, SB, DP
- Billy Goat: Christopher Morel (-.032). 0-4, K
- Goat: Yan Gomes (-.017). 1-4, 2B, 2 K
- Kid: Mike Tauchman (-.015). 1-4, BB, RBI, K, DP
WPA Play of the Game: The Cubs were up one and there was one out when Cody Bellinger batted in the first inning with a runner on first. He homered and the Cubs were up three and had all of the runs they’d end up needing. (.157)
*Blue Jays Play of the Game: Matt Chapman batted with a runner on first and one out, the Jays down three. He singles and they had two on with one out. (.038)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Ian Happ (2-4, R)
Seiya Suzuki (1-3, 2B, BB, 2RBI, R)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Wednesday’s Winner: Seiya Suzuki 140 of 151 votes (Superhero is 76-39)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Cody Bellinger +34
- Mike Tauchman +14
- Adbert Alzolay +13
- Ian Happ +12.5
- Marcus Stroman +12
- Dansby Swanson/Julian Merryweather -8.5
- Jameson Taillon -12
- Patrick Wisdom/Drew Smyly -15
- Trey Mancini -20.5
Up Next: These two teams square off again on Saturday afternoon. Justin Steele (13-3, 2.68, 121 IP) starts for the Cubs. Steele has won his last four starts. This is the third time this year that he has won three or more consecutive starts and he’ll be looking for a season high five straight starts with a win. In those four wins, he has allowed 12 runs, nine earned over 23⅔ innings.
34-year-old righty Chris Bassitt will start for the Blue Jays. The former 16th round pick of the White Sox in 2011 is 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA over 139⅔ innings. Bassitt has won 10 or more games in each of the last four full seasons, winning 15 last year for the Mets and 12 the year before for the A’s, who he has spent most of his career with. The veteran righty is 3-1 over his last seven outings with a 338 ERA in 40 innings of work. He won his last start for the Jays, allowing one run over seven innings in a game in Boston.