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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 121

A completely frustrating loss.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a while since I’ve invoked day game after a night game rules and opted for a short piece. Today I am doing so. Part of it is a Friday heading into a Saturday, but another part is because my momma once told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Little did she know that I’d grow up and write about baseball. Not that I think either of them would have been particularly moved by it, but both of my parents passed away the year before I ever wrote my first piece for this website. This has literally nothing to do with the price of tea in China, but felt relevant.

So I’ll quit avoiding talking about baseball. You all know by now that the picture is a huge spoiler alert, right? If you are able to identify the player in the picture, then you’ve identified the Superhero. It pains me that Nico Hoerner was the Superhero of Friday’s game. Granted, he wasn’t the pitcher who allowed four runs or either of the two fielders that made errors that turned into runs for the Royals.

I understand what Nico was doing in the ninth inning and I have no idea what the scouting reports may have said about running on any of the Royals outfielders. I personally do not understand how you can try to stretch a single into a double in that situation in the ninth inning. I do know that it is usually pretty hard to piece together three hits or walks against the other team’s closer. Never mind that they had just done it the night before.

The simple math is that by being out there, it significantly diminished the odds of Cody Bellinger getting to the plate. As it would turn out, Cody did get to the plate and didn’t come through. It’s a fool’s errand to assume sequencing, but playing devil’s advocate, Ian Happ’s walk that followed would have made it first and second with one out. Ironically, that’s exactly what would have happened (if you assume sequencing again) if Hoerner had been safe. Never assume sequencing.

I advocated for keeping Patrick Wisdom when Jeimer Candelario was acquired. I felt sound in my decision making when he slugged a homer in one of his first opportunities after the trade. In hindsight, I was wrong and as much as I hate to say it, he’s probably another player who needs to go. There is no role for him on this team. If he’s here, you have to find situations for him to play. But I do not want to see him at first again, there is no real role at DH or in the outfield. I’m always going to want Jeimer or Nick Madrigal at third. I can’t justify keeping Wisdom as a right-handed pinch hitter only.

I have two thoughts that accompany this. One, it’s interesting that there is at least an argument that Patrick Wisdom was the best Cubs player the last two season. Certainly, if not the best, he was in the team photo each year. The fair realization is that there is no real role for him on this team. This was a massive roster turnover and it has been a successful one.

The second thought, the Cubs were afraid of the Matt Mervis situation and the reality is they blew that. Certainly, in a vacuum, you can understand why Mervis was called up when he was and why he was sent down when he was. But, a whole season has basically gone by and you’ll go into 2024 with the same question as you did this year. Can Matt Mervis be a successful hitter at the major league level? This year, you had that question on a team that consensus called for the team to win somewhere between 75-85 games. Tomorrow is never guaranteed, but you’ll put together your 2024 team, hoping to put together a team that has aspirations of between 85-95 wins. It’s going to be tough to include Mervis in that plan. Years ago, this was something the Bears used to consistently do. They’d bring a draftee along slowly and then their rookie contract would be expiring and they rarely knew what they had. This feels like that. Undrafted doesn’t have the same meaning when the draft is chopped to five rounds.

Jameson Taillon. What do I say? If the defense had been as good as it usually is, he probably sneaks out of this start with only a pair of runs allowed in a Cubs victory. The thing is, he did allow a fair bit of solid contact. That two-run outing would paper over another subpar outing against a team that isn’t all that talented offensively. With Marcus Stroman out for the foreseeable future, Justin Steele having already thrown more innings than he ever has, Kyle Hendricks being kind of meh and Jameson Taillon being worse than that, the Cubs starting pitching situation is a mess. Will Drew Smyly return to the rotation Tuesday? In theory, he could still do so despite two scoreless relief innings the last two games.

The Cubs have 12 games in the next 13 days, then the roster expands — by two. It’s going to be interesting. There are some pitchers working their way back from various injury situations. The same can’t be said on the offensive side of the equation. The Cubs have some curious decisions to make. How bold are they willing to go?

Three Stars? Let’s sere.

  1. Yan Gomes had two hits and the Cubs’ only extra base hit, a double. He scored a run.
  2. Drew Smyly threw a scoreless ninth in a bid for a second win in as many games.
  3. I can only be so stubborn. Nico Hoerner had three hits and drew a walk in five plate appearances. He drove in a run.

Game 121, August 18: Royals 4, at Cubs 3 (62-59)


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


  • Superhero: Nico Hoerner (.189). 3-4, BB, RBI, K
  • Hero: Jeimer Candelario (.103). 1-2, 2 BB, RBI
  • Sidekick: Michael Fulmer (.055). IP, 4 batters, BB


  • Billy Goat: Cody Bellinger (-252). 0-5, K
  • Goat: Jameson Taillon (-.241). 6 IP, 23 batters, 6 H, 4 R (2E R), 3 K (L 7-8)
  • Kid: Christopher Morel (-.172). 0-4, BB, RBI, K, CS

WPA Play of the Game: Bobby Witt Jr. batted with a runner on first with no outs in the sixth, the Cubs down one. Witt homered as the Cubs continue to get clobbered by the best player on each team they face. (.268)

*Cubs Play of the Game: Nico Hoerner batted with runners on first and third with two outs on the fourth, the game tied. Hoerner singled, scoring a run to give the Cubs lead and sending another runner around to third. (.128)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    Nico Hoerner
    (35 votes)
  • 4%
    Jeimer Candelario
    (3 votes)
  • 5%
    Michael Fulmer
    (4 votes)
  • 12%
    Drew Smyly (IP, 3 batters, K)
    (9 votes)
  • 23%
    Yan Gomes (2-4, 2B, R)
    (17 votes)
  • 4%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (3 votes)
71 votes total Vote Now

Wednesday’s Winner: Christopher Morel 228 of 323 votes (Superhero is 81-39)

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

The award is named for Anthony Rizzo, who finished first in this category three of the first four years it was in existence and four times overall. He also recorded the highest season total ever at +65.5. The point scale is three points for a Superhero down to negative three points for a Billy Goat.

  • Cody Bellinger +36
  • Adbert Alzolay +14
  • Ian Happ +12.5
  • Marcus Stroman/Mike Tauchman +12
  • Julian Merryweather -11
  • Patrick Wisdom/Drew Smyly -15
  • Jameson Taillon -17
  • Trey Mancini -20.5

Scoreboard watching: The Brewers and Reds won. The Cubs are three games behind Milwaukee and one behind the Reds. The Phillies, Giants, and Diamondbacks lost. The Marlins (Padres, Mets and Nationals) won. The Cubs are 3½ games behind the Phillies, 1½ games behind the Giants, a game behind the Reds and Marlins and a game ahead of the Diamondbacks. The Reds and Marlins are tied for the final wild card spot. It is possible if the Giants lose on Saturday, for them to not be holding a playoff spot by the end of the day. 2½ games separate five teams. It’s going to be a fight to the finish. On Friday morning, the Cubs were Baseball Reference’s pick to win the Central. But all of these things are going to be fluid day to day for a while.

Up Next: Game two of the three-game set. The Cubs will need to win to avoid dropping this series to the Royals. Friday’s result is magnified because of the jumbled standings. So you don’t want to make too much of it, but they’ve lost five of nine in the last 12 days. Softer competition and extra rest was supposed to help. I still believe the Cubs are playoff bound and have a decent shot at a division title, but injuries and a razor thin margin make all of the really fragile.

The Cubs start Justin Steele (13-3, 2.79, 126 IP). The Royals counter with 27-year-old righty, Brady Singer (8-8, 4.91, 135⅔ IP). Singer was selected by the Royals with the 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2018 draft. Al’s game preview will dive deeper into this matchup.