I don’t know what you, the reader, will do with this information, but there be spoilers ahead. I mean, do you skip ahead so as not to be spoiled? But then, aren’t you going straight to the information I’m going to cover anyway? There’s a logic loop, but I’m gonna talk about the Heroes and Goats up here in the narrative today. This game was just too unique for me not to.
Before that, we start with the good stuff. First and foremost, the Cubs won a baseball game. They are six games over .500 for the first time since June 27, 2021. So the next several high water marks are going to be the first since 2021. If you want to draw a “late season” line, that would be the oddity of 2020 when they finished eight over. Also, since it was covered on the Cubs postgame show, if you aren’t running to the standings, you should know the Cubs have moved into the second Wild Card spot. There’s some comfort in that, right? I mean the margins are small and things can rearrange in a hurry, but as you climb higher, you create a buffer.
Hey, the Cubs reached seven runs for the first time since August 5. Amusingly, on that day Javier Assad and five relievers nailed down an 8-6 win over the Braves. That was their 33rd game scoring seven or more runs and tonight was the 34th. That makes them 34-0 in these games. When I was doing back of the envelope math, I said maybe they’d notch 10 of these down the stretch. Kudos to all of you for not pointing out how optimistic that is. But they got one. Nine to go.
The bad? With Marcus Stroman injured, and Adbert Alzolay and Julian Merryweather unavailable, the Cubs had to use six pitchers to get through this one. Without question, there were several times in this one where David Ross thought he might sneak out with less max effort in this one. He referenced in the postgame that it might have been a 7-2 win if he had a full complement of relievers. I always wonder about the double-edged sword of comments like that. It’s a pat on the back for Alzolay and Merryweather, but doesn’t say a lot for the other guys. That bullpen has shaped up a ton in the back half of the games played to date. I actually tip my cap to a Tigers lineup that just kept coming through.
The ugly: Michael Fulmer faced six batters and five of them reached, three of them scoring. This is the first of the spoilers for Heroes and Goats. Fulmer posts a -.589 game score, the fourth largest negative number of the year for the Cubs. He also has the worst and seventh worst scores. Fulmer has the largest number of disaster scores. This was a really bad time for it.
But I want to provide both sides of this. Michael Fulmer has been a huge part of the rebound of the Cubs bullpen. Alzolay, Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr. have been the key three. But don’t dismiss Fulmer, who has recorded a lot of huge outs for this team. The Cubs fanbase has a large tendency to form a conclusion and never back off of it. Fulmer struggled early. But his rebound has mattered. I know I’m rough on Jameson Taillon. When he was hot, I had to be conscious to recognize that he has a track record and was starting to pitch to it. Brad Boxberger could resurface. If he does, he needs to be given a shot to get back in the mix.
Last point on Fulmer, and it’s a small one. The Javier Baez floater to centerfield is a ball that Cody Bellinger a) gets to in a bunch of parks and b) probably makes that catch more times than not in general. The “curse” of players as good as Bellinger is we become surprised when they don’t make the exceptional play. That was so close and the rest of the game maybe plays out differently if he comes up with that,
So we’ve opened the can of worms on the Heroes and Goats from this game, let’s keep going. If you had Nick Madrigal, Daniel Palencia and Seiya Suzuki finishing 1-2-3 in a win, take a giant step forward. Madrigal had a pair of doubles and drove in two runs. He scored one as well. He drove in the sixth and run and scored the seventh. That’s a huge contribution to this win.
Palencia? He inherited runners at first and second and a tie game. My non-sports loving son often sits near where I’m watching the game and plays on his phone or computer. But he’ll ask questions and he asked there what I was sighing about. So I pointed out that the Cubs were handing the ball to the largely untested rookie. Scary stuff. But again, this kid has come through more than not. He certainly had at least one unfortunate meltdown. But he’s come through in some tough spots.
For Seiya Suzuki, he’s really turned things around over the last week. It’s striking the difference. There are two things I take from this. First, kudos to Seiya for working hard. It’s not easy to get out of a funk like that. Second, the difference a little bit of confidence makes is remarkable. Seiya had a homer and a single in this one, scoring both times.
Other hat tips go to Jose Cuas who did walk one but only needed three batters to get through an inning after a nifty double play turned by Dansby Swanson. Ian Happ had a key triple, drove in a run and scored one. Javier Assad was terrific twice through the order but got into trouble his third time through.
Game 124, August 21: Cubs 7, at Tigers 6 (65-59)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Nick Madrigal (.286). 2-4, 2-2B, 2 RBI, R, K
- Hero: Daniel Palencia (.168). ⅔ IP, 2 batters, K
- Sidekick: Seiya Suzuki (.157). 2-4, HR, RBI, 2 R
- Billy Goat: Michael Fulmer (-.589). ⅓IP, 6 batters, 4 H, BB, 3 R, K
- Goat: Nico Hoerner (-.082). 0-5
Kid: Mike Tauchman (-.005). 1-4, BB, 2 K
*Strangely, these are the only three Cubs with negative WPA in this game.
WPA Play of the Game; Javier Báez’ bases loaded double with one out in the eighth cut the Cubs lead to one and positioned the fifth run to tie the game. (.311)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Nick Madrigal’s double with no outs in the ninth inning scored pinch runner Miles Mastrobuoni. (.216)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Javier Assad (5⅓ IP, 24 batters, 5H, 2BB, 2R, 4K)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Kyle Hendricks received 201 of 219 votes (Superhero is 84-39)
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 +39
- Adbert Alzolay +15
- Justin Steele +13
- Ian Happ +12.5
- Marcus Stroman +12
- Julian Merryweather -11
- Patrick Wisdom/Drew Smyly -15
- Jameson Taillon -17
- Trey Mancini -20.5
Scoreboard watching: The Phillies beat the Giants. The Padres beat the Marlins. The Reds were rained out. They will play a doubleheader against the Angels Wednesday. The Cubs are 2½ games out of first in the Central. They are a full 1½ games ahead of the Reds. The Cubs are 2½ games behind the Phillies for the top Wild Card spot. They are now half a game ahead of the Giants for the second WC spot. The Diamondbacks are one game behind the Cubs and are followed by the Reds. Miami is a half game behind the Reds.
The Phillies and the Giants game two, Diamondbacks vs. Rangers game two. The Reds will try to play two against the Angels. The Marlins visit the Padres.
Up next for theCubs: Drew Smyly (9-8, 4.92, 120⅔ IP) returns to the rotation. He is 2-1 with a 7.40 ERA over his last seven appearances, only two of them starts. His last three appearances have been one-inning relief appearances. He’s not allowed a run over three outings, with just two hits and one walk over that time.
24-year-old righty Reese Olson (2-5, 4.83, 63⅓ IP) starts for the Tigers. He’s struggled over his last seven (1-3, 5.63, 32 IP). His last two starts were against the Twins. In the first, Reese allowed no runs over six innings. But in the second, he was tagged for four runs on eight hits and a walk while only recording eight outs.
Let’s go get another one.