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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 108

The Cubs pound the Reds for the second straight day, setting a team record.

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, where we’re going, we don’t need roads. Wrong sci-fi franchise for the night, but this Cubs team has blasted off. I am flabbergasted. I think I’ve written this piece before, but you guys are always going to get me sharing exactly what I’m feeling at the time when I’m writing, for better or for worse.

This team is relentless right now. Somewhere, I feel like they are reading what is being written about them and then turning everything said on its head. I was with Vegas on a 75-win season. We’ve reached the point where I’ll be devastated if they don’t blow past that number. This team has just been so much better than that. I’ve written that despite the offense lately, that this team would go where the pitching carries them. Then in three straight games, Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele and Drew Smyly all get beat up pretty good.

In fairness, the bullpen has logged more than a handful of innings in this series and by my count has been tagged for two runs. They’ve been good. Very good for the most part, particularly in Monday’s loss. The defense has also been very strong and I won’t leave them without mention here.

But this is about an offense that has produced 36 runs in two games and 41 over three. More than anything, this team has not blinked. With this win, the Cubs have now won 13 of 16 games. They’ve trailed in nine of those games, which is not a trend that you want to continue. But it is a great trait to have. I’ve always felt that among the things that make me believe in a team are giant comebacks. The Cubs have had two of those. And then the ability to not throw in the towel when you fall behind, particularly early.

I know the pitchers are in a bad spot right now. They are too good for this to linger very long. When it starts to turn, I will be looking to see if we don’t see pitchers who attack a bit more aggressively and pitch with more confidence. In the same way that the hitters respond well to good pitching because it takes the pressure off of them, pitchers are lifted by this kind of relentless offense.

I wanted to say that I feel like this is a stretch of production like nothing I’ve seen out of the Cubs before. Nine times in those last 16 games, the Cubs have scored seven or more runs. This now makes 30 of those games so far this year (30-0 in those games). I went to look at the 2016 Cubs for a couple of reasons. The first of those is to confirm what my eyes are seeing. The Cubs have now scored 555 runs in 108 games. If you project that over a full 162 game season you get 833 runs. The 2016 Cubs scored 808 runs. In their defense, they didn’t benefit from the presence of the designated hitter. Of course, neither did the 2023 Cubs for all too long.

Also, that 2016 team was 52-1 when it scored at least six runs. That included 44-0 if they scored at least seven. But think of the disparity between these two teams. That team won 103 games. This team is 30-0, on pace for 46-0, though I’m sure this stat is too arbitrary to project out, other than we absolutely expect every team to excel in this situation. For a reference, the worst team in baseball, the A’s, are 14-7 in these situations. But let’s give them a big round of applause for a game in which they scored 11 runs and lost.

So the seven-run stuff is a bit of an arbitrary thing. But what of the 555 runs and the projection to 833 runs? Can we project that out? The 2016 Cubs scored more runs (143) and had a better record in August (22-6) than any other month. They did tail off their coring a bit in September (125 runs). Don’t compare them to the best team in modern Cubs history though, right? In 2017, their highest scoring month was August and second highest was September (when they were 19-9). 2018, the offense tailed off in August and September (uh oh, getting into bad memories). In 2019, the Cubs pulled off the odd feat of their highest scoring month in September (150 runs), had a +23 run differential and went 11-16). Never speak of 2020, though obviously they had their highest scoring months in August and September. In 2021, September tied for the most amount of runs scored and August was fourth.

I have to paragraph break there, in part because of the developing word/stat wall. But also because I think we need to talk about last year’s Cubs. They scored 657 runs for the whole season. So this year’s team trails them by 102 runs with 54 games left. That’s the predecessor to this team. August 2022 would be their third highest scoring month (115) but September the fewest with 86 runs in 26 games. Also, they had a -5 run differential. And they went 15-11. So these two paragraphs give you two small sample weird run differential situations.

The offense was so impressive in this one and turned the tide so hard when they did, that I’m only going to in passing note this team’s capacity to pour it on and bury a team. I think without question that is the most consistent skill this team has. I don’t know how predictive that is. On the one hand, it does speak to how much firepower this team has now. On the other hand, if this team sees playoff games, there just aren’t going to be a lot of at bats against fifth starters and fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth relievers.

But I don’t even think that about this game. The Cubs came off the mat after the Reds were up 3-0 and cut it to 3-2. That was comfortable. The Reds bullpen isn’t stellar and has worked a lot already in the series. If this one is close when it gets to the bullpen, maybe you can grab it late. Then the Reds add two more. Another chance for the Cubs to pack it in. But they didn’t. They scored one in the fourth, two in the fifth and five in the sixth. The rest may be garbage time. But with this game on the line, the Cubs scored eight runs in three innings against the first place team. Say what you will about the NL Central, but the Reds were 10 games over .500 two days ago and had the third-best record in the National League.

That was a tour de force. Certainly, you can’t score eight runs over three innings without contributions up and down the lineup. Everyone is contributing. The vibe is incredible. This team has flat blown me away. If you missed any of the stats somewhere else, the Cubs set a record for runs over a two-day span at 36. Credit for JD on the broadcast for remembering he was there for the previous record holder in 1987. The Cubs scored 16 or more runs on consecutive days for the first time post-1900. Also, the two teams have combined to score at least one in every inning for two days straight. This has been wild baseball.

In a stretch this good, I’m loathe to play the what if game. That said, there was a throw in Monday’s game by Cody Bellinger to third base that might have had a chance to shutdown a rally that produced two more runs in a game the Cubs lost by one. Regardless, the Cubs can’t lose this series. The Brewers did lose a series in Washington, the last one in painful fashion with their closer on the mound, two errors in the inning and the tying and winning runs scoring on a wild throw.

Put differently, this team remains in the fight. There is one plan remaining in the short term. This team has to reach August 15 still in that fight. With one more against the Reds, three with the Braves, three in New York (without a day off) against the Mets and then three in Toronto (they get the day off before and after that series). The Mets were obviously depleted quite a bit at the trade deadline, but it’s on the road after a long stretch of games (last off day was July 24) and seven straight games against teams in first place. That always has the potential to be a trap series.

But after that, 12 games against teams looking towards the future already with a couple of days off while at home in there. Depending what happens with a Diamondbacks team that appears to be fading, September may not be a rough road either. But that’s all too far out to speculate. The point is, survive this time staying in sight of the leaders.

A remarkable turn around. After game 71, I introduced my phrase Time to Get Greedy! At that time, the Cubs had won five of six at home, including the then first place Pirates and taking two from the smoking hot Orioles. I felt like they needed to get greedy to make it count. I got a little disappointed with the London series and indeed, the next week or so was rough. But if I use that as the mark, the Cubs are 22-15 over that stretch — a 96-win pace. Greedy indeed. And that is not at all a flattering cut line for this team. There are a small handful of better cutoffs to make that record look glamorous. Any way you slice it, this team started turning it on in June and hasn’t stopped much since.

Three stars has been tricky for a wholly different reason the last two days, hard to limit it to three.

  1. I’m going to start with Michael Fulmer as the representative of the bullpen after five batters faced, five outs. Three of them were strike out. He got the last out of the fifth, the whole sixth and then the first out in the seventh. He stopped the bleeding and let the offense do its thing. My absolute favorite thing every year is whichever Cub pitcher(s) are completely given up on early that end up being key pieces. Another of them, Julian Merryweather got an inning of work after not being needed for a couple of days. Adbert Alzolay is on vacation.
  2. I have to give Jeimer the second spot. He reached base all five times he batted Wednesday night. He had a pair of doubles, a walk and four runs scored. A pair of four hit games to start his reunion tour. No one should make a decision after two games, but I mentioned Jeimer and the Cubs auditioning each other for a longer relationship. In a microscopic sample size, it’s a match made in heaven.
  3. I rejected the temptation to put Ian Happ’s two homers in this spot. Christopher Morel had two huge at bats while this game was on the line. His two-run homer in the third, started to flip the script on the game. Then in a terrific at bat, he delivered an RBI double to cut the deficit to one and put the tying run on third. That one hit near the top of the wall and I thought it was going to reach the basket when it was hit. If you haven’t seen the cool stat, Morel is the fourth player in MLB history to homer from all nine spots in the lineup in the same season. Teammate Ian Happ did it before the DH era in 2017.

Game 108, August 2: Cubs 16, Reds 6 (55-53)


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


  • Superhero: Christopher Morel (.340). 2-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, R, 2 K
  • Hero: Jeimer Candelario (.142). 4-4, 2-2B, BB, 4R

*Obviously, Jeimer has set a record that will be difficult to beat for most time between appearances in H&G. I can tell you that my recordkeeping has changed so significantly through the years that it’s largely unrecognizable. I can also tell you that on May 13, 2017, Jeimer was the Billy Goat. Amusingly, he showed up in four games that year. They were four consecutive days, Sidekick, Kid, Goat, Billy Goat, a straight negative progression.

  • Sidekick: Yan Gomes (.141). 1-5, 2B, R, RBI, K


  • Billy Goat: Drew Smyly (-.311). 4⅔ IP, 6 H, 5 R, 7 K
  • Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.092). 0-2, K
  • Kid: Nico Hoerner (-.016). 1-6, 2 R, 2 K

*I don’t keep records for such things, but this is eight straight days and 10 of 11 that Nico has been on here somewhere.

WPA Play of the Game: Christopher Morel batted with runners on first and second with one out in the fifth, the Cubs down two. He doubled and a run scored. The run expectancy after that situation is .91, Morel got them the run that is more or less expected and then it turned into one more. (.205)

*Reds Play of the Game: Spencer Steer batted with a runner on first and two outs in the first, the game scoreless. He slugged a two run homer and things were looking good for the Reds. (.205)

Only 14 zeroes on the WPA chart this time around, including 14 of the last 17 events of the game.


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Christopher Morel
    (109 votes)
  • 32%
    Jeimer Candelario
    (74 votes)
  • 1%
    Yan Gomes
    (4 votes)
  • 8%
    Michael Fulmer (five batters, five outs)
    (20 votes)
  • 3%
    Ian Happ (2-4, 2HR, BB, 3RBI, 2R)
    (8 votes)
  • 6%
    Mike Tauchman (2-3, 2-2B, 2R, 2RBI)
    (15 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (1 vote)
231 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Dansby Swanson (we don’t need no stinking Superheroes, this is five straight for the non-Superheroes. Overall record now is 69-38 for the Superhero)

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

  • Cody Bellinger +23
  • Ian Happ +16.5
  • Justin Steele +14
  • Yan Gomes +12.5
  • Marcus Stroman/Mike Tauchman +12
  • Michael Fulmer -10
  • Drew Smyly -12
  • Jameson Taillon -13
  • Patrick Wisdom -15
  • Trey Mancini -20.5

Up Next: The Cubs run differential is at +77, third NL/fifth MLB. The Cubs will wake up three games out of first in the Central and 2½ out in the wild card. This team is absolutely in the playoff hunt. Baseball Reference has been bouncing them in and out of their postseason projection. Amusingly, after having been in earlier in the week, they were out after scoring 20 runs Tuesday night. I won’t argue yet that the Cubs are a likely postseason team, but I will say this, if you had them at any time in recent history, there was nothing that happened Tuesday night that would do anything other than convince you this team is for real. The Cubs have won eight of 10, the Astros seven of 10, no one else is better than six. There are also only four teams with more runs scored than them (the same four teams with a better run differential).

Jameson Taillon (5-6, 5.46, 89 IP) starts for the Cubs. Jameson is 3-2 with a 3.98 ERA over his last seven outings (40⅔ IP). He’s won his last two starts, allowing two runs in 11⅔ innings. In case you hadn’t picked up on the theme that the Reds wrecked the Cubs in May, Taillon started in that series. He allowed four runs in only 4⅔ innings. That was probably one of the earliest peeks at what was to come.

Luke Weaver (2-3, 6.80, 86 IP) is the Reds starter. Rumor has it that he has a bit of a long ball problem. The ball is carrying pretty well at Wrigley these last few days. Weaver is 1-1 with a 7.45 ERA over his last seven (29 IP), so don’t expect to see him after the fifth (though he in fact threw six just last time). He was actually very good in a start last time against the Dodgers in Los Angeles (6IP, 2H, 2BB, 1R). The 29-year-old righty from DeLand, Florida which I can absolutely not point to on a map as a (recent) Florida resident. He went to Florida State. He’s not seen the Cubs this year. He allowed homers in all five of his July starts and in 13 of his 18 starts (22 total). Also 25 doubles and three triples. That’s a .934 opponent OPS. I’m going to be in a mood if the Cubs offense is stifled in this one.