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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 132

Cubs pitching dominates in a 1-0 win.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start this with a recap again:

The Cubs ace, a fully rested pen and a pitcher who they have had success against and hasn’t been his best. Maybe the Cubs can grab this one and give them a chance to win a series. The Cubs last got swept in a series back at the end of June against the Phillies.

After more or less seeing ahead to the decision two straight days, I’m going to have to end with an optimistic thought, right?

I also posted this in the comments:

You sure wanted to beat the worst of their three pitchers in the series. but now you have Steele. I know what Burnes is and it nauseates me to be staring him down trying to win a series. but Steele’s your guy. can they shove?

Kudos to Justin Steele and the Cubs pitching staff. They did what they needed to do. The Cubs offense gave them one run in the first inning and then the Cubs pitching staff locked it down. The Brewers managed seven hits and a walk on the night. Steele issued a walk, allowed a single and threw a wild pitch in the first. He then allowed two singles in the second and two singles in the third. In the second, a double play assisted the escape and in the third a pair of strikeouts did the trick.

Steele would end up retiring 11 of the last 12 batters he faced, six of them by way of strikeout. Then Mark Leiter Jr. threw a scoreless seventh, Julian Merryweather only needed three batters to get through the eighth after a caught stealing helped. Then Adbert Alzolay retired the Brewers in order to complete the shutout and nail down yet another save. All in all, the Cubs pitching staff retired 19 of the final 21 hitters, and recorded a 20th out on a caught stealing. Shoved indeed.

The Cubs run came via a hit by pitch to Nico Hoerner, an Ian Happ double and a Cody Bellinger groundout. Not glamorous, but effective. Cody needs 24 runs and 25 runs batted in over the final 30 games to reach 100 in each category. Two steals will get him to a 20 homer/20 steal season. In his last 30 games, he has 21 runs and 30 driven in (with six steals and five homers). So, if he can match that over the final 30, he’ll close with 25/25, 97/105. Paired with gold glove caliber defense, it is a season that merits serious MVP consideration. Sadly, the time missed due to injury is going to have him fall well short of the final MVP podium in a year where there are some eye popping numbers. But, Cody is going to get an enormous contract on the open market after returning close to his MVP form.

So here it is, the Cubs definitely avoided the sweep. That gives them the chance to win this series. This series isn’t just against the first place team in the NL Central. The Brewers had won nine straight games. Along with the Seattle Mariners, they are the hottest team in baseball. This is a huge win. Once again, the Cubs are able to stand toe to toe with the best teams in baseball.

People get frustrated and draw conclusions about what the Cubs can and can’t do. Running around baseball, the Cubs are 2-1 against the Orioles, 2-1 against the Mariners, 2-1 against the Braves, 3-4 against the Dodgers, 4-5 against the Brewers and 1-2 against the Twins. Six division leaders, 28 games, 14 wins. 2-1 against the Rays, 2-1 against the Rangers, 0-3 against the Astros, 1-5 against the Phillies, 2-1 against the Giants. Five Wild Card teams, 18 games, seven wins. So in all, 46 games against the 11 other teams presently holding playoff spots and the Cubs have 21 wins.

The Cubs have a winning record in extra innings (3-2), one run games (19-16), night games (41-33), on grass (67-57), against the NL Central (26-16), the NL West (9-8), the AL (25-21), right handed starters (48-42), left handed starters (23-20), home games (37-31), and road games (34-31) and teams with losing records (40-25). The Orioles, Rays, Braves, Phillies, Dodgers and Giants are the only teams over .500 against teams over .500. Circling back, the Cubs are 12-13 against that group of teams. In all of these situations, the Cubs record is tanked by the 1-5 against the Phillies.

A lifetime of being a Cubs fan and, to some greater extent, a Chicago sports fan has conditioned so many of us to expect bad things on one hand or to have seen marauding Bulls, Blackhawks and Bears teams that dominated the opposition. For that matter, for most of the 2016 season, the Cubs steamrolled the competition. Particularly if you include the postseason, the White Sox steamrolled their way to a championship.

This all creates a strange dichotomy. Championship Chicago teams steamroll their way to victory. In most seasons that don’t end up with a championship, the season eventually ends in a flaming wreck. So when the team isn’t the marauding championship in the making, we tend to feel like a season is a disaster waiting to happen. There are layers of successful seasons. Sure, you can get to a situation where anything less than a championship feels like failure.

The Cubs ended the 2021 season an actual flaming wreck. The 2022 season ended up pointed upwards, but it still wasn’t a very good team most of the year. But full stop, this is a successful Cubs season. The Cubs have played their last 70 games at a 102-win pace. Regardless what you think about the power rankings done by various sites, they aren’t nothing. CBS Sports has the Cubs as their No. 9 team. Fangraphs has been relatively bearish on the Cubs. They have the Cubs projected for 86 wins and with a 68% chance of making the playoffs. Baseball Reference has them at 85 wins and with a 70% chance of making the playoffs. Both sites have them with about a 1.5 percent chance of winning the World Series.

Your mileage may vary, but I wasn’t sure this team would have a winning record. Nothing is set in stone, but this team is going to win 85ish games and could approach 90. Even with eight teams viably competing for six playoff spots, Baseball Reference has the Cubs at a 32 percent chance of reaching the LDS. They only have four teams higher than that. So yeah, fifth team for four spots. It’s fair though and not a failure if they don’t. A Phillies team that played in the World Series last year and is projected at 90 wins will host one playoff series. The Brewers who are projected to win 90 games will host the other. Be it the second or third Wild Card, the Cubs are going to have their work cut out for them.

But they have more than a puncher’s chance. Tuesday night’s victory is a hint of what the Cubs are capable of. It would be super awesome if the Cubs offense busts out on Wednesday on a very good starter and reminds everyone that the offense is also a viable weapon. The offense is on pace for 816 runs. That would exceed the production of the 2016 Cubs (by a sliver).

Enjoy this ride. By any fair measure, this season has been wildly successful. Certainly, along the way this team let some games get away that feel unfortunate. Also, that is true of nearly every single one of the playoff teams. This team should make the playoffs and some team isn’t going to be happy facing Justin Steele and a lineup that features four of the top 30, five of the top 50, and six of the top 76 players in fWAR for all of baseball. If you cut it to just the NL, the Cubs have 12 of the 120 players in the NL in fWAR. And again, just hitters.

There are 30 regular season games to go. But there should be postseason games.

Let’s find three positives.

  1. Justin Steele. Six innings, a career high 111 pitches. The second major league pitcher to 15 wins. Six hits, one walk, eight strikeouts and, of course, no runs allowed.
  2. Ian Happ. Two hits, one a double. The double led to the game’s only run.
  3. Adbert Alzolay. Three up, three down. 22 saves in 23 chances. No aberrations in his numbers suggesting a mirage. Strikeout rate actually slightly below his career number, walk rate down a fair bit (but continuing a career-long trend down), home run rate down a fair bit (again, a largely career long trend), BABIP actually up, strand rate, nominally down. His ERA, xERA, FIP and xFIP all pretty level.

Game 132, August 29: Cubs 1, Brewers 0 (70-62)


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


  • Superhero: Justin Steele (.367). 6 IP, 24 batters, 6 H, BB, 8 K, WP (W 15-3)
  • Hero: Adbert Alzolay (.161). IP, 3 batters, K (Sv 22)
  • Sidekick: Julian Merryweather (.120). IP, 3 batters, H, K


  • Billy Goat: Nico Hoerner (-.160). 0-3, HBP, R
  • Goat: Jeimer Candelario (-.091). 0-3, 2K
  • Kid: Seiya Suzuki (-.064). 0-3, BB, 2K, DP

WPA Play of the Game: With the bases loaded with one out, the Cubs up one in the fifth inning, Nico Hoerner is up. He lines out to third and Christopher Morel is doubled off of third. (.134)

*Cubs Play of the Game: With one out in the eighth inning, Julian Merryweather was on the mound when Christian Yelich was caught trying to steal second. (.100)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 95%
    Justin Steele
    (215 votes)
  • 0%
    Adbert Alzolay
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Julian Merryweather
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Mark Leiter Jr. (IP, 3 batters, K)
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Ian Happ (2-4, 2B)
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (2 votes)
226 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Jose Cuas, 54-48 over Patrick Wisdom (Superhero is 87-44)

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 +38
  • Adbert Alzolay +19
  • Ian Happ +18.5
  • Justin Steele +16
  • Marcus Stroman +12
  • Seiya Suzuki -10
  • Patrick Wisdom -13
  • Drew Smyly -17
  • Trey Mancini -20.5
  • Jameson Taillon -23

Scoreboard watching: The Brewers and Reds lose. The Cubs are four out in the Central and the Reds seven. The Reds are almost certainly done in the division race. They’ve now lost six of 10. The Phillies win their fifth straight, the Diamondbacks lose, the Giants win their third straight.

The Phillies are the first Wild Card. The Cubs remain the second Wild Card, four games behind the Phillies. The Giants are the third Wild Card, a game behind the Cubs. The Diamondbacks are half a game behind the Giants. The Reds are now two behind the Giants. The Marlins are now only a .500 team, three games back of the Giants and needing to jump three teams to end up a playoff team with only 28 games to play.

Wednesday, the Phillies host the Angels, the Reds are at the Giants, and the Diamondbacks visit the Dodgers. The first two of those, like the Cubs game, are day games.

Up Next: Kyle Hendricks is 5-7 with a 3.80 ERA in 104⅓ innings. He’s 2-3 with a 4.46 ERA over his last seven. He lost his last start, allowing two earned runs over 5⅔ innings. Back on July 4, he started against the Brewers, allowing two runs, one earned over six innings.

Brandon Woodruff, the 30-year-old Brewers right-hander, starts this one. Brandon is 3-1 with a 2.65 in six starts (34 innings). He won his last start, allowing one run over six innings. He allowed three hits and three walks while striking out 11 Padres. He faced the Cubs back on April 1 (6 IP, 3 H, BB, R, 8 K) in one of two starts before hitting the injured list. He’s made four starts since returning. He’s only allowed more than two runs once, on August 18 in Texas against the Rangers.

Looks like another low-scoring game. Hopefully, the Cubs can eke out another one.