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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 133

A rollercoaster win and the best kind of meatloaf!

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

For seven innings, it looked like the winning run would be scored in the first inning and the lead would never change hands. In fact, there were no lead changes and exactly one inning in the whole series ended tied. For the third straight game, I’ll pick up from my closing thought following the last game.

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

Not exactly Nostradamus or anything. Two strong pitchers going nose to nose for the second straight game. But, eke the Cubs did. Never did an eked out victory and an eked out meatloaf feel so good. At the risk of spiking the football and doing a touchdown celebration too soon, this team is heading to the playoffs. They are almost certainly going to blow right on by the 85 wins that appears to have more or less been the high-end projection for this team.

These last two games were terrific. Add to them games from Friday and Sunday of last week and I’m seeing the last thing I was looking for. The starting pitching has circled around and started making substantial contributions again. If you are a regular follower here, you know I’ve said a good number of times that this team would go as far as the starting pitching would carry it. It’s not that I don’t believe in the offense. It’s not that I don’t believe in the defense. It’s not even that I don’t believe in the bullpen. It’s that I think a team needs to win in all phases.

Behind the strong defense of Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner, with surprisingly strong contributions from Nick Madrigal, all around good defense from the outfield and benefitting from more time at first for Cody Bellinger, the defense is elite. Among the best in baseball.

The offense is one of the highest scoring teams in baseball. The lineup is productive top to bottom. There aren’t regular holes. As with literally every team, there will be some guys scuffling but that’s often balanced by guys who are hot.

The bullpen is borderline elite. Adbert Alzolay has emerged as one of the best closers in baseball. Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr. are both excellent relievers. When he’s healthy, the Cubs have gotten strong contributions from Michael Fulmer.

With Marcus Stroman hurt, this team has really been waiting for some supporting results after Justin Steele. Kyle Hendricks throwing six innings and allowing only a single unearned run (following his own error) was a big supporting result. Javier Assad has been terrific. Jordan Wicks’ debus was fantastic. As I talked about following the first game of this series, despite a couple of really bad mistakes, I wasn’t too bothered by Jameson Taillon’s start. Regardless of all of the nice things I said a couple of paragraphs ago, the Cubs defense let them down in the series opener or the Cubs just might have won that game.

I’m certainly excited for the whole pitching staff to get a day off on Thursday. For sure, it will be balanced by the doubleheader that will follow on Friday. But this time of the year, every day off is precious. Additionally, when baseball resumes on Friday, the Cubs will add two players, one a pitcher. With the rising tide of the Cubs farm system, those two players should be assets. There should be a plethora of options.

The team can go very prospecty or they can go veteran. They can split the difference and do one of each. They can add a short reliever or an innings eater. They can add a power bat, a speedy player with defensive chops or some extra depth at almost any position. The Iowa team is quite good and there are a lot of choices. Certainly on the pitching side, the Cubs have a full handful of rehabbing options with a variety of useful experience.

Buckle up folks. It’s going to be a wild run, but it should be a very good one. It’s certainly possible to look at the rest of the schedule and see it as daunting because of the number of games against teams with winning records. But it’s also possible to see a team ascending getting to lock horns with most of the teams they are competing with for playoff spots. The opportunity to continue sharpening the skills of a team that is hoping to crash the party when they get to the playoffs.

This team has reached nine games over .500 now for the first time since the combined no-hitter against the Dodgers on June 24, 2021. As so many of us remember, the team would lose 11 in a row after that, The last time the Cubs were nine over .500 in September was on September 22, 2020 in the pandemic-shortened year when they were 32-23. In a full season, the last time they were nine over in September was September 19, 2019. That team peaked at 14 over on September 16. but followed that with a nine-game losing streak, en route to missing the playoffs.

That one is certainly a cautionary tale. It can go bad after this point. But this just doesn’t feel like that kind of team. This team has been so good and so consistently good. I don’t believe this team is going to fade off into oblivion. To the contrary, I’m not ready to rule out that this team can chase down the Brewers and/or Phillies.

Let’s find three stars in this one.

  1. Kyle Hendricks threw six innings and allowed four hits and two walks. He struck out six The only run he allowed was due to the only real mistake he made. That was a throwing error he made on a topped grounder.
  2. Julian Merryweather faced four batters and struck out two of them. To be clear, he’s been very good all year long without any need to parse numbers. That said, over his last five outings, he’s faced 17 batters and allowed one hit, no walks and struck out eight batters. That said, let me do some parsing just for fun. Going back to July 22, he’s thrown 18⅓ innings, allowed 10 hits, four walks and three runs. He’s struck out 26 batters. Very elite results.
  3. The Cubs only managed three hits in this game. They did draw two walks and had two batters hit. Both of those walks were drawn by Mike Tauchman who also scored two runs, including the decisive one.

Game 133, August 30: Cubs 3, Brewers 2 (71-62)


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


  • Superhero: Kyle Hendricks (.262). 6 IP, 25 batters, 4 H, 2 BB, R (0 ER), 6 K
  • Hero: Cody Bellinger (.160). 1-4, RBI, 2 K
  • Sidekick: Julian Merryweather (.150). 1⅓ IP, 4 batters, 2 K


  • Billy Goat: Mark Leiter Jr. (-110). ⅓ IP, 4 batters, H, 2 BB, R
  • Goat: Dansby Swanson (-.071). 0-3, SF, RBI, 2 K
  • Kid: Seiya Suzuki (-.063). 0-4

WPA Play of the Game: When Cody Bellinger batted with two outs and runners on the corners in the bottom of the eighth with a tie game, the Cubs run expectancy was only .5. Bellinger hit one right back through the box at Joel Payamps and it bounced off him towards third while the eventual winning run scored. (.258)

*Brewers Play of the Game: The Cubs were up one when Mark Canha batted with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth. The Cubs summoned Adbert Alzolay to get out of the jam. Adbert hit Canha bringing the tying run in and blowing a save for only the second time this year. (.228)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    Kyle Hendricks
    (273 votes)
  • 5%
    Cody Bellinger
    (17 votes)
  • 1%
    Julian Merryweather
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Mike Tauchman (0-2, 2BB, 2R)
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Nico Hoerner (1-2, HBP, SH, R)
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (1 vote)
303 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Justin Steele - 209 of 220 votes (Superhero is 88-44)

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 +40
  • Adbert Alzolay +19
  • Ian Happ +18.5
  • Justin Steele +16
  • Marcus Stroman +12
  • Seiya Suzuki -11
  • Patrick Wisdom -13
  • Drew Smyly -17
  • Trey Mancini -20.5
  • Jameson Taillon -23

Scoreboard watching: The Brewers lost and the Reds won. The Cubs are now three behind the Brewers in the Central. The Reds are three behind the Cubs. The Phillies lost, the Giants lost, the Diamondbacks lost for the third straight day. The Marlins have dropped eight of 10 and are now under .500 and are three games out of a wild card spot and fading quickly.

The Phillies hold the first wild card spot with a three game lead over the Cubs. The Cubs hold the second wild card spot with a two game lead over the Giants. The Giants hold the third wild card spot by half a game over the Diamondbacks. The Reds are half a game behind the Diamondbacks in that race.

Friday, the Phillies head to Milwaukee to begin a three-game series that’s obviously very important to the Cubs. The Giants head to San Diego for four. The Marlins go to Washington for four. The Diamondbacks are off until Friday when they play host to the Orioles. This is a very interesting weekend for shaping the NL playoff picture.

Up Next: The Cubs resume play on Friday with a doubleheader against the Reds (69-66). Despite their win Wednesday, the Reds have only won five of 10 and have finally faded a little. If the Cubs could have a strong weekend, they could bury the Reds. But the Reds won’t go quietly.

In the opener, it appears that the Cubs will start Jordan Wicks (1-0, 1.80, 5IP). Jordan has only made the one start, so at this point, the hope is that he can replicate the success he had last week in his debut.

The Reds appear set to start 25-year-old righty Graham Ashcraft (7-8, 4.73, 140⅔ IP). Ashcraft was a sixth round pick for the Reds in 2019. He’s been fairly pedestrian as a major leaguer. However, over his last seven starts, he is 2-1 with a 2.68 ERA in 47 innings. His stats look like a young man who the lights are going on for. In his last two starts, he is 1-0 with five runs allowed over 13⅔ innings. He’s allowed 12 hits, three walks and he’s struck out 15 batters. He’s made one start against the Cubs this year, in Chicago on May 28. He was the winner in that one, despite allowing three runs over five innings.