Baseball is rarely ever easy. But it isn’t a competition for style points. The Cubs bounced back after Monday’s clunker. With all due respect to the offense which has been fantastic since the All-Star break, it comes with no surprise to me that the pitching staff led the way. Also to that end, the bullpen has been terrific lately. So the missing piece has been the starting pitching.
In fairness to the pitching staff, you tend to not pitch on four days’ rest over and over again. I’m not going to make excuses for them, but they do look tired. Not all of them though. Jameson Taillon was very good and he has been very good since right before the break when he had that terrific start against the Yankees. It took a long time, but the Cubs and their fans are finally getting a chance to see up close how good he can be.
Also unsurprising, when the pitching was good, the offense came up with just enough. When the pitchers have allowed two or fewer runs, they are 34-3. They are undefeated if they allow one or zero. And again, everyone is good in these spots. But the Cubs are VERY good in these spots. And so I had no surprise when the Cubs got this one across the finish line.
It didn’t look like it from the starting gun. Pete Alonso hit a two-run homer in the first inning, his third homer in three days. But then the offense was lifted by the usual suspects. Cody Bellinger hit a solo homer in the fourth inning to cut the deficit to one. Christopher Morel drew a walk to open the fifth inning and then Yan Gomes followed with an RBI-double to tie it. Then in the eighth inning, Mike Tauchman broke the tie with a solo homer. Taillon’s night was done and Julian Merryweather and Adbert Alzolay shut the door and the Cubs had a win.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a 17-3 win. But in the long run, I always think strong pitching is more repeatable that strong hitting. Maybe I’m not right about that, but I’m always reassured when the pitching is dialed in, and dialed in they were on Tuesday night. The Cubs issued no walks, they didn’t hit any batters. They scattered six hits over nine innings. Taillon allowed a two-out double in the second, the inning after the Alonso homer. Then he retired the final 16 batters he faced. That’s elite level production. Merryweather and Alzolay allowed three hits over two innings, but they held the line.
If this starting rotation can get dialed in, this team is not only going to make the playoffs, but teams aren’t going to be anxious to face them either. This team has been scalding hot for months now. The offense appears to have raised their game to a different level, notwithstanding the fine job the Mets have done in the first two games in this series. The bullpen has really cranked up its performance. The defense has been good all along. The remaining piece is the starters getting back to the levels they can reach.
Let’s find three top performances out of this one. As has been often the case over the last two months, it’s hard to limit to just three.
- Jameson Taillon has to net the top spot. Three hits, a homer and a double among them to the first eight batters he faced and not a single one after that. Taillon was at 97 pitches, but this was the kind of dominating start where in a different situation, you might have let him start the eighth inning. The turn around for Taillon has been striking and it really gives the Cubs and their fanbase reason for optimism.
- Mike Tauchman then has to merit the second spot. In addition to some quality defense, he had a pair of hits, one of those was the decisive homer, and drew a walk. It’s rare to have a team come out of nowhere without some players like Tauchman who also come out of nowhere.
- Among a number of really great possibilities, I give Yan Gomes the final spot. He had a pair of hits, including the game-tying RBI double.
Game 114, August 8: Cubs 3, at Mets 2 (59-55)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Mike Tauchman (.326). 2-3, HR, BB, RBI, R, K
- Hero: Adbert Alzolay (.179). IP, 3 batters, H (SV 15)
- Sidekick: Jameson Taillon (.149). 7 IP, 24 batters, 3 H, 2 R, 7 K (W 7-6)
- Billy Goat: Nick Madrigal (-.223). 0-4
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.103). 0-4, 2K
- Kid: Dansby Swanson (-.092). 0-4, K
WPA Play of the Game: Mike Tauchman’s homer in the top of the eighth inning gave the Cubs a one-run lead and it would hold up for the win. (.290)
*Mets Play of the Game: The two plays are like a bookend to this game. Peter Alonso started the scoring with a two-run homer in the first and Tauchmen’s ended the scoring in the eighth. (.202)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Yan Gomes (2-4, 2B, RBI, K)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Cody Bellinger, 100 of 104 votes (Superhero is 75-38)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Cody Bellinger +32
- Ian Happ +15.5
- Mike Tauchman +14
- Adbert Alzolay +13
- Marcus Stroman +12
- Seiya Suzuki -9
- Jameson Taillon -12
- Patrick Wisdom/Drew Smyly -15
- Trey Mancini -20.5
Up Next: This sprint to the top for the Cubs has had a hallmark of some fortunate luck with other teams around them struggling. As such, they ascended the standings amazingly fast. Monday night was a setback, but Tuesday bounced right back. The Cubs won and division mates the Brewers and the Reds both lost. As such, the Cubs move back in front of the Reds in both the Central and the Wild Card race. Heading into play on Wednesday, the Cubs will hold the third wild card place by percentage points. They are also only 1½ games out of first in the Central. The Marlins won (against the Reds),
Kyle Hendricks (4-6, 3.98 ERA, 81⅓ IP) will start for the Cubs. Kyle has had a roller-coaster season. He started rough, got on a roll and then has struggled again. Over his last seven, he is 1-3 with a 5.22 in 39⅔ innings. He’s lost his last two starts, though with mixed results. In his last start, he was charged with seven earned runs in four innings against the Braves. But the start before, he was charged with only two earned over seven innings. Hopefully Kyle can deliver a solid start for the Cubs.
The Mets have David Peterson (3-7, 5.65, 65⅓ IP) on the mound. The 27-year-old lefty was the first-round pick of the Mets (20th overall) in 2017. Last time out, he started for the Mets, but that was his first start since July 8. He only threw three innings against the Orioles but allowed just one hit. Unfortunately for he and the Mets, he allowed three walks in those three innings. He did work six times in relief for the Mets in July, allowing three runs over eight innings. It’s hard to gauge what to expect out of Peterson at this point.