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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 145

The Cubs fumble the lead late, but bounce back to win 5-4.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In the moment, I suspect Jordan Wicks would tell you that winning a game and the march towards the playoffs is what matters. That’s the right thing to say and is admirable. At the end of the day, it is a team sport. You win as a team and you win at a lose. It isn’t about individual accomplishments or achievements.

That’s the right answer for a good teammate. It’s probably the answer that the overwhelming number of us would have given in that situation. In that situation. But we aren’t in that situation. You and I, we’ve watched an unending line of players come and go through Cubbie Blue. A player is around for a finite number of time. I hope Jordan Wicks is here for a long time. I hope he stays healthy and productive. And I hope that he writes his name all over the Cubs record book.

Those are a lot of words to say that it is a real shame that the Cubs bullpen, coaching staff and manager couldn’t figure out how to preserve a two-run lead against the worst team in the National League for nine outs. Adbert Alzolay is hurt. Julian Merryweather has pitched consecutive games. Mark Leiter Jr. is the magic bullet the Cubs fire at seemingly every situation. Michael Fulmer has returned from the injured list, but made no rehab appearances. Those four have been the inner circle of Cubs relievers this year.

In the second tier of Cubs relievers, we find Brad Boxberger returned days ago, but he has yet to appear in a game. Daniel Palencia lost the last game he pitched in, having an inning with a wild pitch, a passed ball and hitting a batter. Hayden Wesneski has only thrown in consecutive games once this year. Interestingly, the one time he did it, he threw 2⅓ scoreless innings, striking out five of the 10 batters he faced. In a game the Cubs eventually lost.

I’m grateful the Cubs won Monday’s game. I’m grateful that the team is two games clear of the field for the second Wild Card spot. I know there are all kinds of suppositions as to what are David Ross’ decisions and what comes from somewhere else. I know that Ross sits on the hot seat. He’s the one who has to face the media daily. Right, wrong or otherwise, he is the face of on-field decision making for this organization. I also know that he has to get some credit for the meteoric rise of this team since June when this season really turned around.

If you’ve followed along, you know I’m not the world’s biggest David Ross fan. I’ll say this. I have long rejected the idea that a team wins in spite of its manager, head coach or whatever the terminology is in a given sport. So it’s hard for me to sit here and say that the Cubs win despite some pretty suspect on-field decision making. This team makes me second guess some things that I think.

And that is all a long way of me saying that I believe that the way this team is managed is going to bite them in the butt somewhere along the way. The stupid circle of trust is a fancy way of managing in 2023 similar to the way the Cubs were managed in 1969, one of the most dissected seasons in Cubs history. I mean obviously, there are vast differences consistent with the way baseball has changed through the ages. But we’re right back in essentially the same place.

The Cubs are basically using 11 position players for nine lineup positions. Everyone other than those 11 is an afterthought. Patrick Wisdom is the 11th of those 11. From August 1 to September 10, Patrick has gotten four plate appearances in a game once, three PA three times. For what it’s worth, he has a .222/.222/.556 line over that time with three homers. To be fair, I’ve been critical of Patrick Wisdom playing first base. I have no issues with him playing third or being the designated hitter. In two games and for five plate appearances he’s been the DH. Twice, he pinch hit and played third. Patrick Wisdom is a weapon of some value, but Ross and whomever has input seem to have no idea what to do with him. 40 Cubs games have been played over that time period and he has 27 PA. Wisdom is a hybrid opener/pinch hitter.

So essentially the Cubs are using 10 hitters. Nick Madrigal, Christopher Morel and Michael Tauchman share the other plate appearances. With few exceptions, Jeimer Candelario, Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson, Ian Happ, Cody Bellinger and Seiya Suzuki are playing every inning of every game.

On the pitching side, the Cubs use five starters. If the Cubs are winning, they have four pitchers they are willing to utilize. Those four were mentioned above: Alzolay, Leiter, Merryweather and Fulmer. At least two of them weren’t available Monday and Fulmer was apparently being held back to close the game out. That left Jose Cuas to be the next man up. Very much like Daniel Palencia, he’s generally been utilized in tie games.

Cuas got this opportunity. And he stuck the landing. Initially. He struck out the first two batter he faced. The Cubs had seven outs to go, a two-run lead and the bases empty against the worst team in the league. The next four batters reached base on three hits and a hit by pitch and three runs scored. So not only did Jordan Wicks miss out on an opportunity to further write his name into the Cubs record book by winning the first four starts of his career, but Cuas and the Cubs decision making set them up to lose.

You only get so many times to leave your mark in such a way that you can be remembered after you’ve gone. I’m frustrated for this talented young man. At the end of the day, all of that is neither here nor there. The chance at history passes and then it becomes critical in a pennant chase to pick up the pieces and try to win a game.

After throwing a wild pitch initially, Drew Smyly was terrific. He faced five batters and there were five outs recorded. He certainly benefitted from a bad baserunning decision by a Rockies player. That’s what terrible teams do if you give them a chance. They snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. You just have to give them the chance.

That isn’t to take credit away from Dansby Swanson and solid contact into the gap. The play was ruled a double and I’m never terribly critical of a play where an outfielder has to cover ground and then complete a catch. You haven’t played enough sports if you think that is an easy thing to do. I get frustrated by the plays where a fielder doesn’t get to a ball where an ordinary fielder would get to and a play is ruled a hit. But there was some degree of difficulty on this double. Regardless, Swanson gets credit for hitting one hard into the gap.

Ian Happ followed and the Rockies reliever couldn’t keep the ball in the strike zone. Happ worked a good at bat and took the walk. The Rockies reliever and defense didn’t pay enough attention to Swanson who then stole third. The Cubs hitters deserve plenty of credit for their efforts and their contributions to victory. Yan Gomes lined one through a pulled in infield and gave the Cubs their tying and winning runs.

Bad teams will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That happened Monday night. That’s great. Because the decision making of the Cubs didn’t make the Cubs a winner on Monday night. The kind of decision making being made is not going to elevate a good team in its pursuit of greatness. How good can they be? How far can they go? The Dodgers and the Braves are really good. The Phillies beat them pretty badly in their head-to-head appearances, regardless of how that timing shakes out. The Brewers are a team that virtually always squeezes every drop out of every opportunity they have.

Michael Fulmer closes out a save after walking and hitting the first two batters he faced. He recorded two strikeouts to close it out. This team is going to have to figure an awful lot out in a big hurry. I don’t know how to feel about Brad Boxberger being back after how much he struggled earlier this year. But he’s on the team, has terrific experience. Get the guy back into a game. I don’t know what Alexander Canario could do in 2023 for the Cubs. But it sure would have been nice to have found a chance for him to play while he was here. I didn’t really know Shane Greene before he got here. I know I had to look him up to make sure I’m spelling his name right. Was one inning in a lopsided game enough of a look at him? Was that worth a roster spot?

How would Caleb Kilian do out of the bullpen at this point in his development? Keegan Thompson came and went. I was a very big believer in him in 2022. I hope he can get all of the way back at some point. Fulmer never seems to bring consistent performance. After those people, there are a handful of injured players trying to return to the field to contribute to this team. Somewhere among all of these options, this team has to find enough guys to put together a postseason roster. I sure hope this team doesn’t decide to approach the playoffs with essentially 10 hitters, five starters (with one or two of them shuffled to the pen) and however many of the core four relievers are healthy enough to contribute.

To be sure, playoff games are often won by a much smaller group of players than the regular season comes from. But that is often talking about teams that look like the Braves. Juggernaut teams that maraud their way to championships. They may only need 18-20 guys to contribute with 8-10 of them doing the vast majority of work. In those times when a lesser team busts down the door, beyond a very small group of stars getting hot and carrying the team, they often utilize depth to try to squeeze every possible edge out of the team.

Maybe Marcus Stroman will raise from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix. Or Brandon Hughes. Or maybe this team could try to give the guys who are already here a chance to contribute. Novel thought. The game was a win, but the performance didn’t feel like a winner.

Let’s find three stars.

  1. Yan Gomes has three hits and three runs driven in on the night. He also scored one. He gets the iconic moment in the win.
  2. Jordan Wicks. I can’t say enough positive about this young man. The first batter he faced in the first inning doubled and then scored on a pair of groundouts. He also walked the first batter of the second inning. He allowed four total baserunners. The lesson for Wicks as it is for so many young pitchers is efficiency. The deeper you can get into a game, the less help you need from your bullpen. Wicks has pitched well enough to win and largely in dominating fashion in each of his first four major league starts.
  3. A nod to Drew Smyly. The Cubs don’t win without his contribution out of the bullpen. But this spot has to go to Dansby Swanson, two hits, a double, a huge stolen base and run scored.

Game 145, September 11: Cubs 5, Rockies 4 (78-67)


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


  • Superhero: Jordan Wicks (.316). 6 IP, 21 batters, 3 H, BB, R, 2 K
  • Hero/Sidekick: Dansby Swanson/Yan Gomes (.285). Swanson: 2-4, 2B, R, SB, K; Gomes: 3-4, 3 RBI, R


  • Billy Goat: Jose Cuas (-.469). ⅔ IP, 6 batters, 3 H, 3 R, 2 K, HBP
  • Goat: Cody Bellinger (-.182). 1-4, 2B, R, DP
  • Kid: Peter Crow-Armstrong (-.065). 0-0, SH, CS

WPA Play of the Game: Brenton Doyle batted with runners on second and third with two outs in the seventh with the Cubs still leading by one. Doyle singled and two runs scored. (.317)

*Cubs Play of the Game: Yan Gomes’ single in the ninth inning that turned a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead and ultimately propelled them to victory. (.222)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Jordan Wicks
    (76 votes)
  • 0%
    Dansby Swanson
    (0 votes)
  • 67%
    Yan Gomes
    (160 votes)
  • 0%
    Drew Smyly (1⅔ IP, 5 batters, H, 3 K, WP, W)
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (0 votes)
237 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Dansby Swanson (Superhero is 98-46)

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 +41
  • Justin Steele +22
  • Adbert Alzolay +18
  • Ian Happ 17.5
  • Marcus Stroman +12
  • Dansby Swanson-11
  • Patrick Wisdom -15
  • Drew Smyly -17
  • Trey Mancini -20.5
  • Jameson Taillon -23

Scoreboard watching:

  • Brewers win
  • Phillies split two games
  • Diamondbacks win
  • Marlins lose
  • Giants have won four straight since getting swept by the Cubs

The net result of this, the Brewers are three games ahead of the Cubs in the Central. The Phillies are 1½ games ahead of the Cubs and hold the first Wild Card. The Diamondbacks are two behind the Cubs and hold the third Wild Card. The Marlins and Giants are 1½ behind the Diamondbacks. The Reds are two behind the D-backs.

All of those teams are in action Tuesday and Wednesday.

Up Next: Javier Assad (3-3, 2.83, 92⅓ IP) starts for the Cubs as they look for a third straight win. His last seven appearances are all starts. Over those seven starts, he is 2-1 with a 2.34 in 42⅓ innings. Counting the eight relief appearances before that, he is 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 61⅔ innings. Last time out, he was the losing pitcher, allowing three runs in 5⅓ innings.

The Rockies will start 29-year-old righty Chris Flexen (1-7, 7.36, 80⅔ IP). It’s been a bit better over his last seven, going 1-2 with a 6.43 ERA in 35 innings. Last time out he pitched in Arizona and allowed six runs over 2⅓ innings. It’s hard to imagine this same pitcher was 14-6 with a 3.61 ERA in 31 starts for the Mariners back in 2021 (and was 22-15 over two years there).