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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 148

The struggles are real. The Cubs lose 6-4 despite a late comeback attempt.

MLB: SEP 15 Cubs at Diamondbacks Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cubs are holding the second Wild Card spot and, in fact, have a 1½ game lead on the Diamondbacks and Reds. There are just over two weeks left in the regular season. Those words don’t usually appear until near the end of this post every day. Alas, I think for multiple reasons, we need to start there.

First, as tired as the phrase is, if the playoffs started today, the Cubs would be the fifth seed. It doesn’t matter if you think the season would be a waste if the Cubs don’t end up in the playoffs or not. Right here, right now, even with this late season struggle, the Cubs invitation to the playoffs is still valid with 16 days left in the regular season. With that little time, 1½ games is a decent sized lead. The strong probability remains that the Cubs make the playoffs.

Second, the Diamondbacks are squarely in the Cubs’ rear view mirror. The fact remains that if they can sweep this series with the Cubs, they can pass the Cubs. Then it wouldn’t matter nearly as much to them what happens with the Reds, Marlins and Giants. When you are nearing the end of the season and in the playoff hunt, I’ve often thought of that old joke that goes: “I don’t have to outrun the lion in the jungle, I just have to outrun you.” When the Giants faltered, it gave the Cubs a bit of a shield. That shield has served them well. Indeed, its power is starting to falter a bit. But that buffer still remains.

I think that perspective is important. It’s hard to say that the Cubs are in danger when they are two games in the loss column ahead of all four of the chase teams. The Reds and Diamondbacks have each played one more game than the Cubs have and that becomes a disadvantage when you are chasing. It’s easy to say just keep winning and you are in. But when you have one less game, that’s obviously one less opportunity for win and get in.

To be clear, the SS Cubs has now sailed itself into the part of the ocean with the icebergs. Trouble surrounds them. The offense is having a rough patch at the worst possible time. The bullpen has been less dominant than its been in months. None of that is ideal. Their best pitcher just had his worst start of the year. There is no way to slice any of this and say that everything is perfect.

But the Cubs didn’t get where they are playing perfect baseball. They played good baseball. Other teams faltered and they had some good fortune in places. To be clear, when they were playing “good” baseball, they were winning at an elite level. I don’t have to tell any of you that they didn’t feel like an elite team during that stretch, because even if you weren’t one of the pessimist Cub fans, you were likely interacting with those who are. You never had to go more than a few games without someone declaring them some synonym of terrible team.

But they weren’t terrible. Yes, they were a flawed team. But they were playing at an elite level. For a flawed team, they sustained that elite success level for a very long time with almost no faltering. The bigger surprise was how long they were able to sustain it. Sure, it would have been great if it could have lasted a few more weeks. That might have been enough to reach all of the way to the first Wild Card.

It’s not nothing that the team put up four runs in the ninth yesterday. This team hasn’t quit fighting. It is going through a stretch. There is no question that this has grown worrisome, but this isn’t the Cubs team you grew up with. This team has faced adversity and come off of the mat. It can do it again. Will it? I am not in the business of fortune telling. I still believe that this team is a good one, that it belongs in the playoffs and that it isn’t dead on arrival if it gets there.

It remains possible that they miss the playoffs entirely. It’s certainly possible that they sneak in and then get swept right back out. It’s also possible that this team turns on a dime and still chases down the Phillies and/or Brewers. The likelihood of that has certainly shrunk to a very narrow window. But it isn’t impossible. It’s possible this team gets into a playoff spot and wins a series. Or two series. You can’t guarantee that they won’t. This team has wins and success over just about any team it might face in the postseason.

Well, except the Diamondbacks I suppose. Or the Phillies. But I’m not interested in that right now. Certainly, I don’t think either of those teams, or the Brewers, or the Reds, or the Marlins or the Giants are unbeatable. Get in. See what happens. They have to get their offense going. When I said about a month ago that this team would go as far as their starting pitching would take them, I did not envision their offense finding the back of a milk carton.

Let’s see if we can find three stars in another disappointing game.

  1. The return of Marcus Stroman is probably the thing that matters most out of yesterday’s game. Marcus threw two innings, allowed a hit and a walk and struck out three. In any capacity, a healthy Stroman makes the team better.
  2. Christopher Morel was the only Cub with two hits in last night’s game. He greeted Diamondbacks closer Paul Sewald with a no-doubt homer to cut the deficit to two in the ninth.
  3. Seiya Suzuki stayed hot. Of the three ninth-inning homers, his came with a man on. The Diamondbacks used five relievers in a game they were leading by six heading to the ninth. That could matter before the end of this series.

Game 148, September 15: Diamondbacks 6, Cubs 4 (78-70)


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


  • Superhero: Christopher Morel (.025). 2-4, HR, RBI, R, K
  • Hero: Marcus Stroman (.002). 2 IP, 8 batters, H, BB, 3 K
  • Sidekick: Mike Tauchman (-.008). 1-3, HBP, K


  • Billy Goat: Justin Steele (-.205). 6 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 6 R, 5 K (L 16-4)
  • Goat: Ian Happ (-.091). 1-4, HR, RBI, R, DP
  • Kid: Yan Gomes (-.072). 0-4, 3 K

WPA Play of the Game: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. batted with runners on first and third with two outs in the first inning, the game. Scoreless until Gurriel homered, that is. (.237)

Cubs Play of the Game: With the Diamondbacks jumping out to that early lead, most of this game was played in a leverage free environment. Mike Tauchman’s single leading off the game was their highest WPA of the game at .035. The third homer of the ninth inning that cut the deficit to two was only worth .022. Obviously, with two outs left to go, a two-run deficit is still almost a fully baked win.


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Christopher Morel
    (32 votes)
  • 47%
    Marcus Stroman
    (35 votes)
  • 1%
    Mike Tauchman
    (1 vote)
  • 6%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (5 votes)
73 votes total Vote Now

Wednesday’s Winner: Nico Hoerner 111 of 125 votes (Superhero is 99-48)

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 +37
  • Justin Steele +22
  • Adbert Alzolay +18
  • Ian Happ 17.5
  • Marcus Stroman +12
  • Christopher Morel -9.5
  • Patrick Wisdom -15
  • Drew Smyly -17
  • Trey Mancini -20.5
  • Jameson Taillon -26

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 +37
  • Justin Steele +19
  • Adbert Alzolay +18
  • Ian Happ 15.5
  • Marcus Stroman +14
  • Michael Fulmer/Dansby Swanson -9
  • Patrick Wisdom -15
  • Drew Smyly -17
  • Trey Mancini -20.5
  • Jameson Taillon -26

Scoreboard watching:

  • Brewers win second straight
  • Phillies win
  • Diamondbacks win
  • Reds win
  • Marlins win
  • Giants lose

Standings therefore show the Brewers with a 5½ game lead on the Cubs. Only the three head-to-head games remaining between the two teams has that race even still on life support.

The Phillies now lead the Cubs by 2½ games. With no head-to-head games, even that is a pretty large lead. The Diamondbacks and Reds are each 1½ behind the Cubs. The Marlins trail the last Wild Card position by half a game. The Giants trail by a full game. The Giants play a doubleheader with the Rockies today.

Up Next: Saturday’s pitching matchup finds Kyle Hendricks (6-7, 3.71, 121⅓ IP) on the mound to face ex-Cub Zach Davies (2-5, 6.81, 75⅓ IP). For all the good that it has been doing lately, the pitching matchup favors the Cubs on paper.