It feels like eons ago that I suggested the Cubs needed to get greedy after they had swept the Pirates at Wrigley Field. At the time, the Pirates had been in contention in the NL Central and the Cubs had been bobbing along in fourth place. When the Pirates came to town, the Cubs were 28-37. The Cubs did “get greedy” and took two out of three from an ascending Orioles team that would go on to be the top team in the AL. They then went to Pittsburgh and swept three more.
Unfortunately, not much later, the Cubs lost four straight and seven of eight. That eight-game stretch was their worst since they also lost seven of eight from May 13 to May 21. May 13 to 17 was the last time the Cubs lost five in a row before last week’s five-game skid, snapped with Tuesday’s bounceback win. Those two streaks are the longest of the year. The team has achieved some of its success by way of limiting the downside.
So Tuesday night the Cubs faced the Pirates at another crossroads. This team very much needs to “get greedy” again with this homestand. In a key spot, the Cubs had to rely on a guy with less than a season’s worth of big league experience. Javier Assad took the ball in what, amazingly, was just his 18th major league start. It feels like it has been even more just this year. But he trickled over the 100 inning mark with five innings of one run ball.
I said some time ago that the Cubs could go as far as their starting pitching would carry them. At the time, they had been struggling a bit as a group and you had to feel like you needed to get that back moving in the right direction. Unsurprisingly, during the five game skid, the starters got knocked around quite a bit. So the excellent start Tuesday night by Assad is a welcome sight.
It wasn’t the only welcome sight. The Cubs offense scored 24 runs in three games against the Giants on the last homestand before only scoring four runs in losing their next three games. It was 11 games ago, in game 140, that the Cubs last reached what has been the golden number this year. When the Cubs score seven runs or more, they are now 40-0. For the fifth time in just 11 tries, the Cubs have now scored 10 or more against the Pirates. And they’ve won 10 of 11.
So this game was the right medicine at the right time. Hopefully, they can stretch it for two more games. Pick your favorite Bleed Cubbie Blue writer. I believe every one of us has taken a turn pointing out just how critical every game is from here out. All of the very nice cushion this team had been able to build was torn down. We’ll cover it a bit more later, but the Cubs did get a little bit of help. But the reality remains. The Cubs have no margin for error. There is no choice but for them to “get greedy” and win every conceivable game from here out. You’d certainly like them to win at least eight of their final 12, if not nine or 10.
The Cubs simply can’t achieve those things without grabbing at least five on this homestand. So this is a great start. You gotta get take care of business. So far, so good.
Let’s find three stars in a night where the offense and the pitching all clicked.
- After Assad had a bit of a tough first, it was a breath of fresh air for Dansby Swanson to follow a lead-off walk by Nico Hoerner with a two-run homer. Swanson later added a single and scored twice to go with the two runs batted in.
- Seiya Suzuki walked in the first, homered in the third, singled in the fifth. He capped off a big night with a double in the wild eighth inning. Three hits, a walk, two runs and a run batted in. Seiya is working hard to be player of the month for September.
- I simply cannot overlook Alexander Canario. He finally gets a start and though the damage was late, after the Cubs had cemented control of the game, he doubled and hit a grand slam. Five runs batted in and one scored, a game that he will never forget.
Game 151, September 19: Cubs 14, Pirates 1 (79-72)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Javier Assad (.144). 5 IP, 21 batters, 5 H, BB, R, 8 K (W 4-3)
- Hero: Dansby Swanson (.143). 2-5, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
- Sidekick: Seiya Suzuki (.077). 3-4, HR, 2B, BB, RBI, 2 R
- Billy Goat: Cody Bellinger (-.031). 1-5, HR, 3 RBI, R
- Goat: Yan Gomes (-.030). 0-3, HBP, K
- Kid: Ian Happ (-.006). 1-3, BB, R
WPA Play of the Game: Dansby Swanson’s two-run homer in the first inning ended up giving the Cubs all of the offense they’d need. (.154)
*Pirates Play of the Game: Ke’Bryan Hayes homered with two outs in the third to cut the Cubs lead to three. (.057)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Alexander Canario (2-4, HR, 2B, 5 RBI, R)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Sunday’s Winner: Ian Happ (Superhero is 101-49)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 6/Bottom 6)
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 +31
- Justin Steele +19
- Adbert Alzolay +18
- Ian Happ +17.5
- Marcus Stroman +14
- Javier Assad +13
- Dansby Swanson/Michael Fulmer -9
- Patrick Wisdom/Drew Smyly -15
- Trey Mancini -20.5
- Jameson Taillon -26
- Phillies lose
- Diamondbacks win fourth straight
- Marlins wins
- Reds lose
The Phillies hold the first Wild Card. The Diamondbacks are 2½ games back of the Phillies and hold the second Wild Card. The Cubs are half a game behind of the D-backs, holding the third Wild Card. The Marlins are half a game behind the Cubs. The Reds are a full game behind the Cubs.
Everybody plays again Wednesday.
Up Next: Justin Steele (16-4, 2.73, 165 IP) comes off of the worst start of his season. Even with that start, he’s 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA in 44 innings over his last seven starts. He’s only started once against the Pirates this year, allowing three runs, two earned, in six innings.
Mitch Keller (12-9, 4.04, 182⅔ IP) starts for the Pirates. The 27-year-old righty has been the best starting pitcher for the Bucs this year. The 2014 second-round pick of the Pirates (64 overall) is finishing strong, going 3-1 with a 3.07 ERA in 44 innings. His numbers over that time are just a tick off of Justin Steele’s and he is without a doubt a reason for some optimism about their future. He is the owner of the one Pirate win over the Cubs, throwing eight scoreless innings in Pittsburgh on August 25. He has one complete-game shutout, two eight-inning scoreless games and two seven-inning scoreless games. He won four of those five starts. So he can be pretty dominant. He has three different starts in which he allowed one run over seven.