At least one or two of you probably got tired of me reiterating that the Cubs were winning every time they scored seven or more. They won the first 40 of them. And obviously, most teams win most of the time when they have an outburst like that. This actually ends a run of 45 consecutive wins in such situations. The last time the Cubs lost in such a situation was on August 28, 2022 against the Brewers in Milwaukee. For reference, last year’s team was 23-3 scoring seven runs or more. As a secondary reference, the Braves are 50(!)-2 in such situations.
As I kept writing about that stat, I did start to have a sinking feeling that the timing was going to be awful if/when it finally came to an end. Of course, I had started to think maybe in a playoff game. But, of course, with the season on the brink, it happened in a game the Cubs really needed to win. Instead, they score seven runs and still lose by six.
Also, this game almost certainly sees the final nail in the coffin of Justin Steele’s Cy Young candidacy. That doesn’t tarnish any of the awesomeness that has been Justin’s season. Rather it is a reminder of just how hard it is to win that award. There is so little margin of error. For the six runs against Steele, the last time the Pirates scored six or more was September 13. The last time they scored as many as the eight taken to win was September 9 against the Braves in Atlanta. The last time they scored as many as the 13 here, was June 9 when they scored 14 against the Mets. So this was a pretty unusual occurrence.
There’s not a lot of silver lining at Wrigley Field on this day. That silver lining comes in the form of a spoiler from Scoreboard Watching. The Marlins, Reds and Giants all lost. They have 74, 75 and 76 losses respectively, behind 73 for the Cubs. The Cubs and Giants play Thursday (not against each other, of course), but everyone else is off. The Giants drop out of relevancy. With the loss, the Giants are closer to the Padres behind them than the Reds in front of them. I did say I’d mention the Padres today if they could sweep their series with the Rockies. The Padres have won seven straight and to this date have the fourth best run differential in the NL.
Alas, we’re here to talk about what happened at Wrigley Field. Let’s find three star performances for the Cubs.
- Ian Happ had two hits, most notably a grand slam. The other hit was a double.
- Miles Mastrobuoni had a three-hit night. Two of those hits were doubles and he scored twice. This is his second career three hit game. He had one on July 18 against the Nationals.
- Brad Boxberger worked a perfect seventh after the Cubs had cut the deficit to four.
Game 152, September 20: Pirates 13 at Cubs 7 (79-73)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.152). 2-5, HR, 2B, 4 RBI, R, K
- Hero: Cody Bellinger (.084). 2-5, 2 2B, R, K
- Sidekick: Miles Mastrobuoni (.038). 3-4, 2 2B, 2R
- Billy Goat: Justin Steele (-.340). 3 IP, 17 batters, 8 H, 6 R, 6 K (L 16-5)
- Goat: Mark Leiter Jr. (-.162). IP, 6 batters, 2 H, BB, 3R
- Kid: Dansby Swanson (-.131). 0-5, 4 K
WPA Play of the Game: Ian Happ batted with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, the Cubs down six. He hit a grand slam and for at least a moment, the Cubs were back in the game. (.160)
*Pirates Play of the Game: Henry Davis batted with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth, the game tied. He singled and two runs scored. (.136)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Brad Boxberger (IP, 3 batters, K)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Javier Assad (Superhero is 102-49)
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 +33
- Ian Happ +20.5
- Adbert Alzolay +18
- Justin Steele +16
- Marcus Stroman +14
- Javier Assad +13
- Michael Fulmer -9
- Dansby Swanson -10
- Patrick Wisdom/Drew Smyly -15
- Trey Mancini -20.5
- Jameson Taillon -26
- Phillies win and at this point, I drop them from this. It’s pretty apparent by now that the Cubs won’t catch the Phillies or Brewers.
- Diamondbacks win fifth straight
- Marlins lose
- Reds lose
The Diamondbacks are the second Wild Card and are now 1½ games ahead of the Cubs. The Marlins are half a game behind the Cubs and the Reds half a game behind the Marlins. The Marlins and Reds are off Thursday and so the Cubs have an opportunity to pick up half a game against each and keep that loss column buffer with each. The Reds have only eight games remaining, so if the Cubs can win some games, it would become very hard for the Reds to catch them.
Up Next: Kyle Hendricks (6-7, 3.77, 126⅔ IP) starts the rubber game of the series at Wrigley Field. Has Kyle ever started a crucial game in Chicago before? Kyle is 2-1 with a 3.35 ERA in 40⅓ innings over his last seven starts. Kyle is finishing strong. He’s pitched into the sixth inning each of his last three times and also allowed seven hits in each. Kyle has started two games against the Pirates this year, both of them in Pittsburgh. He threw 12 innings across the two games and allowed five runs, three earned, winning one and losing the other.
25-year-old righty Johan Oviedo (8-14, 4.27, 166⅔ IP) starts for the Pirates. Oviedo is 2-3 with a 4.58 ERA over his last seven starts (35⅓ IP). He pitched decently enough against the Yankees in Pittsburgh last time with one run on four hits in five innings. Though he struck out seven, he also walked five. He started in both series against the Cubs in June, losing twice and allowing six runs in 10⅓ innings. He struck out 11 and only walked one (though he hit two).
This simply has to be a win.