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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 159

Pushed to the brink of elimination.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Heavy sigh. I don’t suppose anyone had a bullpen game beating a team that keeps being described as the best offensive team in 100 years. Has anyone vetted that claim for hyperbole? I don’t think there is going to be a ton of entertaining and enlightening Cubs conversation today. Indulge me, my faithful. Write in the comments your favorite powerhouse offense. It doesn’t have to be recent vintage.

Lore always suggests the 1927 Yankees as the torchbearer. I remember from my Strat-o-Matic days being underwhelmed of the lineup outside of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. To be fair, Ruth and Gehrig have to be the most feared pair ever. Certainly on longevity. Their collective numbers are berserk.

Aside from those ‘27 Yankees, I think my two “favorite” non-Cub offenses were the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies. I’ll just throw out mid-1990’s. The Indians at one time were rolling out what I thought was the deepest lineup I’d ever seen. I think maybe the ‘96 Indians were my favorite, though hard to ignore ‘95. Probably the ‘97 Rockies would be my choice there.

Heavy sigh.

This is supposed to be a space where we talk about the Cubs, huh? The 2008 Cubs were impressive.

Second heavy sigh.

Yeah, the Cubs played a baseball game in Atlanta Thursday night. The net result was the same as Tuesday and Wednesday. The Cubs lost three straight games with their season on the line. I’ve thought since I was a kid that it was folly to point out one play or one game that messed the game or season up. There are always a plethora of things that could have gone better along the way.

To be sure, you’d like the Cubs to have gotten out of Atlanta with at least one win, particularly given that they led in all three games and led late in two of them. Four blown saves in a three-game set sure ain’t great. But you’re seriously sweating losing three straight games to the best team in baseball in their park? You what, thought they were going to let up? No offense to the talented starting pitchers who have contributed to the Braves winning as many games as they have, but that team’s engine is powered by offense. It is supplemented by good pitching. Obviously, as all excellent teams are, they strong in virtually every area.

The season got away from these Cubs when they squandered a four-game lead long before they reached Atlanta. You wanted, scratch that, you needed to have that cushion heading into this week. It was fine to be chasing the top Wild Card or the division title, preferably both, this week. But you didn’t not want to be fighting on life support while facing two excellent teams.

So here we are. The season has now walked all of the way to the edge of oblivion. The math on the final playoff spot isn’t good. So the only question now will be how long before the doctor calls time of death. It’s a shame to see it end this way. Far too many people around the Cubs fanbase are going to remember this season all too much for what it wasn’t and not nearly enough for what it was.

All we can do around here is try to be better than that. This team had an excellent season. They have nothing to be ashamed of. When healthy, this team played good games against nearly every one of the eventual 2023 playoff team. But the team didn’t consistently have enough roster depth top to bottom to stay competitive when injuries and ineffectiveness piled up.

There is work to be done again this offseason. But this franchise took another step forward. Seven seasons in the last nine they had winning records. Many playoff appearances, multiple division titles, three straight NLCS appearances and a World Series championship. These aren’t your father’s Chicago Cubs.

Last year I referenced one of the famous Harry Caray soliloquy’s and I’m going to do it again here.

“Sure as God made green apples, someday the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series, and maybe sooner than we think.”

I’m making no predictions mind you. Intuitively, the Cubs will be in a World Series again someday. Maybe, just maybe it’ll be sooner than we think. If the Cubs have another good offseason, as they did last year, they’ll take another step towards getting back there.

Before we can consider the offseason, we have to find three strong performances in the loss. Then we’ll look ahead to game number 160.

  1. One of the things I referenced above was the things that some around the Cubs fanbase will hold on to. One of those things will be Seiya Suzuki’s dropped ball in the opener of this series. That fails to see the point that Seiya was one of the players most responsible for the Cubs having any level of competitiveness down the stretch. He had three more hits Thursday. This was the 17th game with three or more hits of Seiya’s career. 12 of them are this season. Four of them are this month.
  2. Nico Hoerner had a pair of hits. He and Seiya combined for five of the six Cubs hits.
  3. Hayden Wesneski faced eight batters, recorded seven outs and struck out three.

Game 159, September 28: Braves 5, Cubs 3 (82-77)


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


  • Superhero: Seiya Suzuki (.110). 3-4, 2B, 2 RBI
  • Hero: Nico Hoerner (.047). 2-4, R
  • Sidekick: Hayden Wesneski (.037). 2⅓ IP, BB, 3 K


  • Billy Goat: Marcus Stroman (-.292). 2 IP, 11 batters, 4 H, 2 R, 2 K (L 10-9)
  • Goat: Dansby Swanson (-.178). 0-3, HBP, DP
  • Kid: Yan Gomes (-.088). 0-4, K

WPA Play of the Game: Matt Olson’s two-run homer with one out in the first inning with the Braves down one at the time gave them a lead they’d never relinquish. (.191)

*Cubs Play of the Game: Seiya Suzuki batted with first and third with one out, the Cubs down three. He singled and it appeared the Cubs were in business. (.077)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Seiya Suzuki
    (78 votes)
  • 0%
    Nico Hoerner
    (0 votes)
  • 10%
    Hayden Wesneski
    (10 votes)
  • 3%
    Luke Little (1 2⁄3 IP, 7 batters, H, BB, 2K)
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (1 vote)
92 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Ian Happ *poll may have been thrown off by not listing Jameson Taillon as a choice. Happ beats someone else 34-31 (107-51)

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 +35
  • Adbert Alzolay +18
  • Ian Happ +17.5
  • Justin Steele +16
  • Javier Assad +14
  • Seiya Suzuki +11
  • Michael Fulmer -9
  • Patrick Wisdom -12
  • Drew Smyly -15
  • Dansby Swanson -16
  • Trey Mancini -20.5
  • Jameson Taillon -23

Up Next: The Cubs head to Milwaukee to face the Brewers (90-69). Kyle Hendricks (6-8, 3.66, 132⅔ innings) starts for the Cubs. He’s finishing strong with 2-2 and a 2.90 ERA over his last seven games (40⅓ innings). He started against the Brewers on August 30, allowing one run on four hits over six innings. He walked two and struck out six.

The Brewers are apparently starting country music star Colin Rea? What? Oh. That’s spelled differently and not the same guy. I don’t pay nearly enough attention to other teams. Colin is 6-6 with a 4.74 ERA in 21 starts and 24 total appearances this year. The 33-year-old righty and former 12th round pick of the Padres is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA over his last seven appearances, including the three relief appearances. He’s made no starts against the Cubs this year.

Surely Craig Counsell is plenty ready to deploy 37 relief pitchers to end the season of the Cubs too. Though, to be fair, it would be next-level thinking to try to lose three straight to this Cubs team, who at this point probably have less chance of beating the Brewers than the Marlins do.