2024 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 49

Houston Astros v Chicago Cubs

Well, look at that. The Cubs had a mid-homestand day off and get a couple of guys healthy and they played one of their better start-to-finish in all aspects games. It could be a coincidence. I don’t particularly believe in coincidences though. I saw someone point yesterday that the Cubs have been healthy for a total of about one hour this year. And I even that number overlooks that at the time that Justin Steele was heathy and pitching on opening day, Jameson Taillon was already hurt.

Look, I’m not making excuses for the Cubs. As I recall, the Brewers had significant injuries before the season ever started and one of their key players has not crossed between the lines yet. You have to find ways to win with what you’ve got. And the Cubs have. They are 27-22 with last night’s extra-grind win. The injuries haven’t stopped them from being a good team. They’ve stopped them from having much consistency and in turn that has stopped them making any kind of run at very good.

Can this team actually be very good? On a given day, it absolutely can. They were Tuesday night. They took a heavy attack by the Braves, waited out the assault and then counter attacked. They trailed 2-0 and 3-2 and came back both times. Obviously two- and one-run deficits aren’t exactly climbing Mt. Everest. But playing the Braves can sure feel like it. There aren’t a lot of soft spots either in their lineup or on their pitching staff. Every scoreless inning feels like an achievement. Every baserunner you get is a small victory.

Stringing them together was very satisfying. You certainly love a 7-2 win where you take control and cruise to victory. But you also have to love a win like this against a good team. The next step is getting back out there again tonight and battling again. I’m not telling anyone that the minimum acceptable level is stacking wins against the Braves. But how about looking like you belong on the field with them two nights in a row?

I’m not going to strictly adhere to three stars for this one but instead call out a handful of key performances.

  • Javier Assad started consecutive times against the Braves. The Cubs won them both. Look, he had a garish FIP of 10.21 for his not quite five innings of work last night. That lineup is more than a handful. He did walk five and allow four hits, but with all of that traffic, he held them to three runs. This isn’t a star-worthy performance, but a star limits the carnage on a night when things aren’t locked in.
  • Mike Tauchman kept the Cubs in this game with two different RBI singles. I think I’m getting close to the point where I don’t keep waiting for him to drop off from key contributor to journeyman outfielder.
  • Mark Leiter Jr. is one of the guys I champion regularly. I can still recall when the Cubs waived him a couple of off-seasons ago after had made a promising conversion the bullpen. I didn’t want to lose him before that experiment had some room to run. But even then, I could never have envisioned just how dominant he would be. Last night he struck out all three batters he faced. 82 batters this year, 26 strikeouts. Not too far off of one third of every batter he’s faced.
  • Leiter retired the first three of 12 consecutive Braves to end the game. Hayden Wesneski, Hector Neris and Luke Little each threw a perfect inning to end this. Hat tip to Little. I was more than a little nervous when he was summoned and then when he fell behind in the count to Matt Olson, I started hoping that we could hold them to only one run. But he fought through it and locked down a perfect inning.
  • Dansby Swanson contributed two hits in his return to the lineup. Nico Hoerner had a quiet return to the lineup himself, until hitting a chopper that gave the Braves no chance to make a play. And just one little nod to Cody Bellinger who had a rough night at the plate but scores the winning run on a walk off for the second time on a homestand. I’ll go ahead and assume that’s a pretty rare feat, even if totally arbitrary.

Before I get into the feature numbers here, I challenge you, the reader. I think the collective bullpen was they key to this game. But go out on a limb and pick one of these guys as a player of the game.

Game 49, May 21: Cubs 4, Braves 3 (27-22)


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


  • Superhero: Luke Little (.312). IP, 3 batters (W 1-0)
  • Hero: Mark Leiter Jr. (.234). IP, 3 batters, 3 K
  • Sidekick: Miguel Amaya (.152). 1-2, 2 BB


  • Billy Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.265). 0-5
  • Goat: Cody Bellinger (-.184). 0-4, BB, R
  • Kid: Ian Happ (-.141). 1-5

WPA Play of the Game: Orlando Arcia batted with a runner on first and one out in the second inning, the game scoreless. He homered. (.180)

*Cubs Play of the Game: Nico Hoerner’s chopper to end the game. Not the most impressive hit of his young career, but a valuable one. (.176)

Sunday’s Player of the Game: Ben Brown (68 percent) over Cody Bellinger and Jameson Taillon (12 percent each).

Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 4/Bottom 4)

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.

  • Shōta Imanaga +15
  • Javier Assad +12.5
  • Mark Leiter Jr. +12
  • Jameson Taillon +9
  • Miguel Amaya -8
  • Adbert Alzolay -10
  • Ian Happ -11
  • Kyle Hendricks -17

Hayden Wesneski moves into sixth place with Bellinger taking the goat. Pete Crow-Armstrong sits seventh, and Hector Neris eighth. So the seven highest point totals on the roster are all pitchers.

Up Next: Game two of the three-game set. Justin Steele (0-1, 5.21, 19 IP) will be looking to recapture his 2023 form that led to him being a Cy Young contender. 2024 hasn’t gone anything like he’d hoped. He’s allowed 10 earned runs in 9⅔ innings in his last two starts, both against the Pirates. At a glance, that feels like out of the frying pan and into the fire. But maybe a warrior rises to the challenge?

30-year-old left Max Fried (3-2, 3.81, 49⅔ IP) starts for the Braves. Max was the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Padres. This will be his 10th start of the season. Over his last seven, the numbers are even better than the season line (3-2, 2.22 44⅔).

Nothing gets easier when you are facing the Braves. But I’m never going to count Steele out.

Related Posts

The Changing Dynamics of the Toronto Maple Leafs Forwards

The Toronto Maple Leafs have evolved significantly since winning the Draft Lottery in 2016 and selecting Auston Matthews as the first overall pick. Starting the 2016-17 season, the team built its…

2024 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 53

Paul Goldschmidt has been destroying the hopes and dreams of opposing teams since 2012 when he played his first full season in the big leagues. He has…

Colts eager to see new offense come together – ESPN

INDIANAPOLIS — On a first-and-10 from the Colts’ own 25-yard line, quarterback Anthony Richardson took a shotgun snap and quickly tossed the ball to running back Jonathan Taylor on a…

2 moves Sabres must make in 2024 NHL offseason

The Buffalo Sabres had high expectations heading into the 2023-24 NHL season. Buffalo missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs by just one point in 2023. They had a wealth of…

NFL analyst suggests final offseason move Indianapolis Colts should make

As the Indianapolis Colts continue into the heart of the offseason workout program, there are still chances to add more talent to the roster. Sitting with a comfortable amount of…

This Day In Sabres History – Flyers Win Cup In Buffalo

On this day 49 years ago, the Philadelphia Flyers won their second straight Stanley Cup, eliminating the Buffalo Sabres in six games with a 2-0 shutout victory at Memorial…