2024 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 51

Atlanta Braves v Chicago Cubs

The Cubs starting pitching can more or less hang with the Braves. We’ve learned that over six games against them. The Cubs bullpen has nowhere near the firepower to hold the Braves down over time. The Cubs lineup is largely over matched by the Braves pitching staff. The net result was two wins in six games for the Cubs. Further, but for at least a little good fortune, this could have been five of six in the wrong direction.

I will say as a counterpoint that the Braves caught the Cubs at a time when the Cubs aren’t firing on all cylinders. At times, over the last week, it isn’t an over statement to say they largely firing on any cylinders. So on the one hand, a stretch of games like this, you can get a taste for where the team measures up. Of course, we knew that. The Braves have been part of the ruling class for some time. The Cubs are trying to emerge from a rebuild.

There remains much work to do for this Cubs team to get over the hill and back into the top tier of teams. But that brings us to that other hand. You can get caught up in measuring sticks and trying to figure out where things are. The Cubs aren’t one of the best teams just past the one-quarter marker. To be sure, the stacked wins a team like the Braves has matter. But at the end of the day, you don’t get to cash excess wins back in. It’s an over used cliché, but it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.

It’s another repetitive point, but last year’s Diamondbacks are a terrific example. Stay in the fight, keep improving your team. Maybe you get a chance to get hot late and overcome the odds. As bad as things feel after this long stretch of subpar play, the Cubs are definitely in the hunt. Just 10 wins in 25 games is not getting it done. But, that stretch doesn’t erase the one before it and this team is still three over .500.

Survive. Advance.

For now, they’ve got to just pick up the pieces. Get back to the team they can be. There will be other giants to measure up again later in the season. For now, they’ve got to just get back in gear. That has to start with their bats. I know there are a lot of fingers pointing in a lot of directions and even more pointing in one direction. But over the last two days, their bats were shutdown. They managed two runs off of a handful of runners on Wednesday but you just can’t sustain offense until you can sustain offensive pressure.

Let’s recap this game, put the Braves behind us. There are no guarantees that tomorrow will be a better day. But there is a guarantee that if the Cubs have to see this Braves team again in 2024, things have turned out pretty well.

Three stars?

One is easy, that’s Ben Brown. Ben allowed one hit over four innings. He struck out six. That’s a talented young man. So far, he’s proved very apt at swinging back and forth between starting and relieving. He’s been effective however he’s been used.

Seiya Suzuki had two of the Cubs’ four hits, but offensively I’m actually tipping the cap to Ian Happ. He’s struggled for a very long time. But he was on base twice for the second consecutive day and he had the only extra base hit for the second consecutive day. At least one Cub might be emerging from his slumber.

Luke Little faced four batters and retired them all, striking out two. This was his fifth outing in May. He’s faced 19 hitters, allowed no hits, three walks, and struck out five. No one questions he has the talent. Maybe he’s finding his footing.

Game 51, May 23: Braves 3, Cubs 0 (27-24)


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


  • Superhero: Ben Brown (.215). 4 IP, 15 batters, H, 2 BB, 6 K, WP
  • Hero: Luke Little (.069). 1⅓ IP, 4 batters, 2 K
  • Sidekick: Ian Happ (.035). 1-3, 2B, BB


  • Billy Goat: Kyle Hendricks (-.160). 2 IP, 11 batters, 4 H, BB, 2 R, K
  • Goat: Cody Bellinger (-.140). 0-4
  • Kid: Michael Busch (-.134). 0-4

WPA Play of the Game: Jarred Kelenic homered leading off the fifth inning against the just summoned Hayden Wesneski to break up a scoreless tie. (.139)

*Cubs Play of the Game: In the fourth inning, Orlando Arcia batted with a runner on third and one out, the game still scoreless. Brown came through with the strikeout and held the Braves scoreless. (.072)

Yesterday’s Winner: Porter Hodge (55 percent) over Ian Happ (42 percent)

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
  • Ben Brown +11
  • Ian Happ -7
  • Miguel Amaya -8
  • Adbert Alzolay -10
  • Kyle Hendricks -20

*Brown moves into the top four, Happ nudges up for the second consecutive day and threatens to leave the party, and Hendricks is a Billy Goat virtually every time he pitches.

Up Next: At very minimum, something different. The Cubs face long time rival St. Louis (23-26) for the first time. In addition, the early season star of this team, Shōta Imanaga (5-0, 0.84, 53⅔ IP), starts this game. Imanaga has been remarkably consistent, his last seven (4-0, 1.03) look almost identically dominant.

For the Cardinals, it’s the Cubs’ old nemesis Miles Mikolas (3-5, 5.77, 53 IP). The 35-year-old righty is well known to all of you no doubt. He was a seventh round pick for the Padres back in 2009. He’s not trending any better (2-4, 6.25) over his last seven. Some have noted that Miles has struggled since throwing at Ian Happ intentionally and getting suspended last year. There’s not a lot of logic to that derailing what had been a great late career revival. But if that became his kryptonite or something, so be it.

What a great time to wake up and get it back in gear.

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