Normally this is Josh Harrison’s spot but since Happ’s Cubs beat Harrison’s Pirates 6-1 on Friday night, I’m giving him a promotion. Of course, Happ didn’t have a huge hand in getting the Cubs the win. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base, which isn’t bad, but isn’t a lot considering he didn’t score or drive in a run. Plus you have to take into account his WPA (win probability added) of -.026. Still, bat .333 your whole career and you’re an All Star so good on him. However, Happ did almost hurt the cause with an error in the second inning, his third of the season. Happ made that error in center field, which has been his best position defensively this season. Small sample size warning aside, he has three defensive runs saved at that post, compared to a total of -1 at all other positions combined.
Harrison had a much rougher night at the dish. He went hitless in four at bats, and only saw 16 pitches total. With a WPA of -.044 and a wRC+ of -17 in the game, clearly Harrison wasn’t much help, but it speaks to a more troubling trend. The Pirates lone All Star representative is only batting .083/.120/.083 in July. In fact, he only has two hits since the month began and has had his batting average for the season drop from .296 to .275 since June 29. In addition, he has posted a wRC+ below 100 in eight straight games, meaning he has been a worse than league average player for more than a week.
Five days after his last outing, Walsh was back in action on Friday, pitching in relief for the Birmingham Barons in a losing effort against the Jackson Generals. Walsh wasn’t tagged with the loss (that distinction went to starter Tanner Banks) and he certainly didn’t deserve to either. In one of his better outings of the campaign, Walsh threw three shutout innings with three strikeouts and one hit allowed as the first hurler out of the bullpen. His solid work didn’t stop the Barons from losing 9-6, but it did drop his ERA back below 4.00 for the season (3.68 to be exact) and also kept his strikeout rate to better than one per inning.
As expected, Atkinson did not see any action on Friday as he rests up following his start for the Kane County Cougars this past Wednesday.