Heroes and Zeroes is a series where I use www.fangraphs.com to rank each player's gameday. It is not meant to say one player is better than any other player. WPA is a context dependent measurement in which each play is judged on it's probable impact on the outcome of the game. It is a statistic that is meant to divide credit amongst the winning team and blame across the losing team. If you were to follow the link at the end of this paragraph, or even add all the numbers in this article together, they will add up to zero. The winning team is responsible for 0.5 wins, and the losing team is responsible for -.5 wins. The statistic has properties such that an 81-81 team, at the end of the season, will have a collective WPA of exactly zero. Source material for today's game can be found here. I used the statistics available at the preceding hyperlink, except that I attributed the negative WPA associated with errors in the field to the offending fielder, and removed it from the previously penalized pitcher.
First Hero: Pedro Alvarez (.349)
Alvarez fouled out to lead off the second, struck out swinging in the third, and flew out to center in the sixth. His lackluster afternoon was erased with a two-out, three-run homer to deadaway center field which put the Pirates on top for good, 5-4. He grounded out in the ninth inning. His long shot added 48.8% to Pittsburgh's chance of winning this contest.
Second Hero: Starlin Castro (.275)
Castro singled to right in the second, but was erased on an inning ending double play. He then hit an RBI single in the fourth to make it 2-0, later scoring Chicago's final run of the afternoon, making it 4-0. He flew out in the sixth inning, then in the ninth, singled with a man on first and nobody out to add 18.5% to Chicago's win chances. Of course, Jason Grilli came through in the end, but not before giving us all some heartburn.
Third Hero: Travis Wood (.225)
Wood struck out nine Pirates in only six innings, allowing three walks and four hits. He allowed one earned run (Neil Walker on Travis Sniders' pinch homer in the seventh). At the plate, he struck out looking at strike three in the third, getting on base in the fourth inning on a HBP.
Jason Grilli (.194), Mark Melancon (.138), Ryan Sweeney (.134), Tony Watson (.106), Nate Schierholtz (.083), Justin Grimm (.075), Travis Snider (.070), Darwin Barney (.066), Starling Marte (.047), Hector Rondon (.036).
Jordy Mercer (-.016), Travis Ishikawa (-.021), Neil Walker (-.023), Gerrit Cole (-.039), Clint Barmes (-.041) Andrew McCutchen (-.046), Gaby Sanchez (-.051), Mike Olt (-.070), Junior Lake (-.079), Brian Schlitter (-.081), Ryan Kalish (-.119), Tony Sanchez (-.158), Emilio Bonifacio (-.175).
Third Zero: Welington Castillo (-.180)
Castillo hit an RBI single in the fourth inning, but struck out twice swinging. This includes the second out of the ninth inning (worth -.162 WPA).
Second Zero: Luis Valbuena (-.184)
Valbuena entered the contest as a pinch hitter with two outs and nobody on in the ninth. He earned our second zero of the night when he became Jason Grilli's first of two strikeout victims.
First Zero: James Russell (-.501)
Russell accounted for just over a full loss with his almost surreal WPA of .501. He only faced two hitters. First, he allowed Alvarez his three-run homer (one earned run was credited to him). After walking Gaby Sanchez, he was pulled in favor of Justin Grimm.
Cole earned the win despite his negative WPA, due to some timely home run hitting on the part of his teammates, Lunchbox and El Toro. His published WPA of -.152 is inaccurate, as -.113 of that total was due to Tony Sanchez' error. I rectified that in the calculations. That's three series wins in three tries. Next up - our nemesis in Brew-Town.