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Brewers 2, Cubs 1: The Strikeout Kings

The Chicago Cubs have struck out a lot this year. How much? Come inside, dear reader.

Mike McGinnis

Strikeouts aren't the be-all and end-all of why a team loses, but it would seem to me that the Cubs are going to have to cut down on them before they improve in the win column.

The Cubs long ago obliterated the team batter strikeout record (it had been 1,269, set in 2002; they're now at 1,465) and in their 2-1 loss to the Brewers Saturday night, they struck out 16 more times. That's the sixth time they've struck out that many times in a game this year -- but just the third time they'd done so in a nine-inning game.

There have been 47 games this year in which a team has struck out 16 or more times. Only the Marlins, with eight such games, have done this more often than the Cubs. No other team has more than three.

As I said, strikeouts aren't the be-all and end-all. But the Cubs, who are going to lead the major leagues in K's by a significant margin (they lead by 29 with one game to go, and have the third-highest team total in history, behind the 2010 Diamondbacks and 2013 Astros), might have scored more runs if they weren't striking out so much.

Wily Peralta, who had 13 of the K's, had the Cubs handcuffed offensively all night. Anthony Rizzo doubled in the Cubs' only run in the third inning, which Tsuyoshi Wada promptly gave back to Milwaukee in the bottom of the inning on a Carlos Gomez home run. Wada wasn't particularly sharp Saturday night, but did manage to keep his team in the game. Jonathan Lucroy doubled in the eventual winning run for the Brewers in the fifth. It was his 53rd double of the year, 46th as a catcher, which set a major-league record for most doubles in a season by a catcher.

Wada finishes his season with a 3.25 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 13 starts covering 69⅓ innings. Those are decent enough numbers to ask him back; there have been conflicting reports on whether the Cubs will invite him to return for 2015, but I'd say he has at least a chance to become a back-of-the-rotation inning-eater, and given that he's lefthanded, if the Cubs don't give him a shot someone else will.

Rizzo was the only Cub with more than one hit, but five Cubs joined a sad parade of players with more than one strikeout: Chris Coghlan, Jorge Soler, Luis Valbuena, Ryan Kalish and Arismendy Alcantara, who led the list with three K's. Alcantara did give the Cubs a good shot at tying the game in the seventh-inning with a one-out triple, but... well, you could probably have guessed if I didn't write this. Peralta struck out Kalish and pinch-hitter Logan Watkins to strand Mendy at third.

I suppose it's some small consolation that on another big K night, Javier Baez struck out only once.

And incredibly enough, Edwin Jackson made his first relief appearance as a member of the Cubs and threw a scoreless inning, issuing one walk but otherwise retiring his three hitters without incident. I don't necessarily think this means anything other than reducing his season ERA from 6.38 to 6.33.

A few notes: with the Reds' win Saturday afternoon, Cincinnati clinched fourth place in the N.L. Central and the closest the Cubs could finish to fourth is two games, if the Pirates defeat the Reds and the Cubs win Sunday. Since the Cubs finished eight games behind fourth place in 2013 and 18 games behind that spot in 2012, I'll consider finishing closer to fourth progress. Also, the loss prevented the Cubs from having a winning September; the best they could do now, with a win Sunday, would be 12-13, and they also will have a losing record in one-run games, as this one dropped their one-run game record to 19-21.

Finally, Chris Rusin was claimed on waivers by the Rockies Saturday, opening a 40-man roster spot. A tip o' the cap to Rusin, a modestly-talented lefthander who was several times this year asked to "take one for the team" after trades or injuries, rushed in from Des Moines to eat up a few innings. There will no doubt be further moves like this before the November 20 deadline to finalize rosters for the Rule 5 draft.

And so, the 2014 season enters its final day; the Cubs will play once more, with Jacob Turner facing Mike Fiers Sunday afternoon at Miller Park, before heading home for the winter. I'm going to go to this one, to take in one more game before the offseason, and most likely today's recap will be posted Monday morning.