Starlin Castro slammed a long two-run homer off Johnny Cueto in the sixth inning to tie the game at 4. The ball flew over our heads in the left-field corner and cleared the new bleacher structure, the first homer to do so in left field. It landed somewhere in the construction area on Waveland, and was one of the longest homers to be hit at Wrigley this year. It's nice to see Castro hit with some power and maybe this can be the beginning of good things for him.
Unfortunately, Kris Bryant's error on Todd Frazier's ground ball leading off the 10th inning helped lead to the decisive unearned run off Hector Rondon.
That's the end of what wound up being a long afternoon at the ballpark. The day started off looking like the Reds would knock Jason Hammel out of the game early. An uncharacteristic error by Addison Russell helped lead to a 37-pitch first inning for Hammel, who allowed three runs in the inning on three hits, hit a batter and didn't look at all like the reliable Hammel we've seen up to now. Two of the three runs in the inning were unearned due to Russell's error.
Give Hammel credit, he battled through four more innings and allowed just one other run, a homer by Todd Frazier, and helped himself with an RBI single in the second inning, when the Cubs briefly cut the deficit to one run. Hammel has definitely helped himself at the plate this year, but read these numbers and weep:
#Cubs pitchers at the plate this season: Jason Hammel: 8 for 31 Lester, Arrieta & Hendricks combined: 2 for 75— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 12, 2015
That was sent before Hammel grounded out in the fourth, so he's now 8-for-32. Cubs pitchers besides Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks are 3-for-32, thus overall Cubs pitchers are hitting .101 (14-for-139) with 69 strikeouts. Ugh. Joe Maddon is likely going to continue to bat them eighth, and here is a very good article from ESPN.com's Jayson Stark which explains why he's doing it. I honestly don't know how much it hurts or helps the team in general, but it sure doesn't appear to be helping Cubs pitchers hit overall.
Anyway, credit as well to the Cubs bullpen for keeping the team in the game. From the sixth through the ninth innings Zac Rosscup, James Russell, Jason Motte and Pedro Strop faced 13 hitters, struck out six of them and allowed only one baserunner, a walk by Rosscup. They combined for 71 pitches, 43 for strikes. Nice work, and I thought Rondon threw reasonably well, too, he was just victimized by Bryant's error.
The Cubs had an excellent chance to win the game in the ninth inning off J.J. Hoover. Chris Coghlan led off with a single and was sacrificed to second. Pinch-hitter Jonathan Herrera hit a sinking line drive to right-center on which Jay Bruce made a fantastic diving catch:
(Note, you might want to watch that with the sound off, as it's Thom Brennaman on the call.)
Credit where it's due, if Bruce doesn't make that play, the Cubs win the game. Coghlan advanced to third. Russell walked on four pitches, but Dexter Fowler hit a fly ball that looked like it might get down for a game-winner, but Billy Hamilton ran it down in medium-deep center field.
Meanwhile, the weather was getting worse and worse. A light rain ended before Wrigley gates opened, but a drizzly mist kept falling for most of the early innings with a strong wind blowing off Lake Michigan. Remind me what month this is again? June? It felt like November. The drizzle finally stopped around the sixth inning, but a couple of innings later fog started blowing off the lake and by the time Aroldis Chapman came on for a save opportunity in the bottom of the 10th, it was getting hard to see home plate from the bleachers. Which led to this comment from Maddon:
Asked how hard it was to face Chapman in fog, #Cubs Maddon said: "You'd have to ask the hitters what they didn't see."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 13, 2015
Chapman struck out Anthony Rizzo on a 101 mile per hour fastball, and got Bryant swinging on a ball that was "only" at 99. Miguel Montero worked a walk on a 3-2 fastball, putting the tying run on base, and that brought Castro to the plate. Could he work some heroics again?
Castro got the bat on the ball, but lofted a lazy fly ball to left field, and the game was over.
Give the Cubs credit for getting back in this game after it appeared lost early on; they just didn't have enough to win it. Those things are going to happen. Both losses to the Reds this year are by one run, and it was going to be a tough time winning against Cueto, anyway.
Saturday, the Cubs will send Hendricks to the mound against Mike Leake in a Fox-TV "Baseball Night in America" special that starts at 6:15 p.m. CT. We are told it will be warmer -- but still with a chance of rain. Perhaps summer will arrive in Chicago, eventually.