We all knew coming into Sunday's game that facing Chris Sale would be a tough, tough match no matter how well Dan Haren pitched.
I don't think, however, anyone here expected Sale to dominate the Cubs the way he did, allowing just one single, two walks and striking out 15, in a 3-1 White Sox win over the Cubs that snapped the Cubs' nine-game winning streak.
No win streaks last forever and the Cubs can certainly be proud of the way they played during the nine games, and indeed, in the now 19 games since the sweep at the hands of the Phillies last month. Let us not forget that the Cubs are 16-3 over that span, the best record in the major leagues since July 26 (the Blue Jays are second at 15-4).
The only way the Cubs could have kept up with Sale Sunday afternoon is if they had Jake Arrieta at his best as his opponent. Since that didn't happen, Haren had to be nearly perfect and he wasn't. Haren's biggest issue this year has been the long ball and he gave up three of them, to Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Melky Cabrera, all with the bases empty. Apart from that, the White Sox had just five other hits and Sunday's bullpen combo of Travis Wood, Tommy Hunter, James Russell and Jason Motte allowed just one hit and three walks across 3⅓ innings of relief, at least keeping the game in reach.
The Cubs' best chance to score off Sale came in the sixth inning, when Sale's no-hit bid was broken up with one out on a no-doubt single to left by Dexter Fowler. Sale walked Chris Denorfia, struck out Kris Bryant (who looked particularly bad trying to handle Sale's offspeed repertoire) and then hit Anthony Rizzo, loading the bases with two out.
Jorge Soler, who I thought maybe, just maybe, could take Sale deep for a slam (as good as he's been this year, Sale has allowed 14 home runs), but he looked at a slider right down the middle for strike three, about as perfectly-placed a pitch as you could make. That strike followed two fastballs at 98-plus that Soler just managed to foul off.
The Cubs had a chance again in the ninth off Sox closer David Robertson, who has six blown saves this year. Soler homered off him with two out, and that's a good sign since he had hit only one other homer in 132 at-bats prior to that since his return from the disabled list July 5. Addison Russell then hit a grounder to third that Tyler Saladino made a great stop on and, at least according to first-base umpire Clint Fagan, threw Russell out.
The play was reviewed, and it really wasn't close; Russell was safe. So, the Cubs brought the tying run to the plate... could Starlin Castro be an unlikely hero? (That would have been especially nice after his drop of a routine force-out toss from Russell in the first inning.)
Nope. Castro grounded out to end the game, and the winning streak. Again, there's no shame in losing a game like this to a pitcher like Sale, who tied a career high with 15 strikeouts. Another strikeout mark that was tied in this game was one the Cubs aren't likely proud of: 18 K's tied the Cubs' franchise record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. It was the fifth time that happened, including once earlier this year. Here are the other four 18-K Cubs batting games (number of K's for each pitcher in parentheses):
- May 2, 2015, Brewers: Mike Fiers (13), Jeremy Jeffress (2), Will Smith (1), Francisco Rodriguez (3)
- August 14, 2011, Braves: Brandon Beachy (8), Arodys Vizcaino (3), Eric O'Flaherty (1), Jonny Venters (3), Craig Kimbrel (3)
- September 10, 1980, Expos: Bill Gullickson (18)
- April 24, 1962, Dodgers: Sandy Koufax (18)
The Cubs actually won that wacky 2011 game in Atlanta, 6-5.
Not so lucky Sunday with Sale and Sox relievers being dominant. All you can really say about this one was summed up by Joe Maddon and Haren:
#Cubs Maddon: "You're not going to win them all, man. That doesn't happen. Today we ran into a good pitcher and that was the difference "— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 16, 2015
#Cubs Haren; "I don't think anyone is really going to hang their heads -- just come out Tuesday and get back home and start winning again."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 16, 2015
Exactly right. Chris Sale is really, really good. Tip o'the BCB cap to him.
The Cubs will certainly welcome Monday's off day, and don't play until Tuesday evening when the Tigers come to Wrigley for a two-game set that kicks off a seven-game homestand. They'll certainly be happy to be away from the Cell, where, despite crowds being nearly half Cubs fans all three days, the White Sox seemed to be completely unprepared for full houses. Once again Sunday, no one was checking tickets in my section and people were up and down constantly and standing in the aisles. Seriously, Sox: it's only three games a year (and the next two years, it's probably only two games each year). Beef up your security force for one weekend! There weren't any incidents in the stands as there were on Saturday, but it still seemed somewhat out of control. And yes, it took a while to get out of the traffic mess around the Cell, the main reason this recap took so long to be posted.
The Cubs return to friendly territory Tuesday night, though there will likely be a large contingent of Tigers fans even though their team appears out of contention. The set kicks off with Jason Hammel pitching against Anibal Sanchez.
Let's start another winning streak, shall we?