Jake Arrieta and the Cubs were going for a major-league record 24th straight win in games Jake started. And -- at least until the seventh inning -- he and Scott Kazmir were locked in a terrific pitchers' duel.
Then Jake walked the bases loaded in the seventh after retiring the first two hitters, a bit of uncharacteristic wildness. He struck out pinch-hitter Justin Turner on three pitches and the game remained scoreless. But the walks ran Jake's pitch count up to 107, and according to Mark Gonzales in the Tribune:
[Manager Joe] Maddon said he would have kept Arrieta in the game if he had not jacked up his pitch count because of the walks.
It's been said often this year that the Cubs are going to try to limit Jake's innings and pitches so he can be fresher for the postseason. This is a fine idea, and if the Cubs bullpen could have done a better job Tuesday night, it all would have worked out.
Clayton Richard was summoned to throw the eighth. He was the logical choice, as the Dodgers began the inning with three lefthanded hitters and Travis Wood was unavailable because of his 43-pitch outing Monday.
Richard got hit hard. Three solid singles began the inning, scoring a run, and Maddon brought Adam Warren into the game. A sacrifice fly made it 2-0.
But Kazmir and two Dodgers relievers were just too good. The game was almost a mirror image of Monday's; after Dexter Fowler singled with one out in the third inning, L.A. pitchers retired 19 straight Cubs, including getting Fowler on a caught-stealing. The Cubs' only other baserunners came on Fowler's leadoff walk in the first, and Anthony Rizzo's ninth hit-by-pitch of the season, also in that inning. With two runners on, the Cubs had a chance right there, but the hottest hitter on the team, Ben Zobrist, struck out. Zobrist's hitting streak ended at 16 games.
Even down 2-0, it felt as if the Cubs might have had a comeback in them, but after Warren allowed a pair of singles to start the ninth, Maddon lifted him for Trevor Cahill. One out later, Corey Seager smashed a no-doubt-about-it homer into the right-field party patio area to put the game out of reach at 5-0.
If that felt weird, it was. It was just the third game all year the Cubs lost by five or more runs (they're 18-3 in such games) and the first since they were blown out 13-5 April 23 at Cincinnati. Potential good news: The Cubs immediately followed that loss by winning four straight and 12 of 13.
Those kinds of games are going to happen, and it's a shame the Arrieta streak ended, though his personal winning streak of 22 is still active with the no-decision. That streak is two short of tying the major-league record of 24, held by Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell. And, apparently, it takes a pitcher allowing the Cubs just one hit -- or none -- to beat them in an Arrieta start, as those are the hit totals in each of Jake's last two defeats. The last game Jake started and the Cubs lost in which they had more than one hit was June 26, 2015 against the Cardinals in St. Louis -- a game lost after Jake departed.
The larger problem for the Cubs is that they really don't have a solid LOOGY. Richard was very good against lefthanded hitters in 2015 (.234/.269/.266, 67 PA) but has been terrible vs. LHB this year (.435/.500/.478, 10-for-23, just two strikeouts). So I'd have to believe management is looking around for some lefthanded bullpen help, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Richard replaced soon. Many here have mentioned Andrew Miller as a possibility, but I don't think the Yankees are ready to deal. I posted about Jake McGee yesterday, and it's entirely possible that the Cubs look internally and promote Gerardo Concepcion, who has 25 strikeouts, a 0.695 WHIP and 0.66 ERA in 27⅓ innings combined between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs have room on the 40-man roster (currently at 37). Why not?
A curiosity about this game: Tommy La Stella was inserted at third base in a double switch in the ninth inning. Addison Russell departed and Kris Bryant shifted to shortstop, the first time he'd played there as a professional. In doing so, he accomplished this feat:
The game was delayed by 27 minutes at the start by moderate-to-heavy rain that started about 4:00 and lasted till about 6:30, after which it took the grounds crew a while to prepare the field for play. At one point around 5:15 Cubs security folks cleared the bleachers and other exposed areas due to lightning expected in the area, though none even materialized. Once the game started no more rain fell, though it got quite cool and a lake breeze developed. Cubs hitters lofted several fly balls that looked like they might head toward the outfield walls or the seats, but the ball was simply not carrying in the heavy air. Seager's home run was crushed.
Weather permitting, the teams will go at it again tonight at 7:05 p.m. CT. Jon Lester goes for the Cubs and Mike Bolsinger for the Dodgers.