Didn't we see this game on Monday?
The Cubs went behind early, in part due to Cardinals home runs, and then had to try to mount a comeback. Just as it did on Monday, in front of a playoff-atmosphere crowd, the comeback fell short, and the Cubs lost another tough one-run affair, this time 4-3.
Some good did come out of this loss, but let's first get to the details.
The Cubs scored in the first inning on a single by Chris Coghlan, a walk and two fly balls, the second Anthony Rizzo's 54th RBI of the season.
But Jason Hammel started getting hit hard in the second inning. One run scored, and the last out of the inning was a sharp line drive snagged by Addison Russell, hit by Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright. This was a hint of things to come. Matt Carpenter led off the third with a home run. The next hitter, Aledmys Diaz, lined a single to left, and then Matt Holliday deposited a ball into the left-field bleachers.
Suddenly, then, it was 4-1, but as it was only the third inning, plenty of time to come back.
A leadoff walk by Coghlan and a double by Jason Heyward made it 4-2 in the bottom of the inning, and in the fourth, Willson Contreras and Russell began the inning with singles. Contreras scored when Albert Almora Jr. hit into a double play, bringing the Cubs within one run.
Unfortunately, that turned out to be a theme for the rest of the night. The Cubs also hit into double plays in the sixth (Contreras) and eighth (Ben Zobrist), both ending innings. Russell doubled in the seventh and advanced to third on an infield out, but was stranded. Check out Russell's double, which missed being a home run by maybe 10 feet:
Here's how close that came to being a home run:
Addison Russell just missed a HR... 105 MPH and 23 degree launch angle. It's been a HR 71% of the time pic.twitter.com/QlnNTWR2fq— Daren Willman (@darenw) June 22, 2016
And then came the ninth. Russell singled with one out and Javier Baez, who had entered in the eighth on a double switch, had a really nice at-bat and walked to put the tying run in scoring position with two out. But pinch-hitter Matt Szczur hit a ground ball to Diaz, who just beat Russell to second to end it.
These games are frustrating; the Cardinals came into the series 4-11 in one-run games. The Cubs haven't been all that great when they can't generate offense, and are now 9-11 in one-run affairs. It seems to me that despite Almora's great defensive play and generally decent offensive performance (though he was 0-for-4 in this one), games like the last two show how much the Cubs miss having Dexter Fowler at the top of the lineup. Hurry back, Dex.
Almora flashed some glove Tuesday night:
And perhaps portending better play to come was the performance of the bullpen. Hammel was lifted with two out in the sixth for Gerardo Concepcion, who was making his major-league debut.
Stop for a moment and think about how unlikely the last part of that last sentence is. Concepcion was signed out of Cuba in 2012 at age 20. It was said at the time -- and there's no specific proof of this, only conjecture -- that his signing was made to help convince Jorge Soler to sign with the Cubs.
Concepcion was, to put it charitably, awful. He posted a 7.39 ERA in 12 starts at Peoria. He pitched in only two games in 2013, had a decent year in 2014 (though not above A ball), then was horrid again between Myrtle Beach and Tennessee in 2015 (combined 6.90 ERA).
Somehow, this year things came together for Concepcion, who had a combined 1.29 ERA and 0.971 WHIP between Tennessee and Iowa. He doesn't seem to have great velocity (topped out at around 92 on the Wrigley pitch-speed meter), but his pitches do appear to have good movement and he attacks the zone. He struck out Brandon Moss to end the sixth, got some help from Russell [VIDEO] on a line drive leading off the seventh, and wound up retiring all four hitters he faced.
One appearance, granted, does not tell us everything we need to know about Concepcion. But after looking completely lost through much of his minor-league career, he appears as if he could be right at home in a big-league bullpen.
Pedro Strop and Travis Wood threw uneventful innings in the eighth and ninth; the only baserunner was Diaz, who was hit by a 3-2 fastball from Strop leading off the eighth. In fact, the Cardinals had just three baserunners all told after Holliday's home run, and one was erased on a fourth-inning double play.
But frustratingly, the Cubs went 0-for-9 with RISP on the night, and therein lies the story of this loss.
The Cubs will try to salvage one game out of this series Wednesday afternoon. Jake Arrieta is scheduled to go against Michael Wacha. There's a high likelihood of strong thunderstorms throughout the day, so stay tuned here for information about whether this game will be played.