Before I get to the Cubs' bullpen meltdown that led to their 4-3 loss to the Mets Thursday night, let me say this.
When you have runners on second and third with nobody out in the ninth inning and your best hitters coming to the plate, even against a top closer like Jeurys Familia, you really ought to score at least one run.
Familia won that battle and the Cubs were defeated.
But the game was actually lost two innings earlier, when the Mets put up a three-spot because Cubs relievers couldn't hold the lead that John Lackey had left the game with.
Can we declare the Joel Peralta Experiment over? He doesn't have top velocity -- peaked at about 91 in this one -- and his command is even worse. Brought in with a runner on and one out in the seventh, Peralta immediately walked Alejandro De Aza. This is almost impossible to do: De Aza had walked five times in 102 plate appearances before Thursday.
Then Brandon Nimmo, a rookie playing in his fifth major-league game, found a Peralta pitch to his liking and singled to make the score 3-2 Cubs.
Pedro Strop was summoned to face Neil Walker. And then this happened:
Here's what Javier Baez said about that throw:
The Cubs' frustrations were compounded when Baez, the second baseman, threw wide of third base in an attempt to nail Nimmo — the go-ahead run.
Baez said he didn't have enough time to throw home to prevent the tying run from scoring or to throw to first after Neil Walker hit a chopper near second with the infield in.
Bryant, who was backpedaling to third, admitted he was surprised by Baez's throw but thought they had a chance at nailing Nimmo.
"We'll learn from it, and next time I'll be ready for it," Bryant said.
Well, I'm going to disagree here. Looking at the video, Baez really didn't have much of a chance to get Nimmo even with a good throw. In my opinion, he should have at least checked for a play at first -- he's made acrobatic moves like that before -- and if there was no play there, he should have eaten the ball. That would have left runners on first and third with one out and the game tied, and Yoenis Cespedes due up.
Granted, that's not an easy situation, but Strop struck out Cespedes and got James Loney to hit a sharp line drive right at Anthony Rizzo.
Second-guessing is easy from my keyboard, I suppose, but in the end I wish Javy hadn't made that throw.
The game looked like it was going to be an easy win early on. Six pitches in, the Cubs had a 2-0 lead courtesy of a leadoff single by Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant's 22nd home run:
Here's a couple of fun facts about that homer:
Kris Bryant on the road:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 30, 2016
2015: 336 PA, 5 HR, 40 RBI
2016: 197 PA, 13 HR, 40 RBI (and counting)
through first PA tonight #Cubs
Most HR on the road this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 1, 2016
13 Kris Bryant #Cubs
13 Todd Frazier #WhiteSox
12 Anthony Rizzo #Cubs
12 Nelson Cruz #Mariners
Kris Bryant: first #Cubs player with 22+ HR before the All-Star break since Derrek Lee (27) in 2005— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 30, 2016
And Lackey was dealing. The only mistake he made through the first six innings was a fastball over the heart of the plate to Cespedes, who crushed it:
That was the first home run ever hit into the third deck at Citi Field, now in its eighth season. A tip o' the cap to Cespedes. Baez had also homered in the top of the inning, so the Cubs had a 3-1 lead, which the bullpen proceeded to blow.
Then came the ninth against Familia, who had not blown a save all year. Miguel Montero led off with a pinch-walk and Travis Wood ran for him. (This would have resulted in David Ross going behind the plate and Willson Contreras heading to the outfield if the Cubs had tied the game or taken the lead, since Montero was batting for Albert Almora Jr.)
Zobrist then launched a Familia fastball toward right-center field.
It's a bit hard to see on that video, but Zobrist's blast missed being a two-run homer by about four feet. Instead, the double sent Wood to third base.
Bryant and Rizzo were due up. Surely the Cubs could at least tie the game with a fly ball, with nobody out in the inning.
But K.B. struck out (it looked like he swung and missed on at least two pitches out of the strike zone) and Rizzo was intentionally passed to load the bases. That left it up to Contreras and Baez.
Contreras has hit well in his first couple of big-league weeks, but he looked overmatched against Familia, who struck him out. Baez popped up and that was the game, a frustrating loss which was the first regular-season Cubs loss to the Mets in almost two years, since August 16, 2014. The Cubs had won nine straight regular-season games against the Mets since then.
This one was frustrating in so many ways, from the bullpen failure to the failure to get a runner home from third with nobody out. The loss dropped the Cubs' record in one-run games to 10-12.
But the Cardinals also lost, so the Cubs' division lead remained at 11 games. And they'll have three more shots at the Mets this weekend.
Cubs walk watch: Six walks in this one (including three by Addison Russell) bring the season total to 341, or 4.37 per game. Pace: 708, and the Cubs are on pace to break the team record (650) in game 149, September 18 against the Brewers at Wrigley Field.
Friday night, the teams will meet for game two of this weekend series at Citi Field, with Jason Hammel on the mound for the Cubs and Jacob deGrom for the Mets.