Early Wednesday evening, I was getting all geared up to write a “meatloaf” recap of this game, what with the Cubs leading it off with home runs from Anthony Rizzo and Ian Happ, getting a monster shot from Kyle Schwarber, and heading into the middle innings with a 4-1 lead.
All of that blew up when the bullpen couldn’t hold that lead and a disastrous five-run eighth turned this one into a 9-4 blowout loss to the Mets.
Let’s begin with what Joe Maddon said about his team after the game:
#Cubs Maddon: "We definitely had control of that game and gave it up."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 15, 2017
#Cubs Maddon: "We've earned the right to be in this position. We've played well enough to be a .500 club ..."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 15, 2017
More #Cubs Maddon: "We have a nice group and I believe in our group but we have to prove it on the field"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 15, 2017
All of this is true. So is this:
The Cubs-Mets game is absolutely a microcosm of the season. Cubs up 4-0 on three bombs. Now losing 8-4. Sheesh.— Joe Posnanski (@JPosnanski) June 15, 2017
That was sent before the Mets’ last run scores, but “Sheesh” is about the cleanest reaction any of us likely had to that Mets eighth inning.
Let’s look at the good stuff first. Anthony Rizzo appears to like hitting leadoff [VIDEO].
That was on Matt Harvey’s first pitch of the game. It took only six more pitches for Ian Happ to make the score 2-0 [VIDEO].
This is looking really good, right? But those weren’t even the fun part. This was the fun part [VIDEO].
Kyle Schwarber’s 467-foot home run with a man on base cleared what the Mets call the “Shea Bridge,” a walkway behind the right-field seats you see in the video. I’ve been on that walkway. That is a long way from home plate!
Here are the numbers on the Rizzo and Schwarber homers:
It’s 4-1 and things are looking good for meatloaf.
Someday, Mike Montgomery will figure out how to lower his pitch counts so he can throw beyond the fifth inning. 88 pitches in, he was lifted for Pedro Strop after five innings. Montgomery only walked one, which is good, but he ran a number of long counts and was hurt by an error by Kris Bryant which allowed the Mets’ first run to score in the second inning.
Strop didn’t help matters any by walking the first batter he faced, Curtis Granderson, and then allowing a long triple to Juan Lagares that tied the game.
Meanwhile, the Cubs’ bats went silent. After Schwarber’s homer the Cubs had just two baserunners from the fifth through the eighth inning.
Still, that left the game tied going into the bottom of the eighth. Carl Edwards Jr. had a 1-2-3 seventh, throwing only eight pitches, so Joe Maddon left him in the game to start the eighth. In the past I’ve been in favor of moves like this, leaving relievers with low pitch counts for one inning in for a second inning.
Unfortunately, this time it didn’t work. Granderson homered to give the Mets the lead and that seemed to unsettle CJ, who walked Jose Reyes on four pitches and gave up a pinch-single to Yoenis Cespedes.
Hector Rondon entered the game and recorded the first out, though on a hard-hit ball to Javier Baez.
Then he served up a three-run homer to Lucas Duda, who didn’t even start the game.
You probably don’t need to hear the rest. There’s something clearly wrong with Hector, who hadn’t pitched in six days. He’s allowed four total runs in his last four appearances and has already served up five home runs in 24⅔ innings this year. For now, I’d think Joe ought to use Justin Grimm in those high-leverage situations, since Grimm has been very good since his recall. Whatever’s wrong with Rondon, I hope the Cubs can figure it out and fix it.
The Cubs did manage to load the bases on three singles off Addison Reed in the ninth inning, but Rizzo swung at the first pitch from Reed and grounded out to end it.
Consider that the Mets won this game handily despite being without their starting shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera, as well as having Cespedes limited to pinch-hitting and losing their starting second baseman Neil Walker to an ugly-looking hamstring injury in the third inning. If the Cubs can’t beat an injury-depleted Mets team...
And yet. The Cubs, despite falling again a game under .500, trail the Brewers for first place in the N.L. Central by just two games. I don’t see the Brewers keeping up this pace. The Cubs have the talent to win the division. They will need to find another starting pitcher, true enough, but I keep thinking that soon, this team will go on a long winning streak.
They’ll spend their off day in Pittsburgh and try to figure out how to do that. Friday evening, Eddie Butler goes for the Cubs against Pittsburgh’s Trevor Williams.