Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to the Marlins was a microcosm of the 2017 season (so far, at least).
First-inning runs allowed? Check. Opponents’ home runs allowed? Check. One misplay that turned out to be the difference in the game? Check.
I suppose starting at the beginning would be the best way to recap the defeat that broke the Cubs’ five-game winning streak, so here goes.
Dee Gordon led off the game with a triple to left. One out later, Christian Yelich hit a fly ball to medium-deep left field. Even with the speedy Gordon on third base, Kyle Schwarber had a shot at throwing him out, but Schwarber’s throw headed somewhere in the direction of Addison Street, 1-0 Marlins.
That makes 52 first-inning runs allowed in 58 games. The Cubs have been outscored 52-38 in the first inning this year. Relevant comparison: last year’s Cubs outscored their opponents 109-71 in the first inning. Even more relevant comparison: the Brewers, who passed the Cubs into first place Wednesday by defeating the Giants, have done extremely well in the first inning:
#Brewers settle for 1-0 lead on the Santana homer and have outscored opposition 56-17 in the first inning this season.— Tom (@Haudricourt) June 8, 2017
That’s... really impressive, and tells a fair amount of the story of the Brewers’ success this year. The Cubs simply are going to have to find ways to stop giving up first-inning runs. You can’t come from behind every single game, it’s just not possible.
Still, the Cubs did take the lead in this one in the third inning. Schwarber led off with a double, and after Ian Happ walked, Anthony Rizzo split the gap in right-center and doubled them both in [VIDEO].
That lead lasted about two minutes, as John Lackey got hit hard in the fourth. J.T. Realmuto homered, the first of four straight Marlins hits, and by the time it was over the Marlins had a 4-2 lead. It was extended to 5-2 in the fifth on a homer by Marcell Ozuna. Here Lackey talks about the two-run single [VIDEO] he allowed to J.T. Riddle in the fourth.
It’s real simple. Lackey’s just going to have to get better. He’s having his worst year since 2011, the year before he had Tommy John surgery.
The Cubs began a comeback with Happ’s fifth homer of the year in the fifth [VIDEO].
Brian Duensing relieved Lackey after Jon Jay pinch-hit for him in the sixth. Duensing allowed a leadoff single to Gordon, who stole second easily off Miguel Montero, who had entered batting for Willson Contreras in the sixth (a move I found puzzling). Gordon scored when Giancarlo Stanton struck out and Montero couldn’t hold the ball. He couldn’t find it at first and... well, watch [VIDEO].
Gordon never stopped running and Rizzo hesitated slightly before throwing home and Gordon was safe. That turned out to be the decisive run of the game, unfortunately.
The Cubs still tried to come back. Schwarber went oppo in the seventh, just barely making the first row in left-center [VIDEO].
The Cubs had a runner in scoring position with two out in that inning, but Jason Heyward grounded out.
The Cubs made it 6-5 in the eighth. With two out, Jay singled, and then Schwarber doubled into the gap [VIDEO].
After Schwarber’s double Marlins closer A.J. Ramos came into the game. You might remember Ramos from this game last year in which he walked three in the ninth inning and wild-pitched the winning run in. Ramos is still having command and control issues, walking 5.7 per nine innings. He got out of the eighth by striking out Happ, and did issue a one-out walk in the ninth. But he got Ben Zobrist on a comebacker and Heyward flied to center and that was the end of the Cubs’ winning streak.
Frustrating, I suppose, is the best word to describe this one. The Cubs left nine men on base and went 1-for-7 with RISP, and as you know that’s been an issue all year as well.
A curiosity about this game:
Sure you can ask questions. Rizzo and Zobrist have switched positions like this before when a bunt is expected. The second baseman (it’s also been Javier Baez this year) moves over to hold the runner and Rizzo switches gloves to prepare to field the bunt. It’s the seventh time the Cubs have made the swap this year with Rizzo, who did field a bunt by Jose Urena the first time. Fantasy players, I suppose, will enjoy it when Rizzo qualifies as a second baseman in their leagues.
Now, about Schwarber. He went 3-for-4 and looked much more comfortable at the plate. He’s only hitting for extra bases these days, though:
Kyle Schwarber still hasn't singled since May 17th.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 8, 2017
Last 5 hits:
That list didn’t include his second double, so he now has six extra-base hits in the last three weeks, no singles. Overall that makes him 6-for-48 (.125) since his last single with 21 strikeouts... but also two doubles and four home runs. At least he’s now showing signs of getting out of this awful slump. Fun fact:
Despite the struggles, Kyle Schwarber's 10 HR would lead or tie for the team lead on the Red Sox, White Sox, Phillies, Giants or Cardinals.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 8, 2017
Here are Joe Maddon’s comments on Schwarber’s effort [VIDEO], as well as some other thoughts on the loss.
And that really does sum this up. Winning streaks always do come to an end. Now it’s up to the Cubs to start another one Thursday night. It won’t be easy as the Rockies, who come to town to begin a four-game series, are hot, having won four in a row and five of their last six.
A couple of other notes: Ichiro Suzuki pinch-hit for the third straight night. He got another warm welcome. Ichiro’s not playing much this year, and not hitting well. Despite his stated desire to play till he’s 50, this might wind up being his last year, and thus Wednesday could have been his final appearance at Wrigley Field. It’s nice to have seen Wrigley fans’ appreciation for an outstanding career.
And, the Cubs drew five walks Wednesday, bringing the season total to 231, or 3.98 per game. That’s a pace for 645, close to last year’s club record 656. The Cubs are one behind the Dodgers for the N.L. lead, but the Dodgers have played three more games.
This weekend series will be a good test for this year’s edition of the Cubs. The Rockies’ contention appears to be for real, as they’re actually playing better on the road (21-10) than at home (17-13). Thursday night, Jon Lester takes the mound against Tyler Chatwood.