The White Sox came into this series on a nine-game losing streak.
The Cubs came into this series off two emotional late-inning comebacks against their biggest rival.
So of course, the White Sox win the game 3-1. Because baseball. And because the Cubs simply could not get key hits when they needed them.
Kyle Hendricks threw all right in his first start back off the disabled list. But he was having trouble throwing strikes at times, which led to a high pitch count and his removal from the game with one out in the fifth and the game tied 1-1. Hendricks didn’t walk anyone, but he allowed eight hits and was taken out after Jose Abreu’s double scored Melky Cabrera to tie the game 1-1.
Justin Grimm got out of that inning, but in the next, Adam Engel homered to make it 2-1 White Sox.
Adam Engel. Who had 32 minor-league homers in 1,871 at-bats before being promoted, and just two in 101 at-bats coming into this game.
Earlier, Hendricks’ groundout with the bases loaded in the second inning had produced a 1-0 lead for the Cubs.
I’d have been very surprised if you had told me at that point that the Cubs wouldn’t score any more runs. Sox fans I know told me that Miguel Gonzalez was usually good through about five innings, then hitters could get to him. That actually turned out to be true, but the Cubs simply could not push runs across the plate. In the seventh, the Cubs got singles from Jon Jay and Javier Baez leading off the inning.
Now, it’s still 2-1 at this point, and the pitcher’s spot is up. Ian Happ was the pinch-hitter.
Would you have put someone else up there and bunted the runners along, saving Happ for later? Because if the runners had moved up, Jason Heyward’s fly ball would have tied the game.
Instead, Happ struck out. Kris Bryant walked after Heyward’s out, loading the bases, but Anthony Rizzo flied deep to center to end the inning. At this point the Cubs had left eight men on base.
Then Matt Davidson took a Koji Uehara pitch and sent it in the general direction of Evanston:
White Sox Matt Davidson with his 19th home run of the year. Long gone to Waveland Ave ! #whitesox lead #cubs #wrigley field @CarrieMuskat pic.twitter.com/EiliLCGpXs— BALLHAWK.NET (@Super_Dave) July 24, 2017
I spoke to Dave after the game — he said that ball went 476 feet, missed the building on Waveland by only about 20 feet. Yikes.
Still, it’s only 3-1 and the Cubs had another chance in the eighth. Kyle Schwarber singled with one out, and one out later Jay laid down a perfect bunt single, completing his 4-for-4 day:
Jon Jay: first #Cubs player with 4+ hits in a game where the team scored 1 or 0 runs since Emilio Bonifacio opening day 2014— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 24, 2017
Yikes again. We sure don’t want to go back there.
Javier Baez was next, and Anthony Swarzak fed him nothing but sliders until he lofted a ball to right field to end the inning.
Brian Duensing threw a 1-2-3 ninth. You know, Duensing has been one of the better and most consistent relievers on this staff. After a rough start in which he allowed six runs in his first five Cubs appearances, Duensing has a 1.47 ERA and 1.046 WHIP in his last 34 outings covering 36⅔ innings, with 42 strikeouts. Maybe Joe Maddon should use Duensing in higher-leverage situations — because right now, guys like Grimm and Uehara aren’t getting the job done.
And it also says to me that the Cubs ought to ramp up their pursuit of relief help by trade over the next week.
The Cubs had a shot at tying the game in the ninth. With two out, Bryant hit a slow roller to short that Tim Anderson couldn’t handle, and he reached with a single. Rizzo walked to put the tying run on base.
Willson Contreras, Sunday’s hero, was next. And after ball one, he looked at three straight hittable fastballs from Swarzak and was called out on strikes to end it. And looking at the photo at the top of this post, he wasn’t happy about that, but I thought Angel Hernandez called a fair game.
12 men left on base. 0-for-10 with RISP. You have seen this movie before, and the ending isn’t any different.
This is the best news from this game:
#Cubs starters in 10 games since All-Star break:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 24, 2017
2.39 ERA, 60.1 IP, 43 Hits, 11 BB, 57 K, 9 HR, 0.895 WHIP, .197 opp BA
Obviously, if Cubs starters can keep this up they’re going to win a lot of games. This one was tremendously frustrating, because with all those baserunners, the Cubs probably should have won this one, too.
The loss drops the Cubs back to second place, half a game behind the Brewers. But there are still three games left in this series against the White Sox, and right now they’re the worst team in the American League. And the Brewers will open a three-game series against the Nationals in Washington Tuesday night, so there’s plenty of time for the Cubs to make their move and take over first place before the big series in Milwaukee this weekend.
Tuesday afternoon at 1:20 CT, it’ll be John Lackey for the Cubs and Carlos Rodon for the White Sox.