Two weeks ago, we covered the game of April 15. In that game, the Cubs had the lead in a game that Jake Arrieta started. When Jake left, the Cubs were leading 6-3. Brian Duensing and Pedro Strop combined to allow five runs in the seventh and the Cubs were unable to recover. That game dropped them to 6-5.
The Cubs had to be cautiously optimistic though with Jon Lester on the mound the following day. They would have a chance to bounce right back. Lester was superb on this day. Unfortunately for the Cubs, Jameson Taillon was matching him on the other side. Taillon threw seven innings allowing only seven hits and three walks. He struck out six. That seventh inning turned out to be one too many though for him. With the score still tied at zero, he allowed a lead off single to Jason Heyward. Willson Contreras then grounded weakly to short but the Pirates botched the force at second and both runners were safe. Tommy La Stella followed with a double and the Cubs had a 1-0 lead.
Koji Uehara started the eighth inning for the Cubs. He allowed a walk to John Jaso. Adam Frazier followed with a pinch hit double, advancing Jaso to third. Josh Bell received the unintentional walk to load the bases and Jordy Mercer stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs. He dropped a ball into shallow center that scored the tying run. That was it for Koji. He faced just four batters, allowing two hits and two walks. That was worth a -.526 WPA.
Hector Rondon followed in the inning. He did get Starling Marte to ground to second resulting in a force at home. Andrew McCutchen then reached on a fielder’s choice on a play that Joe Maddon unsuccessfully challenged, resulting in a second Pirates run. David Freese then flew out to right, allowing a third run. He then got a Francisco Cervelli ground out to end the inning.
Justin Grimm pitched the ninth and allowed three more runs. The Cubs offense did not muster any counter punch and they fell 6-1 to drop their record to 6-6. Here’s the boxscore.
Koji Uehara remains unsigned and I suspect his MLB might be over. Koji did suggest that he felt that he had two seasons left in him during the early part of the season. He struggled when he was healthy and that wasn’t often. It’s hard to imagine the pitcher who will turn 43 in April will get anything more than a non-roster invite to spring training and even that is far from a given. If this is it for him, he had a very good major league career that included winning a World Series, an ALCS MVP and an All-Star game. He produced 13.9 bWAR over a career in which he had a 2.66 ERA in 480.2 innings of work. I suspect if he doesn’t find a home in America he’ll go back to Japan and look to pitch those additional seasons that he was hoping for closer to home.
That’s it for this one. Later this week I’ll be back with another look at the 1984 Cubs as they approach the All-Star break. Then next week I’ll be back with our next look at the biggest WPA events of 2017. We’ll be looking at my favorite game that I attended this year from August 3. The result wasn’t great, but it was a supremely exciting game to watch.