The Cubs season is over. For the Cubs bats, the season pretty much ended on Sunday.
In the longest Wild Card game in history, the Cubs fell to the Rockies 2-1 in the 13th inning. The Cubs only managed six hits and one run in 13 innings. In their final 22 innings, they managed just two runs.
Both teams emptied their benches for this game and in the end, it was the Rockies who were still standing when it all ended after midnight in Wrigley Field.
The game got off to a bad start when Jon Lester couldn’t find the zone early and walked Charlie Blackmon to lead off the game. Former Cub D.J. LeMahieu then took a 3-2 pitch and lined it into the gap between Kris Bryant in left and Albert Almora in right field. I don’t think the ball ever got over ten feet off the ground. The ball jumped into the ivy and Bryant threw up his hands for a ground-rule double.
Things could have gotten bad really quickly with Nolan Arenado up with no outs and runners on second and third. But while Arenado hit a fly ball to Almora in center field that was deep enough to score Blackmon, he didn’t really hit it all that hard. Definitely not as hard as we know Arenado can hit it. Then Lester struck out Trevor Story and Matt Holliday to end the threat.
And that was pretty much the story of Lester’s night. When the Rockies made contact off Lester, they hit the ball pretty hard. Sometimes at someone and sometimes not. But Lester was also dancing cutters on both sides of the plate and he struck out nine batters over six innings—five swinging and four looking. In between that, he gave up three more hits (four total), two of which were doubles (three total). David Dahl crushed one to in left-center that looked like a home run in the second inning, but Almora nestled into the ivy and made the catch as the ball died at the warning track.
Meanwhile, Rockies starter Kyle Freeland was pitching on short rest, but he didn’t look like it. Or at least, the Cubs didn’t let him look like it. The Cubs were swinging at pretty much everything and not doing any damage. Freeland was throwing cut fastballs and the Cubs were only making weak contact off of him.
The Cubs got nothing off of Freeland. They never got three strikes off of Freeland until the sixth inning, when Ian Happ pinch-hit for Lester leading off the sixth inning. Happ worked an eight-pitch walk. After a Ben Zobrist strikeout, Kris Bryant hit a lazy fly ball to right field that Dahl misplayed and it dropped harmlessly for a single. The Cubs had their first threat of the game, but one pitch later, Anthony Rizzo hit into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Lester finished the night with one run on four hits over six innings. He walked one (who ended up scoring) and struck out nine.
Jesse Chavez came in to pitch the seventh inning and gave up a leadoff hit to Ian Desmond. The next batter was Dahl and he hit another deep fly ball to Bryant in left field. I’d guess Rockies (or at least Desmond) thought they could take advantage of the third baseman playing left field and tried to advance to second base. Bryan threw him out at second base pretty easily, even if the Rockies challenged the call on the field. Replays showed that Murphy pretty easily got the tag on Desmond’s left arm.
Almora hit hard line drive to center field for a one-out single off of Freeland in the bottom of the seventh inning and it looked like Freeland was finally gassed on short rest. Freeland had to pitch to Daniel Murphy because the Rockies bullpen wasn’t ready yet and Murphy lined one that shortstop Trevor Story speared to save at least a single.
That was it for Freeland and I don’t think anyone can argue he didn’t turn in one of the best pitching performances in the history of the Rockies. It’s the first time a Rockies starter has ever not allowed a run in a playoff game. (They’ve played 21 postseason games.) Adam Ottavino was summoned from the pen and it was clear from the beginning he had control issues. The first pitch was a wild pitch and then he walked Willson Contreras.
Then, in another turning point where the game didn’t turn, Tommy LaStella hit a weak ground ball. But Drew Butera, whom Rockies manager Bud Black had inserted for defense, got called on catcher’s interference. That brought up pinch-hitter Jason Heyward with the game on the line.
Heyward struck out. There can be a case that Kyle Schwarber should have gone up to bat there, but Heyward has a .340 on-base percentage against right-handers this year and Schwarber has a .352. Not a big difference, especially since Heyward went out to play the outfield in the eighth inning. Certainly Schwarber would have been more likely to hit a game-busting grand slam but as far as getting just one run, there wasn’t a lot of difference between the two. Besides, Schwarber pinch-hit in a crucial situation in the bottom of the ninth and struck out too.
The Cubs got a two-out rally in the eighth. Anthony Rizzo took an outside fastball back up the middle for a line-drive single. That brought on the Cubs designated guided missile Terrance Gore to pinch-run with Javy Baez at the plate.
First pitch from Ottavino was a slider for a called strike. Gore stole second base without a throw.
The second pitch from Ottavino was a swinging strike.
Third pitch? El Mago.
Baez lined a slider that was right down the plate to left-center field for an RBI double. It was the first hit Ottavino allowed on an 0-2 pitch all season. The game was tied.
That brought on former Cubs closer Wade Davis, who struck out Albert Almora to send the game to the ninth tied.
Pedro Strop did the best tribute to Kirk Gibson that he could, coming on to pitch the ninth after missing the final two weeks of the season with a hamstring pull. He gave up a harmless one-out single, but he struck out Arenado and Desmond and got Gerardo Parra to ground out to Murphy, who was playing first. Murphy looked bad on the play, but no one cares how you look as long as you get the out.
Cole Hamels came on to pitch in the tenth. It was only his second career relief appearance and that one was just an end-of-the-year tune up after the Phillies had clinched in 2011. He gave up a single in the tenth inning and then loaded the bases with two outs in the eleventh when Bryant (now playing third base) threw to second on a slow grounder that Gerardo Parra beat out. It was a huge mental mistake for Bryant, who could have gotten the hitter Desmond at first base easily. But no damage was done after Hamels got Dahl to ground out.
Baez led off the bottom of the 11th with a walk and Almora bunted him over to second base. Baez was thinking third on the play, but Rockies catcher Butera got to third to cover quickly enough. Then after intentionally walking Murphy, Contreras came to the plate with runners on first and second and one out. Contreras then seemed to hurt himself swinging. He stayed in the game, but hit a slow chopper to third base.
Baez stopped on the way to third and ended up hugging Arenado. Arenado hugged him back and Contreras made it to first base easily enough, preventing the double play. Rockies manager Bud Black came out to ask why no interference was called on the play, but it’s clear that Arenado made no attempt to throw to first. He’d rather hug Baez, so no interference.
So the Cubs still had a chance in the 11th, but Victor Caratini pinch-hit for Hamels and hit a sharp grounder, but right at Ryan McMahon, who was now playing first base. On to the twelfth.
Kyle Hendricks pitched the 12th and the 13th on three days rest and appeared to run out of gas in the 13th. After retiring the first two batters in the 13th inning, Hendricks gave up three-straight singles to Story, Parra and third-catcher Tony Wolters, who only hit .170 on the season. He had not had a hit since September 10.
Jorge De La Rosa then relieved Hendricks and struck out Dahl, but by then the damage was done.
The Cubs looked like they had a chance when Rockies reliever Scott Oberg looked like he had hit leadoff batter Gore, but it was overturned on replay. Then he swung at ball four in the dirt.
Baez and Almora both went down meekly on strikes and the season was over.
Al will have a full recap in the morning. Please be kind to each other in the comments as everyone here is on edge at the moment.