This is a companion piece to the “5 best Cubs games of 2018” article I wrote about three weeks ago.
There are a number of ways to approach “five worst games.” The first would simply be to choose the five biggest blowouts, but those aren’t necessarily the “worst” games. All teams get blown out from time to time — even a 108-win World Series champion.
Or I could pick some really tough losses, frustrating one-run affairs, or put on this list the tiebreaker game and wild-card game, and no doubt those are very tough losses to take. But even at that, I don’t think those necessarily qualify as “worst” games. By definition, at least the way I see it, all of these games are Cubs losses.
So in the end, making a list like this one is highly subjective, and likely you might disagree with one or more of these choices. They’re listed in chronological order, not by which one was “worse” than another, as these were all pretty bad.
The Cubs blew a 14th-inning lead with two out and no one on base. As noted in Thomas Smith’s Heroes & Goats worst WPA review of 2018, this was the worst WPA number for any individual Cubs player this year, -.908.
That’s it. I can’t bring myself to tell you any more about this game.
As you might have guessed, Tyler Chatwood was involved in this drubbing. He managed to get through two scoreless innings (despite three walks), then had this third inning: Walk, single, three-run homer, single, walk, comebacker groundout, sacrifice fly, walk.
If you’re counting, that’s six walks in 2⅖ innings. (What’s worse: Chatwood had five other games in 2018 where he walked at least six.) Mike Montgomery entered and wasn’t an improvement, allowing six runs in 2⅓ innings, his worst outing of 2018.
Offensively the show wasn’t any better: 10 hits, but 0-for-10 with RISP and 11 men left on base. Ian Happ managed a consolation home run in the eighth.
If you’re looking for all kinds of badness, this game has it. The Cubs put together a five-run fifth highlighted by a two-run homer by Anthony Rizzo [VIDEO].
They had a 6-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh and Mike Montgomery had allowed only three hits up to that point. What could possibly go wrong?
Plenty, as it turned out. The first three batters in the seventh got hits, making it 6-2. Joe Maddon called on Pedro Strop, who chose this afternoon to have his worst game of the year. Jesse Winker hit Pedro’s first pitch for a three-run homer, making it 6-5, and then: Single, walk, RBI single, RBI double, strikeout, intentional pass, lineout, bases-loaded walk.
Finally, Joe had mercy on Strop and brought in Randy Rosario, who ended the inning by striking out Winker.
The four runs were more than one-quarter of all the runs Strop allowed for the entire 2018 season.
This is the game I think upsets me more than any other this season. The Cubs had won seven in a row and had a chance to sweep the Mets, but Joe Maddon put a spring training split-squad lineup on the field and Alec Mills — who had looked so good five days earlier against the Reds — gave up a first-inning grand slam to Todd Frazier. Randy Rosario, Brandon Kintzler and James Norwood weren’t much better.
It’s games like this one I think Theo Epstein was referring to when he said this:
“Sometimes divisions aren’t lost on that last day of the season when you only score one run and you don’t get in,’’ Epstein said. “They’re not lost in that last week and a half when the other team goes 8-0 and you go 4-3 and you needed to go 5-2. Sometimes they’re lost early in the season when you have an opportunity to push for that sweep, but you already have two out of three and you’re just not quite there with that killer instinct.’’
Obviously, if the Cubs had won that game — or any of the games noted here — they would have won the N.L. Central by one game and not had to play the tiebreaker.
This is another game that qualifies under the same category the previous one did — winning the first two games of a series, then not having that “killer instinct” to win the third. Yes, that was the 30th day of the 30-day stretch without an off day, but the Cubs didn’t seem to take the D-backs’ “split squad” lineup seriously.
Cole Hamels got hit hard in the first inning and the Cubs had just one hit, a single by Addison Russell. Oddly, that could wind up being his last hit in a Cubs uniform, as he didn’t play the rest of the year under administrative leave, and those games now count as part of a 40-game suspension that will continue when the 2019 season begins.
Not all of these games are games the Cubs could have won. As noted, sometimes even good teams get crushed. It happens. And given some of the great comebacks noted in the “best games” article, these things do tend to even out over the course of a long season.
But given the divisional tie the Cubs wound up in, winning any one of these five games would have given them the N.L. Central title outright.
The worst Cubs game of 2018 was...
This poll is closed
May 6: 10th-inning loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis
May 22: 10-1 blowout by the Indians at Wrigley
June 24: Seven-run Reds comeback in seventh inning
August 29: Todd Frazier’s slam leads 11-3 Mets rout
September 19: 9-0, one-hit loss to Diamondbacks
A different game (leave in comments)