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Cardinals 5, Cubs 3: Walkathon

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A Javier Baez home run was not enough to win this one.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

In the first three innings of the Cubs’ 5-3 loss to the Cardinals Tuesday night, 29 batters came to the plate, combined between the two teams.

Just 10 of those 29 batters put the ball in play, because starters Tyler Chatwood and Adam Wainwright were issuing lots and lots of walks, and striking out hitters as well on a cold night at Wrigley Field.

Chatwood’s lack of command cost him a pair of runs. He walked the first two batters in the second but struck out the side, but when he did the walk thing again in the third, Matt Carpenter followed with a two-run double.

Chatwood wound up walking seven (and striking out seven) before Joe Maddon finally had to go get him with two out in the fifth, immediately following that seventh walk.

In all of Cubs history, just 32 starting pitchers have walked seven and struck out seven. Chatwood becomes just the second one, though, to do it in less than 6⅓ innings. The last to do it, before Tuesday, was Kerry Wood in 2001. Here’s the entire list, which is kind of what Bill James used to call a “freak show stat,” a curiosity rather than anything meaningful, as of those 32 games, the Cubs won 19 of them. More on this:

They could have won this one, too, except that they were doing the “let’s not hit with RISP” thing again. The Cubs were 1-for-6 with RISP and left 11 men on base, including the bases loaded with two out in the third (Kyle Schwarber struck out), runners on first and second with two out in the fourth (Kris Bryant hit into a force play), and first and second again with two out in the fifth (Addison Russell popped up).

The game was still close into the eighth, when Pedro Strop gave up a solo homer to Paul DeJong after retiring the first two hitters, and then gave up two singles sandwiched around a walk to load the bases. Joe summoned Brian Duensing to face Carpenter, who singled in two.

That made this mostly meaningless:

Well, maybe I shouldn’t say “meaningless.” The Cubs trailed by one going into the eighth and came out of it behind by two, so Javier Baez’ fifth homer of the season at least put the game back in reach. The two runs came off Greg Holland, who’s been atrocious since the Cardinals signed him to a $14 million deal two days after the season began. Javy’s been just outstanding this homestand: 8-for-24 with all five of his season home runs to date, 12 RBI and seven runs scored, in addition to his usual “El Mago” defense.

Brandon Morrow threw an uneventful ninth, issuing one walk, and the Cubs had the guys you’d want at the plate for a ninth-inning rally: Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras.

Bryant was struck out by Bud Norris, who made him look bad on a slider way out of the zone. Rizzo, who was hit by the first pitch he saw after returning from the DL, also reached on a walk earlier in the game, but this time lofted a harmless fly to center. Contreras singled, bringing Schwarber to the plate as the potential tying run, but Kyle took a fastball right down the middle of the plate for strike three to end it.

But mostly, it was all of Chatwood’s walks (and another one by Strop that helped the Cardinals’ eighth-inning rally) that were the most frustrating part of this game. A total of 16 walks were issued in this game (10 by Cubs pitchers, six by Cardinals hurlers), yet only St. Louis took real advantage.

It also didn’t help matters that Ian Happ (a late add to the lineup after Ben Zobrist was scratched with back issues) was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and that the top three in the lineup were 0-for-11.

As noted, it was cold at Wrigley Field Tuesday night, with a game-time temp of 35, the coldest yet this “spring” in a home season where game-time temps have averaged 46 degrees, and that includes the freakish 74 last Thursday, which lasted about an hour before temps dropped into the mid-50s. At least it wasn’t too windy Tuesday; by the late innings the flags on the center-field scoreboard were barely moving. That moved the weather description from “ridiculous” to “tolerable.” About 25,000 or so of the announced 35,103 showed up, but by the seventh inning maybe 6,000 remained on yet another night not suitable for baseball.

Weather permitting — and I seem to be writing that a lot this April — the Cubs and Cardinals will play again Wednesday afternoon, with Jon Lester scheduled to face Luke Weaver at 1:20 p.m. CT (TV via ABC7). And this weather forecast doesn’t look like it will permit:

Today

Rain, possibly mixed with sleet, becoming all rain after 2pm. Some thunder is also possible. High near 37. East wind 10 to 15 mph becoming north northeast in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total daytime sleet accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Tonight

Snow, mainly before 1am. Low around 33. North northwest wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

Obviously, none of this is the Cubs’ fault and makeup games are already beginning to pile up (two at Wrigley, one in Cincinnati). Jed Hoyer made these comments Tuesday, reported by Patrick Mooney at The Athletic:

Between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. on Wednesday, weather.com predicts temperatures in the mid-30s with anywhere from a 50-to-90-percent chance of rain and snow. Cubs-Cardinals first pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. with Thursday being a scheduled mutual off-day (at least for now).

“There’s always eight to 10 people in the room when we’re talking through that stuff,” Hoyer said. “You’re getting weather forecasts, you’re trying to factor in the time and it’s never easy. We’ve made mistakes in the past. We’ve made the right decisions in the past. But there’s going to be mistakes in the future, just because of the nature of trying to keep many different parties happy and trying to predict something that’s unpredictable.”

The forecast I linked above matches what was in Mooney’s article. While it’s never easy to postpone and reschedule a game, I hope the Cubs later this morning will do the right thing and put off Wednesday’s game to sometime when it might be nicer (the teams also have next Monday off).

As always, we await developments.