Remember when I wrote these words about Justin Wilson?
Slowly but surely, Wilson has begun to look like the guy the Cubs traded for last summer. This month for Wilson: eight appearances, 7⅔ innings, three hits, two walks, eight strikeouts, no runs allowed. In addition to the (obvious) 0.00 ERA in May, that’s a 0.652 WHIP. You can be sure that Joe Maddon would love to use Wilson in more high-leverage situations and maybe he can now. Wilson has certainly cut down on the walks, a big issue for him last year. His overall walk rate this year is 6.8 per nine innings, but in May it’s much better, just 2.3 per nine. That’s really encouraging.
You probably do remember them, because I wrote them only a few hours ago, just this morning in the recap of Friday night’s win.
Saturday afternoon, Joe turned to Wilson in a very high-leverage situation, the bottom of the 11th in a tie game. Result: only six strikes thrown in 18 pitches, walk, single, walk, walk, and the Reds had a 5-4 win over the Cubs.
Before I get to the rest of this game, once you have loaded the bases with nobody out, throw freaking strikes! If they get a hit, they get a hit. But seeing the winning run walked in like that is about the most frustrating way to lose a game.
Now, let’s get to the rest of this one. Kyle Hendricks was touched up for a run in the first inning, and the Cubs might have scored a run in that inning too. With the bases loaded and one out, Kyle Schwarber hit a slow roller to second. Addison Russell was tagged out — had he backed up and delayed that tag a bit, Schwarber might have been safe at first and a run would have scored.
The Cubs did score a run in the third to tie the game. Albert Almora Jr. singled and Kris Bryant doubled him in. But the Cubs gave that run back in the fourth. Trailing 2-1 entering the sixth, Ian Happ led off with a triple and then Hendricks hit a ball farther than I think I’ve ever seen him hit one before:
Kyle’s double tied the game, but he got himself in trouble in the bottom of that inning. A ball bounced off Russell’s glove for an error, then a walk, single and double gave the Reds a 4-2 lead.
That’s when Randy Rosario made his Cubs debut, and for a time anyway, kept this game potentially winnable. Rosario came in with runners on second and third and nobody out, got two groundouts where the runners held, then after an intentional walk, struck out Billy Hamilton to end the inning. He was even better in the seventh, putting together a 1-2-3 inning that ended with a strikeout of Joey Votto, not an easy task. Well done by Rosario.
In the top of that seventh inning, Reds reliever Amir Garrett struck out Javier Baez and words were exchanged, leading both benches to empty. Nothing serious happened and no one was ejected, but listen to what Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman has to say about this incident. Pay particular attention to what he says about Pedro Strop at about 50 seconds into this video:
I mean... Strop didn’t do anything. He just happened to appear in the frame, sounds like Brennaman wasn’t really paying much attention to what was actually happening, just wanted to stir Reds fans up about the Cubs. Seriously, this is unseemly and Thom and his dad really need to let go their Cubs hatred.
Anyway, after all this, the Cubs tied the game up in the eighth. Happ started the festivities:
Happ doubled, tripled and homered in this game. The Cubs tied the game when Tommy La Stella singled — his ninth pinch hit of the year — and was doubled in by Anthony Rizzo.
Carl Edwards Jr. gave up a two-out walk in the eighth but was otherwise unscored on, and Strop got into the game in the ninth and allowed a one-out double, but retired the side with no runs and the game headed to extras.
Happ had a shot at the cycle in the 10th, needing a single, but he struck out and the Cubs went down 1-2-3. More on Happ:
Ian Happ last 2 games:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 19, 2018
4-5, 2 doubles, triple, HR, 4 walks (3 IBB)
Brian Duensing got the first two outs in the last of the 10th, then was replaced by Steve Cishek for the final out, and the game headed to the 11th.
Kris Bryant led off with an infield hit — please, KB, don’t hurt yourself on those head-first slides! — and stole second, his first steal of 2018. That put a runner in scoring position with one out, but Russell hit a harmless fly ball to left. Schwarber was intentionally passed, and that left it up to Victor Caratini, who grounded out to end the inning.
And that’s when the Wilson fiasco happened, and the game was over. Still, in a way you can’t totally blame Wilson, because the Cubs had a tremendous number of opportunities to put this game far out of reach and failed. They were 1-for-16 with RISP and left 14 men on base and you simply are not going to win many games where that kind of thing happens.
However, I have to think that the Cubs need to consider simply letting Wilson go, or suddenly finding out that some kind of minor injury has happened to him and stashing him on the disabled list for a while. After Rosario’s performance in this game, he could certainly take up the innings Wilson has been ruining.
And please, Cubs, Ditch the blue jerseys!
2018 record in blue alternate jerseys: 3-9
2018 record in road gray jerseys: 7-2
I hope the Cubs come out for Game 2 wearing the grays, and wear them tomorrow, too. In Game 2, which will begin at 6:10 p.m. CT, Jose Quintana will face Sal Romano. TV coverage will again be on WGN, and I will have a game preview post here at 5:30 p.m. CT with lineups and other game information. There will be a separate StoryStream for all the Game 2 threads.