I have to be honest with all of you.
When Eugenio Suarez hit a three-run homer off Tyler Chatwood in the third inning, making the score 5-0 Reds, I thought, “This game is over.”
I could not be happier to have been wrong about that, as the Cubs chipped away at the Cincinnati lead and then put together one of the best comeback innings of the year, a four-run eighth, and defeated the Reds 8-7 on one of the most beautiful weather days of the entire year.
The big blows in that eighth inning were a two-run double by Ben Zobrist, an RBI single by Javier Baez that went about 55 feet off Jared Hughes’ hand, and a little dribbler of a groundout by Anthony Rizzo that scored the fourth run of the inning that gave the Cubs the lead.
But here, I’m starting at the end, so let’s rewind this one to the beginning, as there’s quite a bit to unpack.
Chatwood looked like he might get out of the first inning unscathed. Three batters in, there was a runner on first and two out. But another single followed, and then... you’ll be shocked to hear... a walk, loading the bases. Then Chatwood uncorked two wild pitches, scoring two runs.
Man, if the Cubs had anyone who could have gone long relief in this game, I might have said, “Get him out of there now.” But they didn’t. And so Chatwood was left in... and left in... and left in. The three-run homer by Suarez came after two out and nobody on base and... you’ll be shocked to hear... a walk, followed by a single.
So it’s 5-0, and Matt Harvey’s been pretty solid through the first three innings. The Cubs chipped away in the fourth. Kyle Schwarber singled, and a double by Victor Caratini made it 5-1. Caratini took third on an error on a relay throw, and that turned out to be important, as he scored on a groundout.
5-2 after four. Well... that’s not impossible to come back from.
Not impossible, that is, unless your starting pitcher keeps giving up runs. Another run off Chatwood in the fifth, which involved... you’ll be shocked to hear... a walk, as well as a double by Joey Votto and a single by Jesse Winker, made it 6-2, and then, I was surprised to see — and I’m pretty sure you were too — Chatwood come out for the sixth inning.
Seriously, Joe? Chatwood had already thrown 105 pitches through five innings? Was this punishment? Short bullpen? I’m not sure what it all was, but after Billy Hamilton singled, stole second and scored on a single by Votto to make it 7-2, Joe had mercy on Chatwood and pulled him in favor of Randy Rosario.
The 120 pitches Chatwood threw is a season high for any Cubs starter, and just seven other 120+ pitch games have been thrown by anyone in the big leagues this year, two of them by Trevor Bauer. The others: Tyson Ross, Justin Verlander, Dylan Bundy, Max Scherzer and Jack Flaherty. I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that this is a case of “Which one does not belong in this group?” I cannot imagine Chatwood taking another start, not before a DL stint where they can figure out what’s going on. Chatwood’s last two starts: 10⅔ innings, 16 hits, seven walks, 14 earned runs. That’s an ERA of 11.18 and a WHIP of 2.156. This cannot continue, it simply can’t. Here’s a perfect summary of the problem:
Tyler Chatwood last 3 seasons— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 7, 2018
2016: 158.0 IP 70 Walks
2017: 147.2 IP 77 Walks
2018: 78.1 IP 70 Walks
With Chatwood out of the game and the Cubs down by five, the comeback began. Addison Russell blooped a one-out double to left and that brought Rosario to the plate for the second time in his major-league career. You might remember the other one, May 27 vs. the Giants, when he led off the fourth with a walk and scored on a home run by Javier Baez.
Here’s what happened!
Rosario’s bouncing single up the middle scored Russell to make it 7-3. And Rosario got himself out of the seventh quickly after allowing a leadoff single with a double-play ball and a grounder to short.
It didn’t take long for Javy to make it 7-4 in the bottom of the seventh, and I wish I could show you the video here but it doesn’t appear to be available. Baez’s home run was his 17th, tying Schwarber for the team lead.
7-4. Hmmm. Well, that might be doable, I thought.
Amir Garrett, who had retired the side in the seventh after Javy’s homer, walked the first two hitters in the eighth and Wrigley began to get loud. David Bote batted for Rosario and singled, loading the bases.
That brought up Zobrist, whose two-run double [VIDEO] made it 7-6 and put Bote on third with the potential tying run.
Albert Almora Jr. was next, and he struck out. In all the excitement I forgot to mention that Almora had entered the game in the fourth inning because this happened to Jason Heyward:
Cubs announce that Jason Heyward was removed after fouling a ball off his groin, which pretty much speaks for itself.— Phil Rogers (@philgrogers) July 7, 2018
Ouch. Hope J-Hey’s all right.
Anyway, there are still runners on second and third, now with one out, and Baez is the next hitter [VIDEO].
That ball ... well, could have been a comebacker for an out, but it bounced off Jared Hughes for a hit, and the game was tied:
Lucky Hit: Javier Báez (6) [CHC] off Jared Hughes [CIN]: 75.8 mph, -8 degrees (Single)— MLBExitVelocity (@MLBExitVelocity) July 7, 2018
And then Rizzo stepped to the plate, with the Reds bringing in lefty Kyle Crockett to face him. With only one out, I thought Rizzo might try a squeeze, as he’s a good bunter, but maybe not with Zobrist on third. Anyway, Rizzo hit a routine ground ball to second base that might have been a double play... except Gennett never looked at second base, and Zobrist scored on the 4-3 groundout to give the Cubs the lead.
That’s about as loud as I’ve heard Wrigley Field all year, with key hit after key hit. It might have been even louder than it was the night Heyward hit the walkoff grand slam, and that’s because more people were in the park for this rally, a full house where almost everyone stayed till the end. Those who didn’t missed a stirring comeback, one this team really needed against a team that’s had its number most of this season.
In addition to all the timely hitting, I cannot say enough about the job Randy Rosario did in this game to keep it within reach. Rosario has been a revelation; he’s walked a few too many (11 in 24 innings) but he’s kept the damage to a minimum (just four earned runs for a 1.50 ERA). He’ll surely be kept around and Joe’s likely to use him in many more high-leverage situations going forward. What a great waiver acquisition by Theo & Co.
This day ended happily, so I won’t dwell too long on Chatwood’s misfortunes, but really, the Cubs have some decisions to make regarding him. I don’t know what’s wrong that’s causing all these walks and poor pitching, but I believe the Cubs have to get him out of the rotation. The team record in games he’s started is now 8-8, but that’s more by luck than design, I think.
At this writing the Brewers are losing late, 5-1 to the Braves in the eighth inning. If that score holds up the Cubs will cut their deficit in the N.L. Central to 1½ games, and the Cubs and Brewers will again be even in the loss column. This win was the Cubs’ 50th of the year and again put them at the high-water mark for the season, 14 games over .500.
A series that looked like it could be disastrous now sets up for a potential series win Sunday afternoon. Jon Lester will go for the Cubs and Luis Castillo for the Reds. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage Sunday is on WGN.