Remind me again which of these teams entered the game with the best record in the National League, and which had the worst?
The Cubs and Padres seemed to switch roles in Thursday night’s horrid 6-1 San Diego win over the Cubs, as the visitors got outstanding pitching and timely hitting, and the home team at Wrigley Field looked like they’d left their bats in Pittsburgh.
The first 11 Cubs were retired by Robbie Erlin, a lefthander doing his best Clayton Kershaw impression, before Jason Heyward singled with two out in the fourth.
Meanwhile, Mike Montgomery kept giving up hits, but pitching himself out of jams. He got some help from his defense, first, in a rundown that wasn’t all that well executed but wound up in a tag play near the plate on Austin Hedges in the second inning, and then from some Javy doing Javy [VIDEO].
Willson Contreras made an outstanding throw and Javier Baez put down another one of his no-look tags to catch Manuel Margot stealing after he had led off the third inning with a single.
Montgomery gave up singles in the fourth and fifth, but got out of both innings, the fifth with a double play.
Then the Cubs pushed a run across, helped by replay review. Contreras led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk. One out later, Addison Russell singled him to third, and Montgomery was next at the plate [VIDEO].
Many players seem to be getting better and better at making slides like that, where a hand is pulled out of the way of a tag and the other hand hits the plate, or a base, before a tag is made. The call on the field was “out,” but it was overturned on review and the Cubs had a 1-0 lead.
Montgomery was going well enough that I thought one run might win the game, but oh, how wrong I was.
He issued a one-out walk in the sixth and then was removed in favor of Jesse Chavez.
What? I mean, sure, a righthanded hitter is coming up (Christian Villanueva), but Montgomery has thrown only 79 pitches and has shown a knack for getting himself out of trouble.
But Chavez had been pretty effective since coming over in trade, so...
Whoops. The pixie dust wore off Chavez in this one. Villanueva singled and Hedges then smashed a home run that landed about three rows in front of me for a 3-1 Padres lead.
“I wanted to go farther,” Montgomery said after throwing 79 pitches. “That’s not up to me. That’s how the game works. So I’m fine with the decisions (Maddon) makes.”
Turned out that was the ballgame. Including the final two outs of the fifth inning, 14 of the final 16 Cubs who came to the plate were retired; Anthony Rizzo was the only one who reached, being hit to lead off the sixth (followed by Padres reliever Jose Castillo striking out the side), and hitting a two-out single in the eighth. Apart from that run-scoring fifth, no Cub got past first base in this game. And FWIW, Rizzo is 3-for-21 over his last five games and I wonder whether he might benefit from a day off. Further, Albert Almora Jr. is in a 1-for-21 slump. The bats just have to get going.
Justin Wilson allowed a run in the eighth, going back to his bad old ways of not throwing strikes (only 11 in 24 pitches), and then Brian Duensing... well, you don’t want to hear the details of the carnage, most likely, but Duensing allowed two more runs and threw 39 pitches. That’s 55 pitches for Duensing total, on consecutive nights, and it’s almost as if the Cubs wanted an excuse to put him back on the disabled list...
But they wouldn’t do that. Would they?
It’s hard to sweep a four-game series and I figured the Cubs would probably lose one of the four games to the Padres. But not this one, and not that badly. And with Duensing’s poor outing, it was almost as if Joe gave up on this one after it was 4-1.
There’s something I want to tell you now about Wrigley Field fan procedures. For decades — as long as I’ve been coming to the ballpark — the Cubs have allowed outside non-alcoholic drinks in, in recent years requiring they be in factory-sealed plastic bottles. That’s been the case at least since the Ricketts family took over, all non-alcoholic drinks were permitted as long as they were in factory-sealed plastic bottles. It’s a small perk that a small percentage of fans took advantage of.
Thursday night, without notice and without any posting online (as far as I could tell Thursday night in perusing the Cubs website), this policy was changed to “only water.”
Seriously, this is about as fan-unfriendly as you can get, without notice in the middle of a baseball season, meaning some people I know were forced to discard their products. And let me be frank here: There is literally no safety nor security reason to ban these products, the only possible reason can be money. There are huge markups in any concession item sold within a ballpark, but the biggest markups are on drinks. I could go into the neighborhood 7-Eleven, buy a 20-ounce bottle of a soft drink for about $2, and if I then sold it at the Wrigley price of $6, I would make a 200 percent profit. And I’m pretty sure the Cubs aren’t paying $2 per bottle.
Maybe this is a small thing and in the end doesn’t mean much. But the Friendly Confines got a little less friendly Thursday night. I call on the Cubs to rescind this new restriction — which again, I note was put in place without notice to anyone — and again allow any non-alcoholic drink in a factory-sealed plastic bottle.
Back to baseball! The Cubs, as poorly as they played Thursday night, completed two-thirds of the schedule with their 108th game at 62-46, which still puts them on pace for a 93-win season. I’m pretty sure that would be enough to win the N.L. Central, and even possibly have the best record in the league. They remained in first place by one game because the Brewers got demolished by the Dodgers 21-5 Thursday night. I came home from Wrigley and watched the end of that game, in which two Brewers position players pitched, and that took a bit of the sting out of the bad loss to the Padres.
The Cubs will try to do better Friday afternoon in the second of the four-game set against San Diego. Jose Quintana will start for the Cubs and Tyson Ross goes for the Padres. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage Friday is via NBC Sports Chicago.