Before you read my list of games, know that I set a few ground rules for deciding which game would be the “worst” for each season from 2010 to 2019.
I could simply list the biggest blowout loss of the season, but that’s way too easy. No, I wanted to find games that were immensely frustrating, huge blown leads, terrible missed opportunities, horrific pitching outings, games that hurt Cubs postseason chances... something that would make you turn up your nose in disgust at how bad it was.
It wasn’t easy to remember these, either, because these are games you want to forget the minute you turn off the TV or leave the ballpark. But I persevered through some of the worst of the worst from the past decade.
Also, just one per season. It would also be too easy to find a bunch from the low years from around 2011-14. Lastly, this is limited to regular-season games.
Carlos Marmol had the best year of his career in 2010. He posted 38 saves and 2.7 bWAR and struck out 138 in 77⅔ innings. He blew only four saves.
This was the worst of the four. The Cubs had nursed a 1-0 lead into the ninth at Philadelphia behind Randy Wells and Sean Marshall.
Marmol got the first batter of the inning to fly out, issued two walks, then struck out another hitter.
Hoo boy. Over the next five hitters: Single, walk, wild pitch, stolen base, intentional walk, walk, single. Four runs scored.
More Marmol, coming right up! (Oh, and check out who started that game for the Phillies.)
The Cubs led 5-2 entering the bottom of the ninth in Houston.
Enter Marmol, whose wheels were beginning to fall off, though he had allowed just three runs over his previous 18 appearances.
He got the first out of the inning, then allowed a single and wild-pitched the runner to second. Another single put runners on first and third and a walk loaded the bases.
That was the 26th “ultimate grand slam” in MLB history. I’m pretty sure you know who hit the most recent one.
This game had significance because it was the first one in 50 years where two teams that had already lost 100+ games faced each other. The Cubs had lost their 100th the previous night to the Astros, also 3-0. Houston came into the game with 106 defeats.
Four pitchers, including future Cubs Wesley Wright and Xavier Cedeno, held the Cubs to just four hits. They’d had only two in the previous shutout loss.
It’s doubtful that anyone at Wrigley Field that night had any thoughts that both these teams would win World Series within the next five years.
More Marmol for your viewing pleasure!
At this point Carlos was on his last legs as a closer. He’d posted a 5.52 ERA with 11 walks over his previous 16 outings.
But Dale Sveum gave him one more chance. The Cubs led 3-0 entering the last of the ninth in New York with fine outings from Matt Garza (seven innings, three hits) and James Russell.
Enter Carlos. Former Cub Marlon Byrd led off the inning with a home run. A walk, a single and a sacrifice bunt put the tying run on second base and brought up noted Cub killer Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
This was utterly predictable:
Marmol made one more appearance for the Cubs four days later and five days after that was designated for assignment, later to be traded to the Dodgers.
Irony: The player who replaced Marmol on the Cubs’ 40-man and active roster was... Brian Bogusevic.
I’m picking this blowout loss for a couple of very good reasons. It was part of a seven-game losing streak in which the Cubs scored only 13 total runs and were shut out twice.
This time, a middling Toronto team absolutely dominated the Cubs, who had just three hits, all singles.
I was at this game and I will never forget what manager Rick Renteria did in the bottom of the eighth inning.
There are two out and two runners on base and Dan Straily is pitching. Anthony Gose, a lefthanded hitter absolutely no one feared, was the next hitter.
Ricky Sunshine made sure the Cubs had the platoon advantage by bringing in Zac Rosscup.
I mean, seriously? Down eight runs with two out in the bottom of the eighth on the road? Ricky, you are not going to win this game. Just go quietly. He did this all the time with the Cubs and still does it on the South Side.
The game managed to be fairly quick anyway, just 2:20. But that was about the most worthless pitching change I’ve ever seen. (Rosscup did get his man, striking out Gose.)
Picking Cole Hamels’ no-hitter would have been too easy here.
Instead, the selection is the day after the no-hitter, a game where the Phillies scored early and often off Jason Hammel, Travis Wood and Yoervis Medina. It turned out to be Medina’s last major-league game.
Things got so bad David Ross pitched the ninth inning, and then came to bat in the bottom of the ninth, officially the pitcher.
That was Ross’ only home run of the 2015 season.
This one was a bit tough, because there were just 58 losses in 2016, the fewest of any Cubs season since 1945.
There was, however, a stretch of games from mid-June to the All-Star break where the Cubs went 5-15.
This was one of those games. To that point it was the worst start of Jon Lester’s career; he didn’t get out of the second inning. The Mets hit five home runs, tying their Citi Field record that they had set... two days earlier off Jason Hammel. Yikes.
It got so bad that Miguel Montero finished up as a pitcher, which brought on this hilarity:
Miguel Montero is throwing 79-81 mph. The scoreboard is calling them splitters and changeups. I don't, um, think that's the case.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) July 3, 2016
This game isn’t here so much for the result as for the date it was played.
This was the makeup game for a postponement on May 20 — when it stopped raining in the early afternoon and the game probably could have been played. The Brewers whined and complained about this postponement and the fact that they lost an off day (like the Cubs didn’t?) for weeks.
Then they came into Wrigley and stomped the heck out of the Cubs.
I do not ever want to hear Craig Counsell complain about a weather postponement again. Ever.
The 2018 season, in hindsight, was a true turning point for this franchise.
They wound up in a divisional tiebreaker with the Brewers, both teams winning 95 games out of the first 162.
Thus ANY win in ANY game prior to the end of the regular season that wound up a loss would have had the Cubs avoid that game and head to a division series matchup. Who knows? Maybe they win that series and go on to the NLCS for the fourth straight year. That could have changed a lot of things, butterfly effect, you know.
So I picked this one, a Sunday night game in St. Louis. The game went to extras tied 2-2. Both teams got great relief outings. Mike Montgomery threw three shutout innings in relief, the 11th, 12th and 13th. But after 44 pitches for MiMo, Joe Maddon removed him for a pinch-hitter in the top of the 14th. Victor Caratini flew out. Later that inning, though, Javier Baez homered, giving the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
Luke Farrell was the last guy available. He struck out the first two hitters. Then Harrison Bader hit a ground ball to Javier Baez [VIDEO].
Does a good throw by Javy get Bader? Maybe. Then the game’s over and the Cubs win.
Here is how close Jason Heyward came to catching that ball:
The white streak just above J-Hey’s glove is the ball. Inches, if that.
That’s how close the Cubs came to avoiding the wild-card game in 2018.
This one’s recent enough that you likely remember the details: Tony Kemp hits a home run to give the Cubs the lead, only to see Craig Kimbrel blow it by allowing two homers on consecutive pitches an inning later.
You know, I think if the Cubs win this game, they make the postseason. That would have stopped the eventual nine-game losing streak at four. They probably win the next day behind Yu Darvish, and go into Pittsburgh trailing the Brewers by two games instead of four. They likely play better against the Pirates if that’s the case.
We’ll never know, of course, and it was still an uphill climb. But again, here’s a game that shows how one random game can send a season into a tailspin.
Let’s hope there aren’t any of those in 2020.