I’m going to start this recap at the end of the game, because that’s where most of the good stuff happened. Trailing 6-3 to the Astros entering the ninth inning, the Cubs made it close very quickly. Albert Almora Jr. led off the inning with a home run [VIDEO].
Addison Russell followed with another solo shot [VIDEO].
Now the Cubs are down by just one. Then David Bote singled, putting the tying run on base, but Roberto Osuna struck out Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez and the Astros won the game 6-5. Give the Cubs some credit for the almost-comeback, but they can’t keep putting themselves in deep early holes like this, because those guys are pretty good.
Now let’s go back to the beginning, because the Cubs actually had an early lead in this ballgame, thanks to Anthony Rizzo [VIDEO].
Kyle Schwarber walked to lead off the game, and one out later, Rizzo gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead with his 15th home run of the season. That’s nearly halfway to his career high (32, done three times, 2014, 2016, 2017) and we’re not even to the one-third mark of this season. Fun Rizzo fact:
#Cubs career HR list— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 27, 2019
6. Aramis Ramírez 239
7. Gabby Hartnett 231
8. ANTHONY RIZZO 205 (one today)
Bill Nicholson 205
So Rizzo, who’s been pounding out homers at the best pace of his career, does have an outside shot at catching Gabby Hartnett for seventh place on the all-time Cubs list this year.
That good news lasted only a couple of innings, as Cole Hamels gave one of the runs back in the second and then got touched up for a five-run third, an inning in which every time you looked up at your TV screen another Astro was hitting the ball hard, or at least that’s what was on my screen. And this on a day when two key Astros (George Springer, Jose Altuve) were on the injured list and a third (Carlos Correa) didn’t play.
Back to Hamels: He walked four and didn’t strike out anyone. And after a very good run of starting pitching by the Cubs rotation, the last time through has been pretty bad. Here are the last outings for Hamels, Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester, combined (through Monday’s game): 26⅓ innings, 44 (!) hits, 24 earned runs, nine walks, 21 strikeouts, 8.20 ERA, 2.013 WHIP. That’s just not going to cut it. Hopefully, this is just a bad stretch — those five had something similar on the first road trip of the season — and things will sort themselves out soon.
Hamels left after the fourth inning (93 pitches, ugh) and was replaced by Mike Montgomery. Or, more correctly, Montgomery came to the mound and left before even being announced, and here’s what we know know about MiMo:
Mike Montgomery left with 'discomfort in his left middle finger.' No blister. being checked out, per Cubs— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) May 27, 2019
Well, it’s not the shoulder that put him on the injured list earlier this year. So, yay?
Apart from Rizzo, the Cubs simply could not solve Gerrit Cole, who has been a strikeout machine most of this year. Cole entered this game with 100 (!) strikeouts in 11 starts and 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Both figures led the American League and both will go up, considerably, after this game, where Cole struck out 12 in six innings. (Good thing the Cubs don’t face Justin Verlander in this series; he’s second in the A.L. with 95 strikeouts.)
The Cubs managed to scrape across a run in the seventh on an RBI single by Bote [VIDEO]. And, they got decent bullpen work after Hamels departed. Kyle Ryan, who took Montgomery’s place at the last minute, struck out a pair in his 1⅓ innings, and Dillon Maples struck out three of the five batters he faced. Better yet, Maples didn’t walk anyone. In his last three big-league outings (May 1, May 25 and Monday): four innings, one hit, one walk, seven strikeouts. If Maples can continue to command his pitches that way, he can be a force in this bullpen.
Hopefully, Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward can return to the lineup Tuesday evening for the second game of this three-game set. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and rookie righthander Corbin Martin will go for the Astros. Game time Tuesday is 7:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via ABC7 Chicago.