I’m going to start the recap of the Cubs’ frustrating 6-5 loss to the Marlins Monday evening near the end of this game.
Specifically, looking at this play [VIDEO].
Situation: The Marlins have already taken a 5-4 lead after Pedro Strop melted down in a fusillade of walks and had to be replaced by Kyle Ryan. Runners are on second and third and there’s one out. Ryan got Martin Prado to hit a comebacker. Ryan stopped, looked directly at Neil Walker, who was hung out to dry between third and home — and threw to first.
Are you kidding me? I’m going to do a Sara’s Snapshot kind of thing here. Call it Al’s Analysis. Look at where Ryan is with the ball and look at where Walker is:
Ryan then turned and threw to first base while Walker calmly scored run number six for the Marlins. Anthony Rizzo then threw to third to retire Rosell Herrera and end the inning, but what on Earth was Ryan thinking? At the very least, you’ve got to get Walker hung up in a rundown between third and home for the second out. Listen to the Marlins announcers on that clip above — even they can’t believe it.
And, here’s what Ryan said:
This was the moment Kyle Ryan looked home in 9th, before opting to throw to first base. Walker scored and that sixth Marlins run was the decisive one.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 7, 2019
Said Ryan: "I just froze. Checked him and it ran through my mind, and I froze." pic.twitter.com/xb6e2ZU0Iu
And that “froze” eventually cost the Cubs the game, because in the bottom of the ninth Kris Bryant launched this baseball into orbit [VIDEO].
You can’t see it clearly on the video, but the ball bounced on the very back of the bleacher concourse and onto Waveland Avenue, as Len Kasper correctly noted:
#Marlins 6 @ #Cubs 5 [B9-1o]— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) May 7, 2019
Kris Bryant homers (5): fly ball to LF (solo)
[ 111mph • 403ft • 32° ]
Anthony Rizzo followed with a single, bringing Javier Baez and Willson Contreras to the plate, both with a chance to redeem that bad ninth inning, but Sergio Romo struck them both out and that was that.
Really, the issue here wasn’t even Strop’s horrendous ninth inning — only the second time in his Cubs career he’s walked three in an appearance and the first such appearance he did so without retiring a batter — it was the fact that the Cubs kept putting runners on base and not scoring them.
They did fine in the first inning, when Ben Zobrist led off with a single and after KB struck out, Rizzo launched one [VIDEO].
That was the 200th home run of Rizzo’s career, and yes, the ball was retrieved for him. Cubs gameday staff will also await Rizzo’s next homer and get that ball for him, because that one will be his 200th as a Cub (he hit one with the Padres).
Two more hits produced a third Cubs run and this looked like it was going to be a blowout.
But no. The Marlins turned double plays in four straight innings — third through sixth — after their starter, Sandy Alcantara, kept walking Cubs hitters, six in all. The Cubs managed to push one further run across in the sixth before that inning ended in a double play, on an RBI single by Kyle Schwarber [VIDEO].
Carefully note the scorebox in that video. The bases are loaded and there are no outs. After Schwarber’s hit the bases are still loaded and there’s still nobody out... and the Cubs could not score again in that inning.
That’s the real issue with this game, not Ryan’s freeze, though that was pretty egregiously bad. The Cubs had 18 baserunners in this game — eight hits and 10 (!) walks — and only scored three times. That’s pretty bad.
Cole Hamels threw a decent game, allowing a pair of runs in the second and a game-tying home run to Jon Berti in the sixth. He struck out seven. This one wasn’t Hamels’ fault.
Neither is it the fault of Carl Edwards Jr., who made his return to the big leagues successful with a 1-2-3 seventh. His velocity was decent, touching 94-95, and this outing was a good building block for him.
Brad Brach threw a scoreless eighth, and with Strop entering for the ninth, things looked pretty good. Then Pedro posted one of the worst outings I can ever remember him having. I mean, look at the pitches out of the zone on the three walks, few of them are even close:
And then Ryan had his brain fart, and we’re back to where this recap began.
I guess I’m kind of sanguine about this loss. Baseball teams play 162 games, and every now and then even good teams are going to have a stinker. One of the things Theo Epstein focused on in the offseason was trying to avoid “trap” games. This, after a seven-game winning streak and a sweep of a very good Cardinals club, could be an entire “trap series.” All the Cubs can do is try to re-focus and win the next three against a Marlins team that played good ball when they had to Monday evening. The Cardinals and Brewers both won Monday, so the Cubs drop back to second place, half a game behind St. Louis and half a game ahead of Milwaukee.
It was a chilly night at the ballyard and maybe 20,000 of the announced 34,555 showed up. After the seventh-inning stretch most folks bailed and by the time the ninth inning began there couldn’t have been more than 2,000 in the house. Others might have left because of an annoying little rainshower that hit in the third inning and lasted maybe 20 minutes, barely even registering on smartphone radars.
The weather isn’t going to be much better Tuesday evening as the teams meet for the second of this four-game series. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and the Marlins’ best starter to date, Caleb Smith, gets the call for Miami. Game time again is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago Plus.