Before I get into the details of the Cubs’ 3-2 loss to the Dodgers Sunday, let me tell you something that hopefully will help you put an admittedly bad 2-5 road trip into perspective.
When the Cubs embarked on this road trip, they were tied for first place in the N.L. Central with the Brewers. And now, after this bad trip... they are one game out of first place in the N.L. Central. In fact, the Cubs have not been more than one game ahead or behind in the division since May 26.
There’s a lot of baseball left to be played, and honestly, I am not the least bit concerned about the Cubs’ play on the road against two teams that win a lot of games in their home ballparks.
Now, on to Sunday night’s loss.
Jose Quintana began the first inning with two quick outs. Then David Freese singled. And then... Q completely lost the strike zone. He threw strike one to Cody Bellinger, then four straight balls. He walked Chris Taylor on four pitches, prompting a mound visit, but then he ran the count to 2-0 on Max Muncy before finally ending the 10-straight-balls run with strike one. Unfortunately, he then walked Muncy, forcing in a run.
Q ran the count full on Russell Martin and then struck him out [VIDEO] to end the inning.
Quintana followed that with four strong innings. But the Cubs could not score off Hyun-Jin Ryu, either. There’s no shame in that — hardly anyone has scored off Ryu this year.
The game went 1-0 into the sixth, and the Cubs finally broke through. Javier Baez reached on a throwing error and Kris Bryant singled him to third. After Anthony Rizzo hit a sharp line drive to Justin Turner, Willson Contreras put the Cubs on the board [VIDEO].
That was perfectly placed, a really nice at-bat by Willson. Baez scored and Bryant took third, where he scored the lead run on a sacrifice fly by David Bote [VIDEO].
That was actually a really good play by Bellinger to catch up with Bote’s slicing fly ball. If that ball falls in, two runs score and Bote is at least on second base. But it didn’t. And the Cubs could not score any more runs. Even scoring the two they did off Ryu was a feat few teams have accomplished this year:
Hyun-Jin Ryu Runs allowed by start this season:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 17, 2019
1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 0, 0, 0, 2, 0, 0, 1, 2
For EARNED Runs, change that last 2 to 0.
The Cubs’ lead lasted about five minutes when Bellinger homered off Q leading off the bottom of the sixth.
Neither team scored in the seventh, but there’s something I want to talk about regarding the Cubs seventh. With two out and no one on base, Baez was called out on strikes:
Javier Baez enraged after a called third strike to end the top of the 7th. Threw bat into ground, punched the air, spiked his helmet and then had some words for home-plate umpire DJ Reyburn.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 17, 2019
By this, that's just gorgeous placement by Ryu with a full-count fastball. pic.twitter.com/D6JwJftsZR
Jordan Bastian is correct — Ryu put that baseball in the zone in a spot where Baez could not possibly have hit it. This, though, is something important:
D.J. Reyburn w/ some great handling of Javier Baez at the end of that inning. The K Zone showed that Baez took Strike 3 -- Reyburn was right -- but a frustrated Baez was upset, slammed his helmet, bat. Reyburn didn't overreact, ignored his words.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 17, 2019
Good for D.J. Reyburn. You can imagine what might have happened if, say, Joe West or Angel Hernandez, umpires who fancy themselves part of the show, had been the plate umpire. Javy likely would have been tossed in that situation. This is what umpires should do — realize that the player is just frustrated and, as Buster Olney tweeted, not overreact.
The Cubs could not score in the top of the eighth. Steve Cishek, who threw the bottom of the seventh, was left in the game for the eighth.
Was that a critical mistake? Cishek walked Taylor to lead off the inning and he advanced to third on a ground out. On a 2-2 pitch, Martin singled to left [VIDEO].
A good throw to the plate probably gets Taylor, but KB did not make a good throw. Did this matter?
This doesn't really give you a full picture at all but Kris Bryant last had an OF assist on June 20th 2016 vs Cardinals.— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) June 17, 2019
So it’s 3-2 heading to the ninth and Kenley Jansen, who blew a save Saturday, is appearing in his third straight game. Yes, I’m saying there was a chance!
Albert Almora Jr. singled and Jason Heyward walked, so the tying and lead runs are on base. Both runners advanced on an infield out. Victor Caratini hit a weak ground ball fielded by Jansen, who threw home to get Almora, who was going on contact, on a close play.
Daniel Descalso replaced Caratini and took second uncontested. Since the game was a one-run affair, Descalso was credited with a stolen base. Now again the tying and lead runs are on second and third for Baez, who hit a sinking line drive on which Alex Verdugo made a fine diving catch to end the game [VIDEO].
That’s how close things were. If Javy hits the ball just a little more softly, it falls in and the game is at least tied. If Verdugo’s dive misses the ball, both runs definitely score and Baez would have been at least on second base.
But... that didn’t happen. And the Cubs come home having lost three of four to the Dodgers... in their home park where they are 28-8 this year.
And that brings me back to the beginning of this recap. The Cubs are losing tough, close games on the road against teams that are very, very good in their home parks. This sums things up:
The Cubs are 4-7 in one run games on the road. Just turn that around and overall numbers look better. Probably miss La Stella in some of those moments. (Only half kidding...but not really)— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) June 17, 2019
Honestly, I am not concerned. This will turn around. And the Cubs now come home to play 10 games in their home park, where they are 24-11 so far this year. Craig Kimbrel, who begins play with Triple-A Iowa Tuesday, will be around to close games soon, and that will define other bullpen roles better. There are 91 games remaining in the 2019 season. It’ll all work out in the end, I think. And if the Cubs have any World Series dreams this year... they’ll almost certainly have to play the Dodgers again in October.
Fun fact: The Cubs lost the season series to L.A. four games to three and were outscored in the seven games by just one run, 26-25. The Brewers also lost their season series to the Dodges four games to three and were exactly even with L.A. in runs, 27-27.
Regarding the ESPN broadcast, which will be the last for the Cubs on Sunday Night Baseball until August 18, I thought the announcers did a pretty good job. There was less of the giggling histrionics that are usually in the Sunday Night booth and better analysis, particularly from A-Rod. If this crew would stick to that they’d be a much better announcing team to listen to.
The Cubs have Monday off and begin a two-game set against the White Sox Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field. Cole Hamels will start for the Cubs and Ivan Nova goes for the White Sox. Game time Tuesday is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago (or, if you want to check out the Sox broadcast, on WGN).