Games like this are absolutely infuriating.
The Cubs lost 8-6 to the Reds Sunday, and the score could have easily been reversed. Or it could have been 6-0 Cubs, or 8-0 Reds, or...
This is how close Jon Lester came to having one of his best outings of the year: One dropped fly ball by Kyle Schwarber and one bad pitch to Eugenio Suarez. Those two plays made it 3-0 Reds, because Suarez hit a ball halfway to Kentucky:
From @ESPNStatsInfo : Eugenio Suárez's 457-ft home run is his longest career home run and the longest home run for the Reds in the past three seasons.— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) June 30, 2019
Well, obviously that put Lester in a bad spot. But after that he retired 13 straight Reds and at just 3-0, you figured the Cubs had a chance to get back into the game against Anthony DeSclafani, a pitcher they’ve hit in the past.
But DeSclafani was setting Cubs down pretty well, that is, until the third, when with two out, Schwarber singled and Kris Bryant doubled him to third. Anthony Rizzo thus is at the plate as the tying run. Then this happened [VIDEO].
As Cubs fans, we’re pretty familiar with that sort of thing. But they got the call right. The fan reached out into the field of play and Phillip Ervin couldn’t make a catch that he otherwise might have made. That’s fan interference, and Rizzo, who was really unhappy after the call, something you rarely see, was out.
I’ll just say this. When MLB parks all have nets well past dugouts, or even all the way to foul poles, this sort of thing won’t happen. Balls like that will either land in the seats, over the net, or they’ll bounce harmlessly off the net as foul balls. That could happen as soon as next year.
Now, would Rizzo have driven in a run, or two, or three, in that case? We’ll never know. But the game continued with the Reds up by three.
In the sixth, Rizzo doubled with one out, and one out later, Jason Heyward walked. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Again, the tying run’s at the plate, this time David Bote. Bote struck out and the game went on, still 3-0 Reds.
Suarez led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, but Schwarber made sure that didn’t get stretched to two [VIDEO].
Suarez slid past second and was tagged out by Daniel Descalso. But Yasiel Puig walked, stole second and scored on a little bloopy single by Ervin to make it 4-0. That run would loom important later.
Lester, on a beastly hot day in Cincinnati, threw very well, I thought, after the homer. He struck out eight and came within one out of finishing the sixth inning, throwing 117 pitches. That’s the most for any Cubs pitcher this year, one more than the previous high, which was Lester May 12 against the Brewers.
The Cubs began a comeback attempt in the seventh. Addison Russell led off with a double and one out later, scored on this hit by Albert Almora Jr. [VIDEO]
Schwarber’s 18th of the season was yet another one to the opposite field. Bryant followed with a double, but Amir Garrett was summoned and he got a pair of ground outs to end the inning. It’s the second groundout that was infuriating. Willson Contreras hit a ball that looked like it might have hit his foot in the batter’s box, thus foul. But the play continued and the ball went to Suarez at third, who threw to Joey Votto at first, with it ruled an out.
These plays are not reviewable. Len and JD correctly pointed out that Willson should have just run the play out (he’d likely have been out anyway) and then made his case that it was foul. The umpires conferred and did not change the call.
Even with all that, the Cubs look like they have a comeback possibility in them. Rowan Wick, who had relieved Lester in the sixth, threw a scoreless seventh. And that’s largely due to this fantastic catch by Heyward [VIDEO], who robbed Nick Senzel of a home run.
Now after a catch like that, you’d think the fielding team would complete the comeback and this game would become legendary.
Sadly, the Cubs missed an opportunity in the eighth. Heyward led off with a walk, but Reds closer Raisel Iglesias entered and struck out pinch-hitter Javier Baez (0-for-2 as a PH this year) and Russell. Descalso then walked and again, a wild pitch put the runners in scoring position. But now, they’re representing the tying and lead runs. Unfortunately, Iglesias got Almora to pop up to end the inning.
Here is where Joe Maddon made a fateful choice. Dillon Maples entered to throw the bottom of the eighth. Now, if the game is tied, does Brandon Kintzler come in? For that matter, where was Kintzler this entire series? He hasn’t pitched since Thursday at Wrigley. Does that imply an injury?
Anyway, you know I like Maples, but this was a rough inning for him. He gave up a one-out single to Puig, who again stole second after Jose Iglesias struck out. Yet another bloopy little thing from Ervin scored Puig to make it 5-3. Then he hit Jose Peraza with a pitch.
Have I mentioned yet how infuriating this game was?
Kyle Ryan entered to throw to pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, who had replaced Derek Dietrich. Joe apparently thought this was a better matchup, but Farmer singled in Ervin and it’s 6-3, and after another stolen base and a walk loaded the bases, Senzel got revenge of a sort with a two-run single. At 8-3 the game appears over.
The Cubs had one more bit of comeback in the ninth. Bryant walked and Rizzo singled with one out, and after Contreras struck out, J-Hey gave the Cubs a bit of hope [VIDEO].
Note the count and outs: That’s a two-out, 0-2 three-run homer. Heyward has had an amazing June, and though he won’t be player of the month, this is by far the best he’s hit since he’s been a Cub. Let’s hope he keeps it up the rest of the season. And:
#Cubs home run leaders— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 30, 2019
Heyward needs 2 more to make it 6 consecutive numbers
That homer, his 14th, got him one of those two numbers. Perhaps more in Pittsburgh?
Two runs down, two out, nobody on base, a tiring closer and Javy up? Now, this is where the miracle comeback is supposed to be completed... but Javy popped up and the game was over.
Like I said, infuriating.
So the Cubs lose another road series, and against the Reds this year they’re 3-6, which is just plain bad. No doubt, the Reds are a better team than they used to be, but they are not as talented as the Cubs are (in my view) and this simply shouldn’t be happening to a team that has World Series dreams.
Unless the Cubs can figure out how to get this offense untracked on a regular basis, those dreams aren’t going to be fulfilled. (Better late-inning relief would help, too.)
The loss also gave the Cubs their first losing month (14-15) since May 2017. That season came out with a division title; maybe this one will, too.
At this writing the Brewers and Pirates remain tied 1-1 in the eighth inning; if Pittsburgh can win that game, the Cubs would remain in first place alone, otherwise they’ll be tied with Milwaukee as they enter a four-game series at Pittsburgh Monday night. Adbert Alzolay will start for the Cubs and Trevor Williams goes for the Bucs. Game time Monday is 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.