Can’t anybody here play this game? — Casey Stengel
Those words were, allegedly, spoken by the Hall of Fame manager during spring training in 1962 with the Mets, when he was gobsmacked by the incredible lack of talent in front of him.
Now, the 2019 Cubs are clearly better than the 1962 Mets, and there’s plenty of talent on this team.
That said, there are still some giant (no pun intended) holes to be filled in this bizarre Cubs summer, and one of them was on dramatic display in the 13th inning of the Cubs’ 5-4 loss to the Giants Tuesday evening. The walkoff homer Pablo Sandoval hit off Brad Brach pointed up the Cubs’ almost desperate need for some relief help.
The team’s inability to win on the road is stunning. They are 18-29 now away from Wrigley Field. That’s a .383 winning percentage. To give you some context, in the 162-game schedule era there have been 10 Cubs teams with a road winning percentage of .383 or worse. All 10 (1962, 1966, 1980, 1983, 1986, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2012) lost at least 90 games. Some of those are among the worst teams in franchise history.
This year’s Cubs are better than that, or at least they have enough talent to be. But if they can’t win away from Wrigley Field — and they are now 6-18 on the road since May 27 — maybe they aren’t. Also, there’s this:
The Cubs are now 5-10 in one run games on the road. So 10 of 29 road losses have come by a run.— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 24, 2019
Let’s have a look at what happened in this game.
As they had Monday, the Cubs took a first-inning lead, this time on an RBI single by Kris Bryant [VIDEO].
The Giants tied the game in the bottom of the second, but in the third, KB did it again [VIDEO].
Yu Darvish got touched up for three runs in the fourth, giving the Giants a 4-2 lead. He departed after six innings having allowed four runs on six hits, with one walk and six strikeouts. This wasn’t a bad outing, but then, with four runs on the ledger, it wasn’t really a good outing either.
Jason Heyward doubled leading off the seventh, and one out later, Victor Caratini drove him in [VIDEO].
And then the Cubs tied the game up in the eighth. With one out, Bryant doubled. After Anthony Rizzo struck out, Daniel Descalso was sent up to pinch hit.
You groaned when you saw that, right?
But Descalso put together a good at-bat and walked, keeping the inning going for Heyward [VIDEO].
The problem at this point is that the Cubs had used up all but one bench player (Addison Russell), and had to use this not-optimal defensive alignment:
Brandon Kintzler entered the game at that point to pitch. He did fine, as did Rowan Wick, Tim Collins, Steve Cishek and Craig Kimbrel. Those five combined for five shutout innings, allowing one hit and two walks and striking out four. That’s good! They got some help on defense in the eighth inning from Bryant in right [VIDEO].
Bad was the Cubs offense after the eighth inning. They managed just two baserunners: David Bote reaching on an error in the ninth (he was erased on a double-play ball by Russell) and Caratini singling in the 12th (also erased on a DP grounder, this one by Bote).
Meanwhile, the Giants’ Kevin Pillar hit a ball off the very top of the wall in left-center, inches from being a walkoff homer. He was stranded.
The Cubs, out of position players, sent Kyle Hendricks up to pinch-hit in the 12th after Bote’s double play. Predictably, he struck out.
Brach threw a scoreless 12th, then served up Sandoval’s walkoff homer with one out in the 13th. There had been a Tyler Chatwood sighting, warming up in the bullpen, and I found myself wondering why he wasn’t in the game. You’d think a long extra-inning affair is the perfect time to use Chatwood, who can throw multiple innings. Also, the guy can hit, or at least hit better than Hendricks — why not use him to bat in that spot, then leave him in to pitch?
Anyway, Bryant continued his hot hitting, going 3-for-6 and Heyward’s two-hit game was his fifth multi-hit game since the All-Star break.
But the Cubs need relief help, and this game was a perfect example of that.
The Cubs will try to avoid being swept in the series finale Wednesday afternoon. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs — and a seven-inning outing would be nice — and Tyler Beede goes for the Giants. Game time is 2:45 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago. The game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.