You might have asked, as I did when Willson Contreras didn’t catch that fly ball in the ninth inning of the Cubs’ 6-5 loss to the Pirates, why Jason Heyward wasn’t in right field at that point. After all, in close games like that, you usually want your best defensive players on the field in the ninth.
For those that missed it Heyward was banged up after last night . Left side etc. might be avail tomorrow.— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 4, 2019
So there’s your answer. Heyward likely catches the ball that Contreras couldn’t, and if so, there are two out with a runner on first and the next ground ball ends the game. Then there’s the question of why Adam Frazier wasn’t intentionally walked with first base open:
Maddon said didn't want to play infield all the way in with Frazier up and tying run at 3B because of how hot Frazier is. Playing for the tie on slow/routine hit grounder, but Russell went to plate.— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) July 4, 2019
Didn't want to IBB Frazier with 2-3 due up and no margin for Kimbrel to work w/.
Oh, about that ground ball hit by Frazier, where Addison Russell went home instead of for the sure out at first:
Maddon on Russell going home in the 9th: "If it's hit hard you have a shot at it, otherwise, just get the out."— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 4, 2019
Russell: "I don't regret my decision going home but that play has to be perfect to be made, especially with me ranging to my left."
It was an inning in which just about everything that could have gone wrong did, and so the Cubs end up with a very difficult loss after a game in which nearly everything went right up to that point and even though there’s a logical explanation for almost everything that went wrong in that frame.
Victor Caratini began the game well, though, by giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the second inning [VIDEO].
The Cubs made it 2-0 in the fourth on an RBI single by Addison Russell after a pair of walks. But the Pirates took the lead 3-2 in the bottom of the inning on an RBI double by Josh Bell and two-run homer by Melky Cabrera.
Javier Baez wasted no time in tying the game up [VIDEO].
So it’s 3-3 in the fifth, and the Pirates again took the lead by one on a solo homer by Bell, who would be having an MVP season if not for Cody Bellinger. But with two out in the seventh, Contreras singled and Caratini did it again [VIDEO].
High and deep!
#Cubs 5 @ #Pirates 4 [T7-2o]:— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) July 4, 2019
Victor Caratini homers (4): fly ball to LF (2-run)
Hit: 408.49ft, 100.57mph, 34.05°
[2nd of game]
Pitch: 88.6mph Slider (LHP Francisco Liriano, 5) pic.twitter.com/YZeAm6HOjl
And that gave him a distinction in Cubs history, becoming the sixth Cub to homer from both sides of the plate in a game (two of these players did it twice):
#Cubs to homer from both sides of the plate— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 4, 2019
Victor Caratini tonight
Ian Happ 5/7/2018
Dioner Navarro 5/29/2013
Mark Bellhorn 8/29/2002 (same inning)
Mark Bellhorn 6/30/2002
Ellis Burton 9/7/1964
Ellis Burton 8/1/1963
Augie Galan 6/25/1937
Could the Cubs get nine outs without giving up runs? (Sadly, no. But let’s continue anyway.)
Darvish began the seventh, and was relieved by Brandon Kintzler after giving up a two-out single. It was a good outing for Darvish, I thought, despite the home runs by Bell: 6⅔ innings, seven hits, no walks, six strikeouts. Kintzler got out of the inning, the Cubs didn’t score in the eighth, and Pedro Strop entered for the bottom of the eighth.
It wasn’t Pedro’s greatest inning, and yet it ended scoreless. Starling Marte led off with a single, but Pedro picked him off... after a video review [VIDEO].
So for those of you who hate Joe West, there’s a blown call by him. The issue I have with West isn’t his calls — most of which are good — it’s the fact that he always wants to be part of the show. The best umpires, in my view, are the ones you don’t notice.
But the call worked out the Cubs’ way. One out later, Cabrera doubled and pinch-hitter Jose Osuna singled and that’s when Contreras made this spectacular play [VIDEO].
That would be a fantastic play for any right fielder, let alone one who had never started at the position before and before Wednesday had played a total of 7⅓ innings there in three major-league games. Major kudos to Willson, and also to Caratini for being in the perfect spot for the tag.
Someone is going to mention this so I figured I would: In the ninth inning, Javy hit a ball that bounced high off the center-field wall right to Marte, who held Javy to a single. It appeared Baez stopped and watched the ball instead of running right out of the box and otherwise might have had a double. That’s not good, but he’s likely stranded anyway as the next two hitters made routine outs.
Then followed the disastrous bottom of the ninth, which I have already covered above.
This team is now on an awful 1-5 road trip and it’s even worse when this is noted:
Worst Road Record in MLB— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 4, 2019
Cubs 4-15 .211
Orioles 4-12 .250
Blue Jays 5-13 .278
That’s two teams that are a combined 57 games under .500... and the Cubs. So do the Cubs belong in that group or not?
One last note, about the major-league debut of Robel Garcia, who was called up from Triple-A Iowa Wednesday: He struck out, batting for Kintzler in the eighth. I’d expect Garcia to start Thursday’s game, perhaps at second base.
Somehow, somehow, the Cubs are still just one game out of first place in the Comedy Central. The Brewers lost for the second straight time to the Reds, and now the entire division is within 4½ games of each other. Eventually this will sort itself out and I still believe the Cubs are talented enough to go on a winning streak and assert themselves in this division. But this really needs to start now.
Thursday’s series finale will feature Jose Quintana starting for the Cubs and Jordan Lyles for the Pirates. Game time is 3:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via WGN (with the game also being covered by ESPN, available outside the Cubs and Pirates market territories).