The late-inning comeback Sunday in Cincinnati, leading to a hard-earned series split, gave me the thought that the Cubs might have solved their road-game issues and they might put together a good performance behind Jose Quintana and win Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
Good performance by Q? Check.
The rest of this game? Not so much, and the Cubs wound up with an immensely frustrating 4-2 defeat.
Quintana started out with a 28-pitch first inning — including 11 pitches to new Phillies leadoff hitter Bryce Harper — but eventually struck out the side. The game went scoreless into the third, and that’s when one key play might have turned this game to the Philly side.
With one out, J.T. Realmuto lofted a little fly ball into short center field, not too far from second baseman Ian Happ. And Happ... dropped it. Just plain dropped it. A big-league second baseman has to catch that ball.
It wound up leading to an unearned run after a single and a sacrifice fly. Now, that in itself didn’t lose this game. But it made Q throw to an extra hitter in the inning, and changed the sequence of batters in each subsequent inning.
The Cubs tied the game in the fourth. Nicholas Castellanos led off with an infield hit and Kris Bryant walked. After a force play, Javier Baez hit a sacrifice fly and it was 1-1. In the fifth, Realmuto homered off Quintana to give the Phillies the lead again.
And once again the Cubs tied things up, thanks to Castellanos [VIDEO].
That was Castellanos’ fifth home run in 12 games as a Cub. He’s got a SLG of .800 since the trade.
Quintana finished his outing by striking out the side in the sixth inning, giving him 14 strikeouts for the evening. That’s something very, very rare in Cubs history:
Jose Quintana is the first #Cubs pitcher to strike out at least 14 batters through six innings pitched since Kerry Wood on April 27, 2001. No other Cubs pitcher has ever done so. Worth noting, when Wood had his 20 K game on May 6, 1998, he had 12 K through the first six innings.— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) August 14, 2019
14 Strikeouts by José Quintana is most by a #Cubs pitcher since Jon Lester (14) July 29, 2015 at Wrigley Field— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 14, 2019
It's the most on the road since Mark Prior (14) September 21, 2003 at Pittsburgh
14-strikeout starts by #Cubs lefties— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 14, 2019
José Quintana (14) tonight
Jon Lester (14) July 29, 2015
The Cubs bullpen had done a good job Sunday after they took the lead in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, they weren’t as good in this one after the game was tied up by Castellanos’ homer. Kyle Ryan was touched up for a run in the seventh and Duane Underwood Jr. gave up another in the eighth. The Cubs, meanwhile, had just one baserunner in those two innings (a walk to Jason Heyward) and the photo at the top of this recap is Castellanos slamming his bat in frustration after he just missed a pitch and flied to center.
So the Cubs went to the ninth inning trailing by two. Jonathan Lucroy was hit by a pitch, bringing the tying run to the plate in the person of Tony Kemp.
Phillies closer Hector Neris ran the count to 1-2 on Kemp. And then:
No, plate umpire Marty Foster. Pitch 5 is clearly not a strike. And yet, Foster called it strike three. Here, have a look:
Even the Phillies announcers knew it was a blown call:
Robo ump needed in philly. Phils announcer: “Whata break that was for phils.”— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 14, 2019
Now, let’s make it clear. This call was not the reason the Cubs lost this game. A correct call wouldn’t have resulted in anything more than making the count 2-2, and maybe Kemp makes an out anyway.
Or maybe he doesn’t; maybe Kemp walks, or gets a hit, and the Cubs go on to rally in the ninth. We’ll never know because the opinion of one umpire can’t be overruled in this case.
I can’t emphasize enough how much I hate seeing calls like this, and they happen all the time, with nearly every umpire. We have the technology available to get these calls right. I know an automated strike zone is being tested in the independent Atlantic League; bringing it to MLB should be put on the fast track.
I wouldn’t have blamed Joe Maddon if he had run out and given Foster a piece of his mind and been ejected. At a certain point you’ve got to stand up for what’s right.
Beyond that, this is not the first time Foster has made a call this bad. Check out this horrendous call he made in 2013. The batter is, oddly enough, Ben Zobrist:
I saw the pitch and of course don’t have the chance to do it again, but had I had a chance to do it again, I wouldn’t call that pitch a strike.
Well, guess what, Marty? You had another chance to not make a bad call on a similar out-of-the-zone pitch, and you blew it. Again.
Anyway, that was just the first out of the ninth inning. The Cubs did get the tying run on base one out later when Victor Caratini walked, but Heyward grounded out to end it, another immensely frustrating defeat. Here, get more frustrated:
#Cubs this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 14, 2019
Home: 41-19, +75 run differential
Road: 23-36, 0 run differential
A run differential of zero and a record of 13 games under .500? The run differential would suggest the Cubs should be something like 29-30 on the road instead of 23-36. If that were the case, the Cubs would be 70-49 and running away with the N.L. Central.
That weird run differential largely comes from this: The Cubs have scored 10 or more runs 14 times this year. They are 12-2 in those 14 games — and 10 of them have been on the road. They’ve won games on the road 14-8, 14-6, 13-5, 12-5, 12-4, 11-0, 11-3 and 11-4... I think you get the idea. And they also have a record of 12-19 in one-run games on the road, and that pretty much tells the story of this year’s bullpen. They’re 5-0 in one-run games at Wrigley Field.
Anyway, that’s going to have to change, and soon.
The Cardinals won Tuesday, so they moved to within one game of first place. The Brewers came back from a 4-1 deficit to take a 5-4 lead over the Twins on a three-run homer by Yasmani Grandal — but then Josh Hader served up a three-run homer on the first pitch he threw to Marwin Gonzalez and the Brewers lost 7-5, so they still trail the Cubs by 2½ games.
The Cubs will look to even up this series Wednesday evening. Cole Hamels will start for the Cubs, his first-ever start as a visiting player in his former home, Citizens Bank Park, and Aaron Nola goes for the Phillies. Game time is again 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago, with a national broadcast on ESPN.