Decades from now, when historians write the story of the Theo Epstein-era Cubs, when they rose to power and victory and when they fell away, having to be retooled, those historians will likely cite this game, this disastrous, horrendous, terrible, awful, ghastly 7-5 loss to the Phillies Thursday evening, as the beginning of the end.
As fans, all of us go through various emotions during a Cubs game, or in reaction to the result. Among those emotions: Elation, joy, frustration, disappointment, surprise, disgust, sadness.
This one just made me angry. Not just for the result, but for the reasons for the result.
One thing I’m going to disabuse you of right now is the notion that Yu Darvish, who had been utterly dominant all night, could have thrown another inning:
Joe said Hottovy talked to Darvish after the 7th and he was done for the night. Darvish agreed, said he got out of his mechanics after the fourth and was losing his command.— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) August 16, 2019
It didn’t seem that way — Darvish struck out four of the last seven hitters he faced — but I’ll take that at face value.
And that means, with three of the Cubs’ best relievers (Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek) all on the injured list, the relief selections in this game had to thread a delicate needle.
That raises this question: Why did the Cubs not have their best possible defense on the field in the ninth inning? Yes, Javier Baez missed the game with an illness which has apparently been going around the clubhouse. This forced David Bote to play shortstop. Why wasn’t Tony Kemp left in the game at second base for defense after he batted for Darvish in the eighth inning?
Because it was defense that lost this game. Bryce Harper shouldn’t have even come to the plate. Cubs relievers did their job (well, most of them did). Bote made an error on what should have been the second out of the inning, a routine ground ball on which a play should have been made.
That’s right: There should have been two out and nobody on base when Scott Kingery came to the plate. And then Rowan Wick got what should have been the third out, a ground ball to second base that Ian Happ couldn’t get to.
I’m not sure what Happ’s best position is, but it definitely isn’t second base, because Pedro Strop then entered the game and got what should again have been the third, game-ending out of the inning, another ground ball Happ couldn’t get to. So Cubs relievers had induced four outs in this inning, except there was only one on the scoreboard, thanks to poor or absent defense.
Then Strop hit Rhys Hoskins to load the bases.
Derek Holland entered the game to face Harper. Holland is on this roster for one reason, and one reason only: When moved to the bullpen in San Francisco, he got lefthanded hitters out at a very good rate. Harper hit a baseball off Holland somewhere in the direction of New Jersey; for all I know it still hasn’t landed.
Well, that will make a roster decision much easier when the injured relievers return, anyway. I don’t expect Holland to be around much longer.
This is all on Theo Epstein & Co. for not providing useful players to Joe Maddon that he can deploy in situations like this. A friend of mine sent me a note after last night’s game wondering why the Cubs didn’t claim Freddy Galvis from the Blue Jays on waivers earlier this week. He’d have looked pretty good at shortstop in place of Baez in this game.
Those of you blaming Maddon need to remember that he is only playing the guys Theo gives him. For those who think the Cubs need an old-school manager to “kick some butt” and yell and scream, I present this Calvin and Hobbes strip:
Things you probably don’t want to know about the way this game ended, but I’m going to post them here anyway:
Bryce Harper's walkoff grand slam capped the @Phillies' comeback from a 5-1 deficit entering the 9th inning.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) August 16, 2019
Prior to tonight, the Cubs had won 489 straight games when leading by 4+ runs in the 9th or later, the longest active streak in the NL.#RingTheBell
STATS Inc. doesn’t specify it in their tweet, nor did anyone post this in the replies, but I’m pretty sure the previous such loss was this one, May 17, 2007 to the Mets.
That was the Cubs’ 12th loss when leading in the 7th or later. Sign of a champion.— Heckler Cubs (@HecklerChiCubs) August 16, 2019
Most recent lefty on lefty walkoff grand slams:— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) August 16, 2019
CHC @ PHI
RF Bryce Harper (hitting second) off Derek Holland
Phillies trailing 5-3
PHI @ CHC
RF Jason Heyward (hitting second) off Adam Morgan
Cubs trailing 5-3
#Cubs this series vs Phillies— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 16, 2019
Tonight: Yu Darvish 7 innings, 0 runs, 0 walks, 10 K
Tuesday: José Quintana 6 innings, 2 runs (1 ER), 1 walk, 14 K
Lost 'em both.
And that one brings me to Darvish, who was absolutely outstanding before running out of gas after the seventh. He’s become the ace the Cubs thought they were getting when they signed him before the 2018 season. This, for example:
Yu Darvish with his second game this season with 10+ strikeouts and no walks (6th of his career).— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 16, 2019
First #Cubs pitcher with two of those in a season since Jon Lester in 2017.
Over Darvish's last 8 starts, he has 63 strikeouts and 2 walks.
(and a 2.77 ERA).
Yu Darvish has faced 102 batters since the last batter he walked (Mike Yastrzemski on July 23)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 16, 2019
Darvish is the first #Cubs pitcher with 8 straight starts with 1 or 0 walks since Kyle Hendricks June 7-July 17, 2015
Darvish should have about eight more starts remaining this year. I very much look forward to seeing what he can do. Incidentally, Darvish turns 33 today. I’m guessing he’d have liked to have a win for his birthday.
This entire recap should have been about Darvish, his outstanding outing, the Cubs winning the game and moving back into first place and Kyle Schwarber’s 100th career home run [VIDEO].
That one went a long way:
I hope the Phillies got that milestone baseball back for Kyle, because he set a franchise record with it:
Fewest games to 100 career HR— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 16, 2019
among players who debuted with #Cubs
Kyle Schwarber 453
Kris Bryant 487
Ernie Banks 500
Javier Báez 602
Billy Williams 611
Ron Santo 708
This recap should have been filled with nice, fun things like this, but I can’t, I just can’t, not after that one. My usual routine after a Cubs road night game is to flip on another game, a West Coast game, and watch for a while before going to sleep. Last night I could not bear the idea of watching one more minute of baseball, so I just did some quiet non-baseball reading and went to sleep, still mighty angry about this game, not that there was anything I, personally, could do about it.
What about the players?
Cubs have had some tough losses, Rizzo said this one stings most. "It's no. 1, for sure. With the road struggles & being able to win a game here would have been nice going to Pittsburgh. But we didn't & it's definitely tougher this part of the season as opposed to April or May."— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) August 16, 2019
Somehow, the Cubs are still in a virtual tie for first place with the Cardinals, who also lost Thursday. It hardly feels that way. Right now it doesn’t feel as if this is a postseason team at all, or if they will ever win another road game.
And yet, play on they will, as they are required to by the schedule. Friday evening, they will continue their Pennsylvania tour in Pittsburgh, where they will open a three-game series against the Pirates. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs against Pittsburgh’s Joe Musgrove. Game time is 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via WGN.
Maybe I won’t be angry anymore by then.
The 2019 Cubs will...
This poll is closed
... miss the playoffs
... make the wild card game and lose
... make the wild card game and win it, but lose a division series
... make the wild card game and win it and a division series, but lose the NLCS
... make the wild card game and win it, a division series and the NLCS, but lose the World Series
... make the wild card game and win it, a division series, the NLCS and World Series
... win the N.L. Central, but lose a division series
... win the N.L. Central and a division series, but lose the NLCS
... win the N.L. Central, a division series and the NLCS, but lose the World Series
... win the N.L. Central, a division series, the NLCS and World Series