When I was watching Christian Yelich’s three-run homer in the ninth inning off Craig Kimbrel sail onto the top of the center-field bleacher suite, my first thought was, “There goes the 2019 season.”
Sure, there are still 26 games remaining in the season, and seven of them are against the Cardinals. That 3½ games feels like 3½ miles right now, doesn’t it?
When Yu Darvish was scratched from his scheduled start Sunday afternoon (“forearm tightness,” they said, but Joe Maddon said Darvish will make his next start), a feeling of doom began to fall, especially when Tyler Chatwood was announced as the replacement. And Chatwood started out this game like so many last year, with two walks. But you know what? He threw pretty well, all things considered. Two hits and an infield out produced a run off him in the fourth inning, and he departed in that inning after his fourth walk — but he also struck out seven. It wasn’t a bad outing, given the circumstances.
But the Cubs... simply... could... not... score. And it’s not as if they didn’t have chances. Runner in scoring position, two out in the second: strikeout. Runner in scoring position, one out in the third... nothing. Runner in scoring position, two out in the fourth: fly to left. Leadoff walk in the fifth: line-drive double play. Also, note this:
That was the Cubs 55th out on the base paths this year. No other teams has more than 49. (Though not much Baez could do about that one).— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) September 1, 2019
1-0 Top 6
Do not blame Javier Baez for that one — no one could have gotten back to the base. Baez, who stole second base in the third and was down for a long time after apparently having his head hit Orlando Arcia’s leg, eventually left the game after the sixth. Here’s the play in question [VIDEO].
Let’s hope Javy isn’t out for any extended period fo time.
The Cubs also got the first two runners on in the sixth, but Jason Heyward bunted into a force play and Addison Russell hit into a double play.
Meanwhile, Cubs relievers were doing a pretty good job. Brad Wieck (making his Cubs debut), David Phelps, Steve Cishek, Kyle Ryan and Rowan Wick threw 4⅓ shutout innings, allowed two hits and a walk, and struck out seven.
Note about Wieck (this is going to be confusing now, Wieck and Wick): He is 6-foot-9. When he threw his first pitch, he became the tallest player in Cubs history, surpassing Kameron Loe (2013) and Chris Volstad (2012), both of whom are 6-foot-8.
Even with Brewers relievers shutting the Cubs down (for the most part) in the seventh and eighth, there was still a sense that the Cubs might be able to get back into the game... until Kimbrel gave up the disastrous home run to Yelich. Kimbrel’s fastball didn’t seem to be working well early in the inning, as he allowed a walk and single, so he tried to sneak a curveball past Yelich, and that baseball went a long, long way:
And thus in the ninth, Josh Hader entered in a non-save situation. He appeared to have hit Ian Happ with a pitch with one out, but that was overturned on review. And so it was that Ben Zobrist ended his first day in a Cubs uniform since May on deck to bat for Pedro Strop (who had relieved Kimbrel after the homer) as Tony Kemp hit a line drive to left to end it. Overall: 0-for-10 for the Cubs with RISP in this game. Ugh. More ugh: The Cubs gave the Brewers just seven runs in the three games, yet could win only one of them. It’s the first time they have been shut out in consecutive games since April 1-2, 2018 (Marlins, then Reds), and the first time back-to-back by the same team since May 26-27, 2017 (Dodgers).
Oh, sure, the Cubs still have a comfortable lead (currently three games, pending the Phillies/Mets result Sunday night) for the second wild-card spot. If it comes to that, having to play a winner-take-all game against the Nationals in Washington will feel like being led to an execution.
Maybe things will turn around, but it sure doesn’t feel that way right now.
Regarding Zobrist, here’s a bit of his pregame news conference [VIDEO].
And the Lee Smith pregame ceremony was nicely done; here’s some of that [VIDEO].
There’s nothing more I have to say about this game. All they can do is go out and try to win Monday, when the Mariners are in town for a two-game series that will wrap up interleague play for the Cubs for 2019. The Cubs swept the Mariners in Seattle April 30 and May 1, so there’s that, and the Cubs are 10-8 overall against A.L. teams this season.
Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Justus Sheffield will go for the Mariners Monday afternoon at 1:20 p.m. CT. TV coverage will be via WGN.