You know, Joe Maddon probably should have taken Steve Cishek out after the first walk, when it looked like he had lost his command.
Or he should have taken Cishek out after the second walk, the one that loaded the bases, when it was clear to every single person watching that Cishek had lost his command.
But there he was, facing Manuel Margot in a situation where another walk loses the game. That’s exactly what happened, and the Cubs had a disastrous 9-8 loss to the Padres, something they can ill afford.
Let’s talk a little about the walks and whether Cishek could have been removed before I go back to the beginning of this very long game.
Cishek: "To walk off on a walk is probably the worst possible thing you can do."— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) September 11, 2019
More Cishek, on first two walks: "It was close. He was calling balls off the plate. I thought I would get a couple of those. It is what it is but I still need to execute."— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) September 11, 2019
“He,” of course, is plate umpire C.B. Bucknor, and I probably don’t have to say anything more for you to understand that the Cubs were up against it just because he was the plate umpire. (I will actually have a lot more to say about Bucknor later.)
And Jesse Rogers is correct here:
1) We can debate going to another pitcher there but it CAN'T be a lefty. You don't play into these splits for Margot: .199/.260 v righties, .361/.459 v lefties.— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) September 11, 2019
So Wieck, Hultzen and Holland are out. It's Strop (no way), Norwood (no way) Mills (maybe) or Underwood (doubtful)
2) At that point, I can see leaving Cishek in for two reasons, none of those other guys are strikeout guys which would trump a ground ball guy. Cishek can be a ground ball guy....when he's not walking people, of course. Damned if you do,damned if you don't. Another one slips away— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) September 11, 2019
This is good analysis, but I think in this situation — where Cishek IS walking people — you have to go to someone else, anyone else. Actually, I think Duane Underwood Jr. could have been the right choice there. He throws hard and throws strikes.
What’s done is done. Let’s head back to the beginning of this game, which was scoreless in the second inning. Kris Bryant walked to lead off the frame and one out later, Jason Heyward put one in the seats [VIDEO].
The lead, unfortunately, did not last long. Jose Quintana got hit hard in the bottom of the second. Three singles sandwiched around a hard-hit out made it 2-1. Another single loaded the bases and brought pitcher Ronald Bolanos up. He hit a ground ball to Ben Zobrist that should have been an inning-ending double play. Oh, no. [VIDEO]
Here’s Ben Zobrist talking about the ball he threw away, which cleared the bases:
As Ben said, the throw (and a similar one the day before) was “not really reachable.” It went into left field while three runs scored. Another hit and a sacrifice fly made it a five-run inning for the Padres. Zobrist wound up leaving the game after the third when Quintana was removed, in a double switch for Ian Happ.
But hey, it’s only the second inning and the Cubs offense seems energized. That’s enough time to come back, right?
The Cubs got one back in the fourth. Two walks and a wild pitch put runners on second and third. Happ hit a fly ball to left field [VIDEO].
That was a great throw to the plate by Nick Martini and a good tag by catcher Austin Hedges. But you can see on watching the play again that Heyward got his hand on the plate just before the tag. The call — naturally, a bad one by Bucknor, who seemed to relish the chance to make a demonstrative “Out!” signal — was overturned and the Cubs had a run.
In the fifth, Kyle Schwarber led off with a walk. Two outs later, it was Kris Bryant’s turn to put the Cubs on the board [VIDEO].
Now it’s 6-5 and we still have half a game to play.
Here’s where Tyler Chatwood gets some praise. He relieved Quintana and was lights-out. That is a sentence you probably did not think you would read here this year. But Chatwood threw strikes and showed off the great stuff he has. He faced nine batters and retired all of them, four by strikeout. You know, maybe Joe should have just left him in the game when his turn to bat came up in the seventh. Chatwood is a decent hitter, and right then they needed that kind of pitching. David Bote batted for him and hit the ball hard, but right at Manuel Margot for an out.
Then Brandon Kintzler put the Cubs further behind, in a rare bad outing. Three straight hits, including two for extra bases, scored two Padres runs and made it 8-5. Joe had to call on two more pitchers — Kyle Ryan and David Phelps — to get out of that inning with no further damage.
The Cubs then had themselves an eighth inning. Anthony Rizzo led off with a single. KB, come on down! [VIDEO]
Bryant’s second homer of the game made it 8-7. Now, remember that this is a guy who just missed two games with a sore knee. The cortisone shot he had must have really helped.
One out later, Heyward tied things up [VIDEO].
Look at how fast that pitch came in (100 miles per hour on the TV scorebox) and how fast it went out:
#Cubs 8 @ #Padres 8 [T8-1o]:— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) September 11, 2019
Jason Heyward homers (21): fly ball to CF (solo)
Hit: 416.91ft, 104.22mph, 24.32°
[2nd of game]
Pitch: 99.9mph Four-Seam Fastball (RHP Andres Munoz, 2) pic.twitter.com/ky5G5ndRJ1
It was the Cubs’ fourth homer of the game and 228th of the season. Just eight more will break the franchise record (235, set in 2004).
The game’s tied and there’s still only one out in the eighth. Nico Hoerner followed J-Hey’s homer with a single, putting the lead run on base.
And then the Cubs got Bucknor-ed.
Happ might have struck out swinging, but pitch 3, which was called strike 2: Not a strike. (Pitch 2, which shows as a strike here, was fouled off.)
Tony Kemp, batting for Phelps, was the next hitter.
Pitch 4, which was called strike 3: Not a strike.
You know, I think I know what the issue is here. Bucknor must be utterly fooled by good pitch framing, and Padres catcher Austin Hedges is one of the best pitch framers in the game. Per this article in The Athletic (subscription required) from last May, he’s the second-best in all of baseball, behind only Tyler Flowers:
Just on the basis of his pitch framing, Hedges is popular among pitchers because he brings their ERAs down. A collection of pitches thrown with Hedges catching shows his knack for catching a pitch that is just outside the strike zone with at least part of his glove in the zone.
Padres reliever Craig Stammen has thrown to 18 catchers in his 10-year career and rates Hedges as the best, ahead of Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez, when it comes to “stealing pitches.”
Pitch framing is a thing in 2019 baseball. It should not be a thing. Bring on the robot umpires. Please.
Both teams had a baserunner with two out in the ninth (Anthony Rizzo on a HBP for the Cubs, Eric Hosmer on a walk for the Padres), but no one scored, and so it’s on to extras.
In the top of the 10th, Heyward walked with one out, but Hoerner lined out and Happ grounded out and so on to the bottom of the inning things went, with Cishek on the mound, and that’s where we came into this recap.
I want you to remember there are still 18 games remaining in this season. The Cubs didn’t lose any ground in the N.L. Central to the Cardinals, who also lost, so they’re still four games out. They didn’t lose any ground to the Nationals or Diamondbacks in the wild-card race, because those teams also lost. They did lose a game in the wild-card race to the Brewers. Milwaukee defeated the Marlins Tuesday night, but at a very high cost [VIDEO].
Christian Yelich fouled a ball off his kneecap and fractured it. He’s out for the rest of the season.
If you were thinking about celebrating that, heed the words of Joe Maddon:
Maddon on C. Yelich: "Its not good. I always want to beat other teams at their best. That's a tough one right there."— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) September 11, 2019
You never, ever want to see anyone get hurt playing baseball. Christian Yelich is a legitimately great player, one of the best in the game, and I wish him well. (That doesn’t mean I still don’t want the Brewers to lose every time they take the field, though.)
So the Cubs still hold the second wild-card spot, but by only one game over the Brewers. They trail the Nats by 2½ games for the top wild-card spot. The 18 games that remain are both not very much time and a lot of time. Many things can happen in two and a half weeks.
Here, though, is a bit of a distressing comparison:
First time #Cubs lost a game despite two players with multi-HR games since August 1, 2013 - Anthony Rizzo & Junior Lake— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 11, 2019
I want to leave you with this note, with which I agree 100 percent:
Joe Maddon is the best Cubs manager of anyone’s lifetime. After five years it’s possible that his voice isn’t resonating the same way — but to all the people who crush him after every game — you are really going to miss him when he’s gone.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) September 11, 2019
Let’s hope he’s not gone for another couple of years, at least.
The Cubs will try it again against the Padres Wednesday evening in what is the final late-night (Central time) start of the 2019 season. San Diego native Cole Hamels will take the mound for the Cubs and Chris Paddack goes for the Padres. Game time is again 9:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via ABC7 Chicago (with a national broadcast on ESPN outside the Cubs and Padres market territories).