Before I get into the details of the Cubs’ 7-6 loss to the Tigers, a note about the bigger story of Wednesday, Jason Heyward’s decision to not play in the game. BCB’s Sara Sanchez will have more on this later this morning. I would ask that you hold any comments about the Heyward choice for her article and not post them here.
This game, meanwhile, was more aggravating than most losses. It once again pointed up the need for the Cubs to get some bullpen help — no matter where it comes from — and frustratingly, could have been won in the ninth inning if Comerica Park didn’t have a 420-foot center field wall.
The game began as advertised. The Cubs put together a two-run third inning with an RBI single from Anthony Rizzo and a sac fly by Javier Baez.
The Tigers pushed across a run in the fourth off Jon Lester. Unfortunately, through Lester’s outing he was running a lot of long counts and even though he issued only one walk, he allowed eight hits and threw 93 pitches in five innings. On a warm night, that was all for Lester after five, and in the top of the sixth Kyle Schwarber gave the Cubs a two-run lead [VIDEO].
3-1, four innings to go. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, you know the answer to that. The Cubs bullpen started out the year horribly, got a bit better for a couple of weeks, but Wednesday night they were just bad. The Tigers had a seven-hit, five-run sixth inning off Rowan Wick and Ryan Tepera, and I’ll spare you details of the carnage, but Detroit thus ended the sixth with a three-run lead. Detroit wound up with 18 hits on the evening in only eight innings.
As it turned out, though, the key to this loss was the single run the Tigers pushed across off Colin Rea in the seventh on an RBI single by Miguel Cabrera. It didn’t seem to mean much at the time, simply extending the lead to 7-3.
But the Cubs put together a stirring rally in the ninth. David Bote led off with a double and Nico Hoerner singled him in [VIDEO].
That was followed by this RBI double [VIDEO] by Albert Almora Jr.
Well. Now it’s 7-5, so the tying run is at the plate. Ian Happ singled Almora to third and that brought up Rizzo [VIDEO].
In any other MLB park, that’s a three-run homer and the Cubs have the lead. In Detroit, it’s a 424-foot out:
Interesting, that ball’s listed as a 424-foot out when the distance on the wall says 420. One of those two has to be wrong. Note the expected BA on that ball — 83 percent of the time, that’s a hit.
A run scored to make it 7-6, but now the bases are empty. Tigers righthander Buck Farmer got Javier Baez on a fly ball and then Schwarber sent a screaming line drive right back up the middle, but it was speared by Farmer to end the game.
The Cardinals scored four runs in the ninth inning Wednesday — all of them after former Cub Randy Rosario entered the game — and beat the Royals to move to within two games of the Cubs in the NL Central. The Cubs series in Detroit didn’t go anywhere like any of us had expected — I don’t think even Tigers fans thought they could take two of three — and as noted above, the Cubs are going to have to address their bullpen issues. Cubs relievers now have a 5.79 ERA and 1.500 WHIP in 98 innings. Only the Phillies — who just made two bullpen acquisitions — have a higher relief ERA (7.52). Whether the help comes from the alternate training site in South Bend or by trade, Theo & Co. are going to have to fix this, and fast.
We have now reached the halfway point of this abbreviated season with the Cubs 18-12. I think that before the 2020 season began, most of us would have been happy with 18-12 in the first 30 games. But since the Cubs began the year 13-3, a 5-9 record in the next 14 games looks pretty bad. (In fact, only the Rockies at 4-9 have a worse record over that span among NL teams.)
However, if the Cubs can go 18-12 in the final 30 games to finish at 36-24, I’d think that would be good enough to win the NL Central and have home field for the first playoff round. Hopefully, they can fix the bullpen woes and get some of the stalled bats going, beginning Friday in Cincinnati, where the next series will begin. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs Friday and Wade Miley will start for the Reds. Game time Friday is 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.