I debated for quite some time whether to do this companion series to the “10 best Cubs games of 2021” that appeared here earlier this week.
On the one hand, why would you want to read about lousy Cubs baseball?
On the other hand, it’s part of the history of the franchise and the story of 2021, which, as I wrote here last week, is perhaps the weirdest season in Cubs history.
So, here goes. As was the case for the previous two articles, I am splitting this into five games pre-selloff and five post-selloff. Try to take this in the spirit in which it is written. (Remember, “worst” for the purposes of this article is subjective, not necessarily “biggest blowout” or something similar.)
Kyle Hendricks. ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. What could possibly go wrong?
Everything, essentially. The Braves hit four home runs off The Professor in the first inning: Freddie Freeman, Travis d’Arnaud, Ehire Adrianza and Guillermo Heredia all went deep within Hendricks’ first 33 pitches.
The Cubs came back to within 6-3 after three innings thanks in part to a pair of homers by Anthony Rizzo, but another six-run Atlanta inning in the sixth off Alec Mills and Ryan Tepera, including another Heredia homer, doomed this effort.
The weirdest thing about this game is that the Cubs had defeated the Braves by the identical 13-4 score the previous day:
And a note on that 13-4 oddity from the Cubs... pic.twitter.com/IF0HcggYND— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 19, 2021
Beyond that, the Braves’ boxscore totals from this game (38-13-14-13, AB-R-H-BI) exactly matched the Cubs’ from their 13-4 previous day win.
Another Hendricks start vs. Atlanta, another blowout. This time, there were only two homers in the first inning instead of four.
Hendricks vs. Atlanta, 2021: two starts, 7⅔ innings, 16.43 ERA, 2.739 WHIP, 7 HR
Hendricks vs. all other teams, 2021: 30 starts, 173⅓ innings, 4.25 ERA, 1.287 WHIP, 24 HR
Kyle’s bad numbers vs. the Braves increased his season ERA by more than half a run.
This game did, at least, provide this entertaining moment [VIDEO].
The Cubs came back multiple times in this game. Trailing 2-1 after one, they tied it 2-2 in the second and took a 4-2 lead in the third, only to have Trevor Williams serve up a four-spot in the bottom of the inning to trail 6-4.
They tied it again 6-6 in the sixth, but the Reds put up back-to-back three-run innings off Alec Mills and Justin Steele. The Cubs had come to within 9-8 after that first three-run frame but then trailed 12-8 going to the eighth. An RBI single by Jake Marisnick and three-run homer by Ian Happ tied the game 12-12.
No one scored in the ninth, and in the 10th the Cubs had runners on second and third with just one out. Tony Wolters (remember him?) struck out and then, because the Cubs had run out of position players, Jake Arrieta was sent up to bat for Andrew Chafin. Unsurprisingly, Jake struck out.
In the bottom of the 10th, a passed ball put Jesse Winker, the Manfred Man on third base with nobody out and Nick Castellanos singled him in off Craig Kimbrel to win the game for the Reds. It was Kimbrel’s 11th appearance of the year and the first run he’d allowed.
This was not only the worst loss of the season, it’s among the worst losses in Cubs franchise history. That’s not only for blowing a 7-0 first-inning lead, but the method in which they did so and what it meant. It was, at the time, the sixth loss of what became an 11-game losing streak. If the Cubs hold on to that lead and win this game, they cut their division deficit to four games and end the losing streak at five. Who knows what might have happened after that?
Here are just three of many, many, MANY notes about this game:
Today's Cubs-Brewers game is the first game in the modern era to have both teams lead by 7+ runs within the first 4 innings.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) June 30, 2021
Teams since 1950 to win a game by 8+ runs after trailing by 7+— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) June 30, 2021
MIL vs. CHC, today
MIA vs. PHI, 8/23/19
NYY vs. TB, 6/21/05
CLE vs. TB, 5/7/99
MIL vs. LAA, 7/8/90
Appearances in the past 7 days for the Cubs:— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) June 30, 2021
Craig Kimbrel -- 1
Eric Sogard -- 2
I include this game for a number of reasons. First, the Cubs had just three hits and just three runners past first base (and none past second base). Second, it was another slog of a start from Zach Davies, who threw 99 pitches and did not complete the fifth inning.
But mainly, I mention this one because a moderate rain fell throughout almost the entire game, making the experience of sitting at the ballpark 100 percent miserable. The Cubs had broken their long losing streak three days earlier and had defeated the Cardinals the previous afternoon, but the weather forecast for the next day, July 11, was bad enough that the Cubs called that one off and made it up in September. (They lost that one, too.)
Tomorrow: Post-selloff losses!
Which is the worst pre-selloff Cubs game of 2021?
April 18: Braves 13, Cubs 4
April 28: Braves 10, Cubs 0
May 2: Reds 13, Cubs 12
June 30: Brewers 15, Cubs 7
July 10: Cardinals 6, Cubs 0
A different game not mentioned above (leave in comments)