We will, of course, never know what might have happened to Jake Marisnick’s pinch-hit at-bat in the ninth inning if plate umpire Cory Blaser had made the right call on Josh Hader’s first pitch to Marisnick.
But seriously, Cory Blaser, pitch 1 was not a strike, not even close:
Hader had just walked Nico Hoerner to start the inning. If he throws ball 1 to Marisnick... well, maybe the at-bat, maybe the inning goes differently.
The automated strike zone cannot come soon enough for me. Marisnick eventually struck out, Hader retired the next two hitters and the Cubs had a tough-to-take 4-3 loss to the Brewers.
Let’s rewind to the beginning of this very... long... game (and trust me, I’ll have more to say about that later).
Adbert Alzolay, just recalled to make this start, struggled in the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then a walk. But then he settled down and retired the next 12 Brewers in a row, striking out seven of them. That included filthy pitches like these:
Adbert Alzolay, 94mph Fastball and 86mph Slider, Overlay (pronounced "over-lie") pic.twitter.com/tyWDpsptCo— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 24, 2021
Meanwhile, the Cubs, who had tremendous trouble with Freddy Peralta the first two times they faced him this year, fashioned a lead off him in the second inning. Matt Duffy led off with a single. After a forceout, Eric Sogard singled and that brought up Hoerner [VIDEO].
That gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Nico has looked really good since his recall — he had that double and two walks in this game, and played strong defense subbing for Javier Baez at shortstop.
In the fifth, Alzolay allowed a leadoff double but then retired the next two hitters. The following batter was Corey Ray, a Chicago-area native (Simeon High School) who was the Brewers’ No. 1 pick (fifth overall) in 2016, making his major-league debut.
Alzolay walked Ray and had thrown 83 pitches, 55 for strikes.
Would you have let him face Kolten Wong? Wong hit the first-inning double, but Alzolay got him to fly to left in the third.
I might have. Instead, Rex Brothers came in and walked Wong to load the bases, then walked Omar Narvaez to force in a run to make it 2-1 Cubs.
Here’s where the three-batter minimum rule really hurts a team, because it was pretty clear Brothers didn’t have it in this game, yet Ross is forced to leave him in to face a third batter. Brothers’ first pitch to Tyrone Taylor hit him, forcing in the tying run. Brothers stayed in anyway to face the lefthanded Travis Shaw and struck him out to finish the inning.
The Cubs couldn’t do much with Brent Suter in the fifth or sixth, but then they never do much against the lefty with the quirky delivery. They did get a runner to second with two out in the sixth, but pinch-hitter David Bote grounded out to end the inning.
Brandon Workman had worked a scoreless sixth, but Andrew Chafin allowed a leadoff single to Wong, then one out later pinch-hitter Manny Pina smashed a two-run homer and the Brewers led 4-2.
Ryan Tepera finished the seventh and threw a 1-2-3 eighth and with two out in the bottom of the eighth, Jason Heyward made it a one-run game [VIDEO].
J-Hey’s second of the year, off Devin Williams, went a long way:
Dan Winkler threw a scoreless ninth, then we had the kerfuffle about the bad call on Marisnick, which is where we came in.
As I said, we’ll never know the potential result of that at-bat if the right call was made, and it’s certainly not the reason the Cubs lost the game.
But seriously, it’s time to get these calls right.
Now I’m going to go on a bit of a rant, so feel free to skip over this if the current very, very slow pace of MLB games doesn’t bother you.
This game ran three hours, 32 minutes. 332 pitches were thrown, 176 by Cubs pitchers, 156 by Brewers pitchers. I mention this because, well, these games just drag on and on and on and the pace of play is languid at best. It’s exactly the kind of game Theo Epstein has been charged to change. Three of the seven runs scored on homers and there were nine walks and 23 strikeouts. Don’t give me the argument that “it’s more baseball!” because... well, it’s not. It’s the same amount of baseball — nine innings — only way, way longer than it needs to be. For example, today the Tigers and Royals played a nine-inning game — complete with a bottom of the ninth — in two hours, 10 minutes. There were 223 total pitches thrown. The Cubs and Brewers were at that pitch mark ... in the bottom of the sixth. A note about that quick Royals/Tigers game:
Today's Royals/Tigers game was the shortest 9-inning game since July 27, 2019, when the Mets beat the Pirates 3-0 (also 2:10) https://t.co/7FyOiLmpm9— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) April 24, 2021
The Cubs have now played 20 games this year. Just one of them — a 5-3 win over the Brewers on April 5 — went less than three hours (2:49). Today’s game makes six of 20 in 3:25 or longer.
Despite the forecast of rain, it was dry and the sun came out late in the afternoon and it was a nice day at the ballpark (except for the result), and you know I love being at Wrigley.
But please, MLB, do something about the pace of play.
The Cubs have yet another chance at a series win Sunday afternoon as they wrap up the homestand. Jake Arrieta will start for the Cubs and Brandon Woodruff goes for the Brewers. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network — and Pat Hughes will have the TV call for Sunday’s game.