The Cubs had to face Brandon Woodruff Sunday afternoon, and so this was going to be a tough game to win, even with Jake Arrieta, the team’s most consistent starter so far in 2021, on the mound.
And then Jake had himself a shaky first inning. First four batters: Double, single, two walks, and thus a quick 1-0 Brewers lead.
Jake settled down and retired the next 15 Brewers in order, and even after a walk and an error put two Milwaukee runners on base in the sixth, he rose to the occasion by striking out the side, wrapping up the inning with fans cheering as he struck out Billy McKinney to preserve the one-run deficit.
The Cubs did nothing with Woodruff, getting just two hits in six innings off him along with a pair of walks. Seriously, there’s no shame in that, Woodruff is an outstanding pitcher.
So this was going to be a recap of a tight pitchers’ duel where the Cubs came up just short.
And then Jason Adam happened. Yikes. Adam was awful. He faced six Brewers and all of them reached base on a double, walk, hit batter, single, double and another walk, after which David Ross had mercy and replaced him with Dillon Maples. Maples got out of the inning, but not before hitting a batter himself and issuing a walk. In all, five Brewers scored in a disastrous ninth and Milwaukee won the game 6-0.
Besides Jake’s outstanding outing, the longest by pitches (101) for a Cubs starter this season, there’s one other thing I wanted to call to your attention from this game, played on a cold, windy afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Before I do that, though, seriously, what is Jason Adam doing on this team? He’s a fungible reliever, strikes out a fair number but also walks a lot of guys, and personally I would much rather see Pedro Strop in that role. The Cubs should option Adam and bring Strop back from the alternate site.
Now, here’s the one play you really need to see from this game if you missed it. Or even if you saw it as it happened, it’s worth watching again.
In the top of the eighth, with the score still 1-0, Omar Narvaez led off for Milwaukee with a single. Avisail Garcia was the next hitter [VIDEO].
What a smart, smart play by Nico Hoerner, letting the popup drop intentionally on the outfield grass, getting the out at first and then catching Narvaez in a rundown for a 4-3-6-3-4 double play.
Now, that probably doesn’t work unless you have two slow runners like Narvaez and Garcia involved. But that truly showed off the baseball IQ of Nico Hoerner, and I hope that helps the front office make a decision about keeping him around. He looks to me like he belongs in the big leagues.
(Incidentally, Narvaez has absolutely worn out Cubs pitching all month. In eight games against the Cubs in April, Narvaez was 8-for-20 (.400) with five walks, a HBP and two home runs. Very happy to not have to see him again until June.)
The Cubs had a chance at a 7-2 or 6-3 homestand until those last two games, and had to settle for 5-4. They’re 8-7 overall at home this year, which is disappointing. The loss drops them into fourth place in the NL Central, three games behind the front-running Brewers.
It is still early. Yes, it is. The division does not appear to have a dominant team. There’s lots of baseball left.
The Cubs now head to Atlanta, where the Braves are having just about as disappointing a start as the Cubs are. The Braves just got swept in a doubleheader Sunday by the Diamondbacks — shut out twice and no-hit in the seven-inning second game by Madison Bumgarner — and have lost three of five since they took the series at Wrigley Field last weekend.
Monday, Zach Davies will start for the Cubs and Charlie Morton will go for the Braves. Game time Monday is 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network. The game will also be on ESPN outside the Cubs and Braves market territories.