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Cleveland 3, Cubs 2: Adbert Alzolay outpitches Shane Bieber, but it’s not enough

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The Cubs come up just short in the first of a two-game set.

Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I look at the Cubs’ 3-2 loss to Cleveland Tuesday night this way: This was going to be a very, very difficult game to win no matter the circumstances, facing the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, Shane Bieber.

So, the Cubs lost. But they did hit Bieber reasonably well, and the eight strikeouts — for a strikeout-prone team like the Cubs — was a season LOW for Bieber, who had previously struck out at least 11 in five of his seven previous starts.

So, yay?

Well, not yay, a loss is a loss. But the Cubs hung in there, and here are the details.

The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Anthony Rizzo led off with a double and Willson Contreras singled him in [VIDEO].

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Cubs loaded the bases on a walk to David Bote and Jason Heyward being hit by a pitch with nobody out and couldn’t get any more runs across off Bieber. The Cubs also got the first two runners on base in the fourth off Bieber, but could not score.

Cleveland tied the game in the bottom of the fourth on a solo homer by Jose Ramirez off Adbert Alzolay, but the Cubs got that run right back in the top of the fifth on a solo homer of their own... from an unexpected source, Eric Sogard [VIDEO].

Sogard’s first of the year gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead, but that lasted only a few minutes. Alzolay hit Andres Gimenez with a pitch with one out in the bottom of the fifth, and one out later served up a home run ball to Cesar Hernandez, and Cleveland was in the lead again 3-2.

The Cubs again had a runner in scoring position in the sixth on a one-out double by Jason Heyward, but could not score.

In the bottom of the inning, without explanation, Kris Bryant left the game, with Nick Martini entering the game in left field and Joc Pederson moving to center.

This event helps explain why I do not spend much time on Twitter. If you do and you saw all the nonsense posted about “OMG KB HAS BEEN TRADED,” you’ll understand why I don’t. None of it is true. Here’s what actually happened:

No further explanation was given, and none was needed in my opinion. It’s possible this was nothing more than seasonal allergies for KB. There was no postgame update, and I would expect Bryant back in the lineup this afternoon.

Brad Wieck, just recalled from Iowa, and Rex Brothers held Cleveland scoreless in the seventh and eighth, and then the Cubs put together a bit of a rally in the ninth. With one out, Pederson and Martini singled, putting the tying run in scoring position and the lead run on base off Cleveland closer Emmanuel Clase.

But Clase got Matt Duffy to hit into a double play, and that was that.

Alzolay again put together a very good start. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out six, and made two mistakes — the home run balls. In ordinary circumstances that might be enough to win the game, but against Bieber and the very solid Cleveland bullpen, it wasn’t. I’m very encouraged by each Alzolay outing. He seems to gain more confidence each time he goes out, you can see it in his mound presence.

This was the Cubs’ sixth consecutive one-run game. They’ve gone 4-2 in those games, which is pretty good, and are 8-5 overall in one-run contests so far this season. That seems like a lot, doesn’t it? Thirteen of 35 games (37 percent) so far have been decided by one run. That’d be 60 in a 162-game season, close to the MLB record of 64 set by the 1968 White Sox. (That team lost 95 games, so perhaps we should stop the comparison here.)

The Cubs will hope to leave their quickie 24-hour trip to Cleveland with a series split this afternoon. Zach Davies will start for the Cubs, hoping to continue the success he found last Friday at Wrigley Field, and Sam Hentges will start for Cleveland. Game time is 12:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Cleveland market territories). Today’s game preview will post at 10:30 a.m. CT.