The Cubs bullpen has been so good for so long this season that it was shocking to see them fail in the way they did Friday night in Los Angeles.
A.J. Pollock and Max Muncy hit two-run homers off Ryan Tepera and Tommy Nance, respectively, blowing open a tight game in the eighth inning. The Dodgers won 6-2.
The Cubs scored first, and just two pitches into the game. Joc Pederson flied to right on Tony Gonsolin’s first pitch, and then Gonsolin’s second pitch was sent into the seats at Dodger Stadium by Kris Bryant [VIDEO].
That baseball went a long way:
Jake Arrieta threw a scoreless first. In the second, Cody Bellinger singled and stole second. The stolen base proved important, as he advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a subsequent groundout to tie the game 1-1.
Zach McKinstry homered off Arrieta in the third to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
Arrieta completed five innings, allowing five hits, three walks and two runs, striking out four. That’s not a bad outing... but it’s not really that good an outing, either. Jake threw 92 pitches in five innings and was removed for the sixth inning for Keegan Thompson.
Thompson threw a scoreless sixth and then the Cubs offense got back to work in the seventh. Jason Heyward led off with a walk and Jake Marisnick singled. A sacrifice bunt by Sergio Alcántara moved the runners up. (That was just the sixth sac bunt by any Cub other than a pitcher this year.)
With one out in the seventh, Thompson was removed for Andrew Chafin, who retired the only two batters he faced to keep the score tied.
The Cubs failed to score in the top of the eighth, and then things began to unravel. Tepera walked Gavin Lux leading off the bottom of the eighth, and then Pollock homered to make it 4-2. Tepera got a groundout for the first out of the inning and then Nance replaced him — a necessary move, I suppose, as Tepera had thrown 19 pitches. Nance retired the first batter he faced but then allowed a single to Mookie Betts and the home run to Muncy and the game was seemingly out of reach at 6-2.
“Seemingly” turned into reality when the Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the ninth.
I’m a little concerned about Tepera. After 18 straight scoreless appearances, Tepera has now allowed runs in two of his last three outings, allowing three hits and three walks in 2⅓ innings (faced 13 batters, six reached base). I would think he would not be available for Saturday’s game.
Same for Nance, who did not allow a run in his first 12 MLB appearances. Last five outings: 5⅓ innings, 10.13 ERA, 1.688 WHIP, two home runs allowed.
As I noted at the beginning of this recap, this bullpen has been so good recently that it’s surprising to see them fail. I think we’re seeing a bit of reversion to the mean here. These guys might be good, but they’re not “totally dominating the opposition forever” good. Hopefully, this is an aberration and the pen can resume its good work.
Something to keep an eye on: Willson Contreras was hit by a pitch on his left hand in the sixth inning:
Willson Contreras just got drilled with a 98 mph sinker on what appeared to be his left hand. Given the backup catcher situation/org depth, he'd be very hard to replace.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) June 26, 2021
After getting checked out by a trainer, Contreras is staying in the game.
Here’s David Ross [VIDEO] on the Contreras HBP and also an awkward-looking swing by Javier Báez earlier in the game.
The Brewers won Friday, so the Cubs are now in second place with a 42-34 record, one game behind Milwaukee. That’s the farthest they’ve been out of first place since May 23, when they trailed the then-first place Cardinals by two games. The Reds, who lost Friday, are now five games out of first place. The Cardinals also dropped their Friday game and are seven games out of the top spot.
The Cubs and Dodgers will meet again Saturday evening in Los Angeles, and fortunately for all of us in the Central and Eastern time zones, “evening” means “early evening,” as Friday’s game ended when the clock was pushing 1 a.m. CT. Game time Saturday is 6:15 p.m. CT. Alec Mills will start for the Cubs and Julio Urias is scheduled to start for the Dodgers. TV coverage will be on Fox-TV (regional — coverage map).