When the Cubs were going well — only a month or so ago! — their trifecta of relief pitchers generally went Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel, in that order, starting in the seventh inning.
Saturday afternoon, in a game that was tied 2-2 heading into the seventh, two of the first three hitters scheduled for the Diamondbacks were lefthanded, so David Ross chose Chafin to throw first.
That didn’t work. Two walks and two hits later, Arizona had a 5-2 lead. Tepera came in and retired three straight hitters, but by that time it was too late. The D-backs added a pair in the ninth off Rex Brothers (who seems quite a bit past his sell-by date at this point) and then the field was covered and stands cleared in anticipation of a storm that did, in fact, blow through. After a rain delay of an hour and 39 minutes, the game was resumed in the bottom of the ninth. Anthony Rizzo doubled, went to third on a fly ball and scored on a wild pitch, but that was not nearly enough to prevent a 7-3 loss to the D-backs.
Let’s rewind to the beginning of this game. Alec Mills started out well, as has often been the case. Through four innings he allowed just one hit, a bloop double that Kris Bryant nearly made a great diving catch on in left field.
The Cubs took the lead in the third. Mills doubled, and this is such a rare even that we have video!
Coming into that at-bat, Mills was 2-for-32 (both singles) with 20 strikeouts. And you wonder why I want the universal DH. Sure, that double was fun, but... those things are way too rare.
Anyway, Mills went to third on a single by Rafael Ortega and it looked like the Cubs really might have something going, but after a walk to KB loaded the bases, Javier Báez hit into a double play [VIDEO].
Great, this is what I’ve been reduced to, showing video of Cubs hitting into double plays. Mills scored for a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the fourth, Eduardo Escobar of the D-backs hit a little dribbler out in front of the plate. The play is worth a look [VIDEO].
Willson Contreras’ throw hit Escobar in the back, but as you can clearly see in the second replay from the RF corner (scroll in to about :45 in the video clip), Escobar was running outside the lane and thus was called out.
The Cubs extended the lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth on an opposite-field homer by Contreras [VIDEO].
Mills pitching well, the offense providing some power, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, you know what could go wrong. This has been the problem with every Cubs starter except Kyle Hendricks — they get to about the fifth inning and the wheels fall off. It started with a leadoff walk. Mills got the next two hitters but then served up a two-run homer to Daulton Varsho, who has absolutely worn out Cubs pitching last weekend and this — he’s now hitting .357/.471/.857 (5-for-14) against the Cubs this year with a double and two home runs. Varsho also singled off Chafin as part of their three-run rally in the seventh.
The rains came and delayed the game, as noted above, for more than an hour and a ahlf just as the bottom of the ninth was about to begin, and I bailed on the BBQ that was supposed to happen afterwards, just too stormy around. This whole summer, man... just turning into a mess. Oh, here’s Rizzo scoring in the ninth on that wild pitch [VIDEO].
There were reportedly scouts at Wrigley Saturday to look at Chafin in case he was called on in this game. Can’t imagine there were many positive reports sent back to general managers about Chafin after that outing. Remember that as good as Chafin has been this year, he literally has never been this good — in 341 MLB appearances before 2021 he had a 3.67 ERA and 1.314 WHIP (also a 3.23 FIP). That’s good, but he has been SO much better this year there have to be questions about whether he can sustain that level of performance.
Anyway, the Cubs will try for a series win over the visitors from Arizona Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field, where, for the first time all weekend, it’s supposed to be dry. Trevor Williams will start for the Cubs and Caleb Smith is the scheduled starter for the D-backs. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.