Before you dig in to me regarding the headline, let me say that I like David Ross. He’s been a significant part of the Cubs franchise since he came to the team in 2015, and in general I think he’s done a very good job managing, especially this season with the team beset by injuries and many days not having much more than a spring training split-squad lineup on the field.
Friday night, though, Ross made a critical decision that I think was the worst possible thing he could have done at the time, and that choice wound up giving the Reds the only runs they scored in a 2-1 defeat of the Cubs, the Cubs’ seventh loss in a row.
Situation: It’s the bottom of the sixth inning. Alec Mills has pitched great — perhaps his best outing since his no-hitter last September in Milwaukee. He’s got a career-high nine strikeouts, and granted some of those K’s can be credited to a very generous strike zone by plate umpire Jim Wolf. So stipulated. Wolf’s zone was weirdly wide, but it was consistent for both teams, as hitters on both sides complained about calls that were clearly out of the strike-zone box as shown on the TV broadcast.
Truth be told, Mills should have been out of the inning. He got Shogo Akiyama on strikes to start the inning and then Jonathan India walked.
Um... no, no he did not:
Pitch 3 was an absolutely gorgeous curveball from Mills, at 64 (!) miles per hour, right at the top of the zone, completely inside the box, that was strike three.
Only it wasn’t, said Wolf, and the at-bat went on, and India wound up drawing the aforementioned walk.
The inning thus should have ended when Jesse Winker flied to right. Only it didn’t because of the walk that shouldn’t have been a walk, and then Nick Castellanos singled to put runners on first and second.
That’s when Ross made his fateful decision. Joey Votto was the next scheduled hitter, and Votto often kills the Cubs in situations like these; heck, he kills many teams in situations like these, that’s why he’s headed to the Hall of Fame when he’s done playing.
Ross could have left Mills in to face Votto, even though Mills was at a season-high 92 pitches. Most of Mills’ pitching seemed effortless, reminiscent of a good Kyle Hendricks outing. The walk to India was his first of the game. It wasn’t hot and sticky as it can be in Cincinnati this time of year; game time temperature was a pleasant 77 degrees, with low humidity. One more batter — and Mills had already struck out Votto once, in the fourth — shouldn’t have been too taxing. Yes, yes I know, “third time through the order” and all, but Mills appeared to be handling things just fine.
Or, since this was a very high-leverage situation, even in the sixth inning, with the Cubs nursing a 1-0 lead, Ross could have called on his best high-leverage lefthander, Andrew Chafin. Or he could have brought in another lefthander who’s thrown very well this year, Brad Wieck.
No, instead we get random guy signed to a minor-league deal before the season, Adam Morgan. That’s about the last choice I would have made, and this is what Votto did to Morgan [VIDEO].
Sigh. You just knew that was the ballgame, right there. Mills deserved a better fate. Sometimes I think managers do things too much “by the book” instead of feeling the situation. In my opinion, that situation called for someone, anyone other than Adam Morgan.
Here, you might as well have a look at the only Cubs run of the game, Kris Bryant scoring on an RBI double by Jason Heyward in the fourth inning [VIDEO].
That is the only run the Cubs have scored in their last 17 innings of play, since the seven-run first in Milwaukee Wednesday afternoon. Dan Winkler and Chafin (finally in the game in the eighth, too late at that point) threw two scoreless innings to give the Cubs a chance. Ian Happ did single with two out in the ninth to put the tying run on base, but Rafael Ortega struck out to end it, the Cubs’ 14th K of the game.
In their last 10 games, during which they’ve gone 2-8, the Cubs have struck out in double figures in eight of those games and their total of 123 strikeouts is 12.3 per game — and they’ve scored just 29 runs, 2.9 per game. Ugh.
Before this game began, I suspect if you had told me the Cubs would hold the Reds to two runs and four hits, I would have been pretty happy and figured the Cubs would win the game. They should have been good enough to score three off Cincinnati’s starting staff and their league-worst bullpen, right?
Nope, not in this one, and the Cubs drop to two games over .500 and just half a game ahead of the Reds. They’re still in second place in the NL Central, but now 7½ games behind the Brewers, who won their 10th straight Friday night, and the Cubs must win Saturday or they’ll drop into third place.
This season still has 80 games to go; that’s a lot. Much can happen in a short period of time, as we’ve just found out. But things are going to have to turn around very quickly or this season’s going to become a disaster.
Adbert Alzolay will attempt to stop the losing streak at seven for the Cubs Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati. Tyler Mahle is scheduled to be his Reds opponent. Game time is 3:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.
In that sixth-inning situation, David Ross should have...
This poll is closed
... done exactly what he did, bring in Adam Morgan
... stuck with Alec Mills
... brought in Andrew Chafin
... brought in Brad Wieck
Something else (leave in comments)