Nope, it’s not the lack of hitting, nope, it’s not the runners left on base.
Care to guess? OK, never mind, I’ll tell you.
During the just-completed 10-game road trip, on which the Cubs went 1-9, they scored first in seven of the 10 games.
That screams out “bullpen failure” to me, and the Cubs had another one of those in this game.
Here’s how that scoring went in each of the 10 games:
June 24, at Dodgers: Took 1-0 lead in first inning. Won game with a no-hitter
June 25, at Dodgers: Took 1-0 lead in first inning. Lost lead in second, lost game 6-2
June 26, at Dodgers: Dodgers scored first. Cubs tied game 2-2 in fifth, lost 3-2
June 27, at Dodgers: Dodgers scored first (six-run second), Cubs lost 7-1
June 28, at Brewers: Took 2-0 lead in first. Brewers tied game in bottom of the first, went ahead 4-2, Cubs tied game in top of seventh, Brewers won with 10-run eighth
June 29, at Brewers: Brewers scored first in first inning, Cubs lost 2-1
June 30, at Brewers: Cubs posted seven-run first inning, you know what happened after that
July 2, at Reds: Took 1-0 lead in first, Reds scored two in sixth, won 2-1
July 3, at Reds: Took 1-0 lead in second, 2-0 in third, Reds tied it in fifth, won 3-2
And then there was Sunday’s game, yet another where the Cubs scored first and eventually took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
Sure, you’re going to say the Cubs offense could have and should have piled up some more runs on top of those leads and you’re right. But when you have leads in the late innings — or in one case, tied going into the eighth, you really should win. That’s especially true when the Cubs’ bullpen has been lockdown-good for most of the season. These failures have been jaw-dropping.
Beyond that, the Reds’ bullpen came into this series as The. Worst. In. Baseball. And the Cubs made them look like All-Stars. Cincinnati relievers threw 10⅔ innings in this series and allowed four hits and two walks, struck out 15 and allowed zero runs. That’s... I mean, I don’t even have words.
I do have words for Kyle Hendricks, who had a bit of a shaky first inning but settled down to allow just one run on five hits in six strong innings, with no walks and five K’s. That’s one of the best starts he’s ever had at GABP, where he entered today’s game with a 6.67 career ERA in 10 starts. This 2019 outing is the only other GABP start for Kyle in which he didn’t allow at least two runs, and in eight other starts he allowed at least four runs there.
So that should have been a recipe for a win, especially with Kyle driving in a run himself. There were a couple of Cubs highlights in this game, so let’s have a look.
In the first inning with one out, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo singled. Javy Báez then singled in KB [VIDEO].
In the second inning, Jake Marisnick tripled with one out. After Wade Miley struck out Ian Happ, Hendricks came to the plate [VIDEO].
Just a little bouncer up the middle; Marisnick scored to make it 2-0 Cubs.
Listen, that was fun, but I’d still much rather have the universal DH. Even with that hit, Hendricks is hitting .111 (3-for-27) with 13 strikeouts and that was his first RBI of the season (and just his 16th career RBI in 331 at-bats). He’s got an OPS of .291 and Cubs pitchers overall are batting .127/.160/.135 (16-for-126) with 60 strikeouts. Enough already, here’s hoping this is the very last year we’ll ever see pitchers bat.
Hendricks allowed a run in the second but then retired 14 of the last 16 batters he faced before he was removed for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. Sorry kids, but Taylor Gushue is not a major-league hitter and the Cubs need to address the backup catcher spot like, now, because Willson Contreras cannot catch every inning of every game. That’s what ruined Randy Hundley and I don’t want to see that happen to Willson.
Dan Winkler replaced Hendricks. Now, Winkler’s actually been very good this year but... not in this game. A single, HBP and single loaded the bases with nobody out. Tyler Stephenson hit a grounder to third and Patrick Wisdom got a force at the plate. Okay, that’s good — but then Winkler hit Jonathan India, his second HBP of the inning, to force in the lead run. Andrew Chafin replaced Winkler and got out of the inning, but as I mentioned earlier, Cubs batters then spent two innings making the Reds bullpen look like Cy Young Award winners.
They had a chance in the ninth. Amir Garrett — always a favorite among Cubs fans! — entered with one out and walked Ian Happ on four really bad pitches. Eric Sogard poked a single to right, so the tying run was in scoring position.
For some reason Contreras squared to bunt and then let strike one go by. I did not understand this — you’re obviously just faking a bunt but now you’re down in the count. Willson then fouled off three pitches before grounding into a game-ending double play.
Master of the obvious, Kyle Hendricks:
Kyle Hendricks: "It almost like we have to play a perfect game, it feels like, to get a win right now. Things just aren't going our way. It's such a long season, you're going to have ups and downs. This is obviously a big down for us." #Cubs— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 4, 2021
Nine losses in a row, matching that awful late-September losing streak that took the Cubs out of contention in 2019. The last Cubs losing streak longer than nine was 12, in 2012, and I’m sure you don’t need to be reminded of that ballclub. The last three and four of the last five games in this streak have all been by one run. And then there’s this:
Madison Bumgarner tossed 7-inning "no-hitter" April 25— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 4, 2021
Diamondbacks lost next 24 road games
John Means tossed no-hitter May 5
Orioles lost next 20 road games
Zach Davies & co. tossed combined no-hitter June 24
Cubs lost next 9 games, all on road
Yikes. Enough already. Hey, the Brewers lost Sunday, for whatever that’s worth.
The Cubs return home Monday to begin a seven-game homestand that starts with a four-game series against the Phillies. The Cubs have played well at home all year. Perhaps things will change. Zach Davies will start for the Cubs Monday and Matt Moore is the Phillies’ scheduled starter. Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be on Marquee Sports Network.
Hope you have a happy Fourth anyway.