Give this assemblage of Cubs credit.
Down again early, they fought back and got into the game again with a two-run seventh. But in the top of that inning, a wild pitch by Codi Heuer gave the Giants their sixth run, the difference in a 6-5 loss. The Cubs got swept by a very, very good Giants team, and in so doing you can see how far the Cubs need to go to get back to the level San Francisco inhabits, now 43 games over .500. Meanwhile, this was the Cubs’ 79th loss of the year, their most in a season since 2014.
Let’s rewind to the beginning.
Justin Steele struggled through the first two innings, but managed to get out of them trailing just 1-0, thanks to a couple of double plays. The Giants pushed across another run in the third, and just as in the second, Steele got himself in trouble with a walk.
Meanwhile, the Cubs went down 1-2-3 in each of the first three innings.
In the fourth, more hits, one more run for the Giants. A 3-0 deficit seemed insurmountable.
But the Cubs got back in the game in the bottom of the fourth. Rafael Ortega led off with a ball that sailed away from Giants center fielder Austin Slater for a triple.
Frank Schwindel put the Cubs on the board with an RBI groundout [VIDEO].
That ball was crushed into the center field shrubbery:
Unfortunately, Steele gave up two more runs in the fifth on a two-run homer by Wilmer Flores, and again a three-run deficit seemed more than the Cubs could overcome. Steele got hit hard by the Giants, 11 hits in five innings, it wasn’t a good outing for him. Here’s what he said about how he needs to attack hitters. It wasn’t happening Sunday.
Justin Steele: "I really need to go out there and get strike one, get ahead of hitters. When you're working behind in the count, it puts the advantage in the hitter's [favor] by a big margin. Getting strike one is going to be very important."— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 12, 2021
A look at his 0-0 pitches today... pic.twitter.com/HzzCrPYEHj
The Cubs put a run on the board in the fifth to make it 5-3. With one out, David Bote sent a ball to right-center and Slater and Kris Bryant nearly collided. The ball dropped for a three-base error charged, I thought unfairly, to Bryant — it was Slater’s ball all the way.
Anyway, the Cubs scored again on an RBI groundout, this one by Nick Martini [VIDEO].
So it’s 5-3 going to the sixth. Codi Heuer threw a scoreless sixth, but in the seventh with runners on first and third with two out, Heuer walked Flores. That wouldn’t have been a big deal except for this [VIDEO].
Heuer’s ball four pitch hit the dirt and Willson Contreras couldn’t block it and Bryant scored the Giants’ sixth run. That would turn out to be very important.
Why? Because the Cubs put together a nice two-run rally in the bottom of the seventh. Sergio Alcántara led off with a walk and Bote doubled him in [VIDEO].
Robinson Chirinos batted for Heuer and made it a 6-5 game [VIDEO].
Well. That’s some nice hitting, for sure, and now the tying run is on base with nobody out. Ortega struck out but Schwindel and Happ both singled to load the bases. The Cubs could tie this game up for sure, right?
Nope. Willson Contreras was called out on strikes on a very close pitch:
Well. That’s not a strike. On the other hand, it’s probably close enough that Willson should have at least tried to foul it off. Alfonso Rivas followed that with another strikeout and the inning was over.
Rowan Wick threw two very good innings in the eighth and ninth. The Cubs went out 1-2-3 in the eighth and in the ninth Giants closer Jake McGee made his first appearance of the series.
With one out, Patrick Wisdom batted for Ortega and blooped a double to right.
Schwindel is up! Time for more legendary hitting... but no, Schwindel grounded out, with Wisdom taking third. Unfortunately, that’s where he wound up as Happ grounded to first to end it.
That was a good ballgame and the Cubs just weren’t quite good enough to win it. Happ, with the homer, hit .333/.333/.917 (8-for-24) with a triple and four home runs. Probably not quite enough for a NL Player of the Week award, but still continuing his good run lately. The homer Sunday was his 22nd, and now he’s just two short of his career high, set in his rookie year of 2017.
The Cubs will have Monday off and then open a three-game series in Philadelphia against the Phillies beginning Tuesday evening. Adrian Sampson is the scheduled starter for the Cubs and Kyle Gibson is scheduled for the Phillies. Game time Tuesday is 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.