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Twins 9, Cubs 5: Back to the drawing board

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Cubs pitching just wasn’t very good Tuesday.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Of all the baseball games the Chicago Cubs have played in the 2021 season, Tuesday night’s was most certainly one of them.

That’s about the most positive thing I can say about a very long, mostly awful 9-5 loss to the Twins on a fall-like evening at Wrigley Field.

Alec Mills started this game off poorly, with hits allowed to the first two Twins batters. A stolen base and a bad throw by Willson Contreras scored the first Twins run and a sacrifice fly made it 2-0 within the game’s first four batters.

The Cubs got one of the runs back in the bottom of the first. Singles by Rafael Ortega and Ian Happ put runners on first and third and Contreras brought Happ home [VIDEO].

Mills settled down and allowed no further baserunners through the third inning. The Cubs tied the game in the bottom of the second courtesy of Trayce Thompson [VIDEO].

That ball was sliced through a pretty strong wind blowing in, and was Thompson’s second home run in as many games. With Alfonso Rivas now on the injured list and Jason Heyward still out, Thompson might get some playing time over the season’s final 11 games. It’s way too early to make any judgment about Thompson after 11 plate appearances, but it should be noted that he had a couple of decent years as a spare-part outfielder for the White Sox and Dodgers in 2015 and 2016. It’s not impossible for him to play the same role well for the 2022 Cubs.

Also, you don’t see numbers like this often, even in a very, very small sample size, so I thought I’d preserve these Thompson numbers from the at-bat following the home run (at the time, 2-for-5, both hits home runs, plus three walks):

Anyway, the Cubs then took the lead 3-2 in the third, courtesy of Contreras [VIDEO].

Look at the exit velocity on that one:

If the wind isn’t howling in, that ball likely makes Waveland.

Mills fell apart in the fourth, with a walk, wild pitch and single tying the game and then a two-run homer by Nick Gordon making it 5-3 Twins. The Twins put two more on the board off Mills and Scott Effross in the fifth, the runs charged to Mills, the second time he’s allowed seven runs in a start this year (also August 22 vs. the Royals).

It was 7-3 Twins after five, but the real problem here was the Cubs’ failure to take advantage of a lot of baserunners allowed them by Twins pitching. Sure, there were a pair of solo homers, but the Cubs left the bases loaded in the second and fourth and two runners on in the third. Many more runs could have scored, especially after Twins pitchers spent those three innings hitting four Cubs batters (none intentionally, those pitchers just didn’t have good control or command).

The Cubs did come back to within 7-5 in the sixth. Ortega led off with a single and Frank Schwindel hit a ball that stuck in the ivy for a rule-book double. Two outs later, Patrick Wisdom drove them both in [VIDEO].

That was a nice bit of hitting, going the other way with that pitch.

Trevor Megill gave those runs right back in the seventh, and the Cubs had a couple of baserunners after that but could not put any further runs across and that was that, loss number 84 of the season. Game summary from a Twins beat writer:

I should also note that the game comprised 353 pitches, 185 by Cubs pitchers and 168 from the visitors, which is way way way WAY too many. The MLB average for a nine-inning game this year is about 290, and that should explain why this nine-inning game ran four hours and five minutes, which is just a ridiculous slog of a game. Even a pitch clock might not have helped this mess.

The Cubs struck out 14 times Tuesday night, and have 1,502 for the season. They need just 17 more to break the franchise record (1,518, set in 2015), which could possibly happen Wednesday evening, but if not, certainly in Friday’s first game against the Cardinals.

One last thing we could have had, but didn’t, in Tuesday’s game:

I call your attention to this weather forecast for Wednesday. Tonight’s game won’t be affected by rain, but look at the wind forecast:

Windy, with a north northeast wind around 30 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph.

That should make fly balls and popups a real adventure.

Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs Wednesday and Joe Ryan is the scheduled starter for the Twins. Game time is again 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.

SITE NOTE: You’ll note this recap is posted a bit earlier than usual. Outside The Confines, usually posted at 7 a.m. CT, will follow later this morning.