Look at it this way.
The Cubs are in some pretty good company. The Cardinals, in sweeping a doubleheader from the Cubs Friday, 8-5 and 12-4, established a franchise record by winning their 13th and 14th consecutive games. During that streak they swept the Brewers, who are on the verge of winning the NL Central. The Brewers are a much better team than the Cubs.
Feel better now? No? Let’s review these two losses, played on a warm, windy early fall afternoon and evening.
In the first game, Justin Steele and the Cubs played the Cardinals to a draw for the first two innings. Moral victory! (The Cubs are probably leading the league in moral victories this year.)
Steele served up a two-run homer to Paul Goldschmidt in the third, and partly that was the fault of his walk issued to Cardinals pitcher J.A. Happ. You just can’t do that and be successful.
In the fifth, David Ross left Steele in to take a pretty good pounding, as pinch-hitter Jose Rondon smashed a two-un homer and so did Tyler O’Neill, O’Neill’s hitting Waveland.
Steele was clearly running out of gas and ... well, I just don’t know why Ross would have let him stay in the game that long. It was 6-0 after five and 8-0 after Tommy Nance allowed two more in the sixth.
That’s when the Cubs decided to at least make the game interesting. The first two Cubs were easy outs in the bottom of the sixth. Matt Duffy walked and Sergio Alcántara broke up the shutout [VIDEO].
David Bote followed that with a single and Trayce Thompson was hit by a pitch. Austin Romine then made it an 8-4 game [VIDEO].
The wind took that ball over Harrison Bader’s head, but now things were interesting, and Willson Contreras made them more interesting with an RBI double [VIDEO].
It’s 8-5 now, and if those two runs hadn’t scored off Nance, or if Ross had relieved Steele in the fifth, or if the Cubs hadn’t left the bases loaded with one out in the fourth without scoring, or if...
If, if, if, that’s been the story of the 2021 Cubs season.
Credit to Jason Adam, who suffered a horrifying ankle injury during batting practice at Iowa in May, for working his way back from the injury. Given a big-league chance again as the doubleheader “extra man,” he struck out Nolan Arenado, Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong in a 1-2-3 seventh.
The Cubs also went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh to end the game. As has been typical for some of these seven-inning games, some fans seemed confused and not ready to leave the ballpark when players left the field at the end of that inning, which ended the game.
In Game 2, Zach Davies... oh, man, Zach Davies. Four hits and a walk allowed in the first inning gave St. Louis a 3-0 lead.
The Cubs, to their credit, came back with two of their own in the bottom of the first. Frank Schwindel singled with one out. He’d also singled in the first game and now owns a 13-game hitting streak, tied with Kris Bryant for the longest by any Cub this year.
That ball: Crushed!
So it’s 3-2. Competitive game?
Uh, no. Not with Davies on the mound. Two Cardinals singles brought Tyler O’Neill to the plate with one out and... presto, it’s 6-2.
Davies managed to get out of the inning, somehow, and then Ross removed him for a pinch-hitter, which accomplished this:
Zach Davies has three games this season with 6+ ER and no more than 2 IP. In Cubs modern history (since 1901), only Ray Burris (1978) and Virgil Cheeves (1921) achieved that dubious feat.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 25, 2021
Virgil Cheeves died in 1979, otherwise I’m sure he’d be comforted to have some company.
Sigh. I am so done with Davies, I’m sure he’s a nice person who likes animals and is kind to his mother, but I just do not want to see him pitching for the Cubs anymore. He is having one of the worst seasons ever for a Cubs starter, at the very least the worst since Edwin Jackson’s awful 2014 season.
He won’t pitch enough innings to be a qualified starter (he’d need 162 and has 148 with likely one more start), but the 5.78 ERA is awful, he’s leading MLB with 75 walks and over his last 14 starts since July 10: 7.99 ERA, 1.877 WHIP, 17 home runs allowed in 59⅔ innings. If you’d like a stretch that’s worse:
Dating back to July 28, Cubs starter Zach Davies has a 9.13 ERA with a 1.85 WHIP. The righty has allowed 16 homers in 45.1 IP with 44 strikeouts and 21 walks.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 25, 2021
His season ERA has ballooned to 5.78 from 4.30 in that span.
It didn’t get any better with Michael Rucker on the mound in the third. He served up back-to-back homers to Lars Nootbaar and Paul DeJong.
Can I just interrupt here to say that “Lars Nootbaar” has to be one of the best baseball names ever?
The Cubs did get one of those runs back in the third. Schwindel doubled and two groundouts brought him home, and no, I’m not going to bother showing you an RBI groundout that made the score 8-2.
It was 9-2 in the fifth when pinch-hitter Matt Duffy singled, Rafael Ortega doubled him to third and Schwindel was hit to load the bases.
One out later, Ian Happ plated Duffy with a sacrifice fly, and oh, all right, here’s the video.
This is where we are in Cubs history — a video showing a sacrifice fly that cut the Cubs’ deficit in a game from six runs to five.
It stayed that way for only one more inning. In the seventh, Adam Morgan, who’s actually been pretty good recently, got touched up for three more Cardinals runs, including two more home runs (Harrison Bader, and Nootbaar’s second of the game). It got so bad that David Ross put Sergio Alcántara on the mound with two out and Morgan having thrown 26 pitches.
Alcántara recorded the final out on a pitch that was recorded at 91 miles per hour [VIDEO].
Hey, he’s got a good arm. If the infield gig doesn’t work out... why not try him as a pitcher?
Incidentally, the Cardinals won Game 2 behind two injured pitchers throwing most of the game. Starter Jack Flaherty was coming off a shoulder injury and was scheduled to go no more than 20 pitches. Dakota Hudson had Tommy John surgery less than a year ago and that’s a very fast comeback from that sort of surgery.
One last note about Game 2: There was another seven-inning game being played at the same time as the doubleheader nightcap, a resumption of a suspended game from July between the Braves and Padres. That game ended before Game 2 of the Cubs doubleheader was complete. At this time there are no further doubleheaders scheduled for the rest of the 2021 season for any team. Unless a rainout over the next eight days forces a doubleheader to be played, Game 2 Friday night at Wrigley will be the last seven-inning MLB game of 2021 — and possibly the last such game ever, if MLB decides to drop that rule going forward. (Personally, for doubleheaders, I’m okay with this rule if they decide to keep it.)
The Cubs played four doubleheaders in 2021. We should, then, thank the weather for reducing this awful season by 32 innings.
In fact, Game 2 was played under the threat of rain that was supposed to hit mid-evening. Except for a couple of light sprinkles, no rain fell during the game, and rain didn’t hit the North Side until about an hour after it ended. Fortunately, the weather forecast for the rest of the weekend is for sunshine and pleasant temps in the 70s.
The Cubs still have a chance to end the Cardinals’ winning streak, something the Mets, Padres and Brewers could not do. Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field, Adrian Sampson will start for the Cubs against our old buddy Jon Lester, who was given a pregame tribute for his 200th career win before Game 1 [VIDEO].
Game time Saturday is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.