This has been a difficult Cubs season filled with many, many losses.
It took until now, though, before I was disgusted with one of those losses.
The Cubs’ poor play in the eighth and ninth innings ruined what might have been a solid victory over the Cardinals; instead, it was another dispiriting defeat, 8-5, and the Cardinals have now won 15 in a row.
So, let’s go back to the beginning.
Adrian Sampson threw three pretty good innings, marred only by a home run by Harrison Bader, who is rapidly becoming a Cubs-killer of this era.
The Cubs took the lead in the game in the bottom of the third. Sergio Alcántara led off with a single and was sacrificed to second. Willson Contreras then tied the game [VIDEO].
One out later, Ian Happ gave the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].
This, alone, was an accomplishment. The Cardinals, previously, had trailed in only four of the 14 games of their winning streak, and most of those only for a couple of innings. Could the Cubs make this hold up?
Nope. Tyler O’Neill homered off Sampson in the top of the fourth and it was 2-2.
But the Cubs came right back and took the lead again in the bottom of the inning. David Bote led off with a single and one out later, Alcántara beat out a slow roller. Sampson was the next hitter and attempted a sacrifice, but a rare throwing error by Nolan Arenado made all the runners safe. Bases loaded!
The bases remained loaded and one out later, Happ drew a walk to give the Cubs a two-run lead [VIDEO].
All of that was off former Cub Jon Lester, who got some warm applause from Cubs fans in what might have been his last-ever appearance at Wrigley Field.
Could the Cubs make a two-run lead hold up?
For a couple of innings, yes. Sampson threw six really good innings, allowing just one other baserunner (a fifth-inning single) besides the two homers. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out three. Sampson has been susceptible to the long ball (seven in 31⅓ innings), but only one of those homers came with anyone on base. Generally he’s thrown the ball well, and has at least earned a look for the 2022 rotation next spring training, in my view. He’s not young — he turns 30 in about two weeks — but maybe the Cubs have found a useful pitcher on the scrap heap.
So, the game went to the seventh with the Cubs nursing a two-run lead. Could they record nine outs without giving up those runs?
Nope, as it turned out. Three Cardinals runs scored among the first five batters in the seventh. Codi Heuer, who’s been pretty reliable since being acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade, got hit hard — four batters, four hard hits. Scott Effross relieved Heuer and retired the next three hitters, but one was on a sac fly that gave St. Louis a 5-4 lead.
Still, it’s only 5-4, maybe the Cubs have some magic left.
Not in the seventh: A one-out walk by Patrick Wisdom was erased on an inning-ending double play, the third the Cubs had hit into in seven innings.
After Rowan Wick threw a scoreless eighth, that’s when the disgust meter started going into overdrive.
David Bote led off the bottom of the eighth with a triple into the right-field corner, energizing the crowd. Trayce Thompson walked, and Alcántara struck out (personally, I think the Cubs should have at least tried a squeeze bunt there).
OMG, what on Earth was THAT?
Seriously, no. That should just never happen at the major-league level, it looked like a kids’ T-ball game. Once Bote is in the rundown, the other runners should have stopped at first and second, the top of the order is due up, a runner would have still been in scoring position.
That was disgust No. 1.
Disgust No. 2 came in the top of the ninth. With one out, Bader doubled off Tommy Nance and stole third.
Then Nance struck out Lars Nootbaar... but the ball got away from Contreras [VIDEO].
The Cubs challenged, but it was ruled “call stands” and the run counted, making it 6-4 Cardinals.
There should have been two out and a runner on third. Instead, a run is in, and there’s now a runner on first base.
You could have called the next play, right? Paul DeJong homered to make it 8-4.
Like I said, I was pretty disgusted after watching that inning’s worth of play, the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth. This team might not be as talented as others, but you have got to play good fundamental baseball and that just wasn’t.
That ball was crushed:
Happ’s 24th tied his career high, set in his rookie year of 2017.
But that was that, and the Cubs had yet another defeat.
Frank Schwindel’s 13-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-5 afternoon. But he’ll always be able to say he and Kris Bryant shared a “season’s longest” for the Cubs — no one else is going to be able to best that the rest of the year.
And the loss assured the Cubs of a losing season at home. They’re 39-41 at Wrigley with one game remaining, Sunday afternoon against the Cardinals. Keegan Thompson will start for the Cubs and Jake Woodford is the scheduled starter for St. Louis. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.