What a strange little game this was, the Cubs’ 3-1 loss to the Reds that ended their season-high seven-game winning streak.
Sure, the Cubs didn’t hit — only two the entire game — but Hayden Wesneski, in his sixth and final 2022 appearance for the Cubs, threw well enough to win. Six innings, four hits and two runs (one earned), with six strikeouts, should be enough to win most starts.
But not when the Cubs couldn’t play defense. The Reds’ two-run rally in the third inning featured one infield grounder thrown away and another baseball barely hit past the infield that Cubs fielders couldn’t touch.
So let’s look at that third inning. The game had remained scoreless until then.
Wesneski walked Jose Barrero to lead off the inning, the only walk he issued all night, and just the seventh walk Barrero had drawn this year in 174 plate appearances.
Well, that’s bad enough. Then Barrero stole second. One out later, TJ Friedl hit a little dribbler that Wesneski... well, watch [VIDEO].
Wesneski probably should have just put that ball in his proverbial pocket and not thrown at all. In that case the Reds would have had runners on first and third with one out.
In reality, the Reds led 1-0. Jonathan India was then hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second.
Friedl left the game with a leg injury and had to be helped off the field — that’s a strange one, he didn’t appear to make anything but a normal slide into third base. Hope he’s okay. This is what happened:
TJ Friedl left tonight’s game with a hamstring injury. He’ll miss the final two games of the season.— Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) October 4, 2022
Anyway, that left a runner on first with two out and this little pop fly should have ended the inning [VIDEO].
That should have been Seiya Suzuki’s play — you can see he’s got a good read on the ball, but Alfonso Rivas tried to make the spectacular over-the-shoulder catch and failed. The ball went for a double for Kyle Farmer and India scored to make it 2-0.
This inning points up the need for the Cubs to have improved defense in 2023. I’ve mentioned this before, the fact that the 2016 Cubs had one of the best defenses in MLB history and that’s one key reason they won the World Series (and you can read about that here). I’m not saying the 2023 Cubs can do that simply with improved defense. But it has to be better than we’ve seen this year.
In the end, though, the Cubs didn’t win this game because they didn’t hit. Yan Gomes doubled leading off the third and was stranded. Zach McKinstry singled with one out in the sixth, similarly stranded. The Cubs just couldn’t hit Hunter Greene, who struck out eight.
The Reds scored one more off Manuel Rodriguez in the eighth to make it 3-0, and then the Cubs mounted a rally in the ninth.
McKinstry and Esteban Quiroz led off the inning with walks, bringing the tying run to the plate. Suzuki hit a line drive to right, but it was caught for the first out.
That comes under the category of “If you watch baseball long enough, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.” On what might have been an easy double-play ball hit by Ian Happ, Barrero left the bag early at second and you can see second-base umpire Ryan Wills indicate that. Quiroz should have been safe, only he wasn’t aware of the situation and stood off second base watching the rest of the play. The Reds, though, played heads-up ball and first baseman Donovan Solano threw to Barrero, who tagged Quiroz to end the game.
While all this was going on, McKinstry touched the plate before that tag, so his run counted and the Cubs avoided the shutout, for whatever that’s worth. And it was good to see Wesneski finish the year strong — I don’t think there’s any doubt that he will be a significant contributor to the Cubs rotation in 2023. From Wesneski:
"If you had told me I'd be right here in this spot, I'd tell you you're lying. I thought I'd be in Scranton, Pennsylvania, still. I don’t know, September's been long, but this year has been short. It’s been weird. It's been a crazy year.” —Cubs rookie Hayden Wesneski— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) October 4, 2022
So, the Cubs’ winning streak ended at seven, but they still have two games remaining to try to end the year with 75 wins, which would be a nice way to wrap up 2022. Javier Assad will start Tuesday against the Reds, who will counter with Luis Cessa. Game time Tuesday is again 5:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.