It seems like a very long time ago when the Cubs defeated the Brewers 5-4 at Wrigley Field in the 2022 season opener, but in reality, that was just short of six months ago, the length of a normal baseball season.
Wednesday, on a lovely October afternoon that spilled into early evening in Cincinnati, the Cubs bookended their season with another win and finished the season with a 15-2 blowout victory over the Reds. The loss was the Reds’ 100th of the year, just the second time in Reds franchise history they’d lost 100+ games in a season (the other, exactly 40 years ago in 1982).
The Cubs took a 3-0 lead in the top of the second. Franmil Reyes singled with one out, followed by a walk by Nico Hoerner. Hoerner stole second, his 20th of the season, but Reyes was wiped out trying to steal third. Nico became the first Cub to steal 20 bases in a season since Javy Báez had 21 in 2018. P.J. Higgins followed that with another walk, and then David Bote unloaded a ball into the seats [VIDEO].
The Cubs gave one of those runs back in the bottom of the second on a passed ball by Higgins, and after the Reds made it 3-2 in the bottom of the third, Adrian Sampson had to leave the game following this pitch [VIDEO].
That’s a rough way to end a really fine season for Sampson, and here’s the official diagnosis:
Adrian Sampson exited today's game with right groin tightness. #Cubs— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) October 5, 2022
No reason to make that worse in a meaningless game like this, and certainly Sampson will be fine by Spring Training. A tip o’ the cap to Sampson for an unexpected really good season, and hopefully more good things to come from him next year.
The Cubs broke things open in the sixth. Patrick Wisdom was hit by a pitch leading off the inning and Nelson Velázquez singled, with both runners moving up on a throw to third base. One out later, Hoerner was intentionally passed to load the bases and Higgins followed with an unintentional walk to make it 4-2.
Reds manager David Bell took starter Graham Ashcraft out of the game at that point, but it didn’t help the Reds. Derek Law faced Bote and David made it a five-RBI afternoon [VIDEO].
Now it’s 6-2 and after Christopher Morel struck out, Zach McKinstry launched one to score three more [VIDEO].
Every time I think, “McKinstry isn’t going to make it to next year’s roster,” he does something like that. He’s an interesting player, can run well, has a bit of pop in his bat and can play several positions competently. I suppose the Cubs will keep him around and see what happens over the offseason.
Four more Cubs runs crossed the plate in the seventh. Wisdom led off the inning with a double and one out later, Reyes singled him in to make it 10-2 [VIDEO].
That ball looked like a routine out until it bounced off second base and into center field for Reyes’ second hit of the game. There’s another guy where you think, “What do you do here?” He’s got the potential to be a 30-homer guy — he’s done that twice, and... well, see below for the way he finished his season.
Nico followed Reyes’ single with another one and Higgins doubled both runners in [VIDEO].
It’s 12-2 but not for long — after another walk, Morel singled to make the score 13-2 Cubs [VIDEO].
Reyes homered in the eighth inning with a runner on, his first homer since August 31, to complete the Cubs scoring. [VIDEO].
That established a club record for the Cubs’ final scheduled regular season game. From our own JohnW53:
The 15 runs that the Cubs scored today are a franchise record for runs in any scheduled regular season finale since 1901.
They scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth to rally past the Reds, 13-11, September 28, 1930.
They had scored 10 runs in three previous 162nd game in the Expansion Era:
10-9 at Pittsburgh, October 1, 2000
10-8 vs. Braves, October 3, 2004
10-5 vs. Cardinals, October 1, 2018 (not the last game as they played a tiebreaker after that)
They also won, 10-8, at the White Sox in the last contest of the 60-game 2020 season, September 27, 2020.
The Cubs bullpen did a fine job in this one. Adbert Alzolay, Mark Leiter Jr., Michael Rucker and Brandon Hughes combined for 6⅓ shutout innings after Sampson’s early departure, allowing three hits and three walks and striking out seven. For this year’s bullpen:
Cubs bullpen has set a new franchise record with 715 strikeouts this season, surpassing the mark set by last year's bullpen.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) October 5, 2022
That strikeout total leads all MLB bullpens, 40 more strikeouts than the second-most (Twins).
And so, this laugher of a win left the Cubs at 14 games under .500 for the season at 74-88, a three-win improvement over last year — but a much better finish. Interestingly, that breaks down to identical 37-44 records both at Wrigley Field and on the road.
The first time the Cubs dropped to 14 under this year was after a 4-1 loss to the Padres June 13 at Wrigley Field left them 23-37. That means the Cubs played .500 ball for the final 102 games of the season at 51-51, nearly two-thirds of a year of the .500 ball I thought they could play all year.
Later, the Cubs dropped to 23 games under .500 after a doubleheader loss to the Mets July 16. Following that game, the Cubs won the final game before the All-Star break and played well enough after the break to go 40-31 from July 17 through the end of the season. That’s a .563 winning percentage, which would equate to a 91-win regular season, and it’s better over that span than two teams that made the postseason: Phillies (39-32) and Padres (37-32). And from September 9 through season’s end the Cubs went 17-8 — the best record in the National League. Lastly, the 13-run margin of victory improved the Cubs’ season run differential to -74. Which obviously isn’t good, but ending on the upswing is definitely positive.
So we leave this season on an up note, with good hope for 2023 and the expectation that Jed Hoyer & Co. will make trades and signings with the intention of returning to contention next year. “As always, we await developments.”
In the meantime, stick around BCB. We will have game threads through October and early November for every postseason game, beginning with the Wild Card Series Friday. I’ll have further thoughts on the 2022 Cubs season coming up tomorrow, history articles (including, hopefully, more photo sleuthing, and if you have any photos you’d like sleuthed, send ‘em over!), and more, including thoughts on who the front office could go out and acquire to make the 2023 Cubs that contending team.
And that leaves me to wrap another regular season as I traditionally do, with the opening passage of the late former MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti’s “The Green Fields of the Mind.”
It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.