Look at all the things that went well for the Cubs Friday night in Denver:
- Willson Contreras had a three-hit game
- The Cubs bullpen threw well and generally kept the game close
- Patrick Wisdom went 2-for-2
- The Cubs went 5-for-15 with RISP
None of that matters, unfortunately, because the Cubs lost the game 6-5.
Let’s rewind and look at some of the good stuff.
With one out in the second inning, three singles produced the first Cubs run of the evening, the RBI hit by Alfonso Rivas [VIDEO].
One out later, Rafael Ortega made it 2-0 [VIDEO].
In the next inning, back-to-back doubles by Nick Madrigal and Willson Contreras made it 3-0 [VIDEO].
All good, right? Especially in Denver, an early lead is... oh, no, Marcus Stroman. Stroman threw 41 pitches in a disastrous fourth inning in which the Rockies scored five times. I’ll spare you the carnage, but here’s what Stroman said about this inning after the game:
Stroman, on 5-run, 41-pitch 4th: "I've just got to be better. It's just not acceptable from my point of view."— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 16, 2022
Said mechanics went awry and he couldn't regain his rhythm.
"It's just frustrating, because I was cruising through those three," he said. "Back to the drawing board."
It happens. Stroman is right, he was absolutely cruising through three innings, allowing just two hits. He’s too good a pitcher to have this happen very often.
The Cubs got one of the runs back in the fifth. Three singles loaded the bases and Jonathan Villar hit this sac fly [VIDEO].
Unfortunately, C.J. Cron homered off reliever Chris Martin after the Cubs had executed a strikeout of Kris Bryant/caught stealing double play. That was the only run off the Cubs bullpen in four innings of work in this one, and it turned out to be an important one.
The eighth inning was where the Cubs really could have broken through, but didn’t. The first two Cubs hitters reached base. Patrick Wisdom doubled and Michael Hermosillo walked, but Nico Hoerner hit into a double play with Wisdom taking third. Two more walks, to Ortega and Madrigal, loaded the bases, but Contreras was called out on strikes. Here’s where the three pitches to Willson were located:
If you — like me — are in favor of the automated strike zone, all three of those pitches would have been called strikes by the robot umpire. Only a tiny slice of the baseball has to clip the zone to be a strike. Clearly, the Rockies were working Willson at the top of the zone and once you’re down 0-2, you really have to at least try to foul off pitch number three. But Willson didn’t, and the inning was over.
Daniel Bard, who was in the Cubs organization in 2015 (though never threw a pitch in a game for the team), entered to close for the Rockies. And the Cubs made it a game. The first two Cubs hitters were easy outs, but back-to-back doubles by Villar and Wisdom made it 6-5. Wisdom advanced to third on a wild pitch, but that’s where he was stranded when Hermosillo popped up to end the game.
Frustrating, as I noted earlier. Wisdom’s two hits are a good sign, though. If you’ll recall from last year, Wisdom is one of the streakiest hitters in recent Cubs history. He’ll go on a tremendous tear for a week or so — he was doing that as late as the end of August 2021 — then won’t hit at all for several games. Hopefully this game was the beginning of coming out of Wisdom’s season-starting slump.
Game number three of this four-game set will take place Saturday evening. Mark Leiter Jr. will be called up from Triple-A Iowa to start this game for the Cubs and Antonio Senzatela will go for the Rockies. Game time is 7:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (also on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Rockies market territories).