The Cubs lost to the Rays 6-5 Tuesday night at Wrigley Field and while losses are never happy things, there were plenty of things that happened during this defeat that should give you cause for hope for this team’s future.
Let’s start at the beginning, though.
Justin Steele threw pretty well for the first two innings of this game, although he did allow a run in the second. Then he lost the strike zone almost completely in the third inning, issuing three walks and serving up a two-run homer to Wander Franco. All of the runs scored after this apparent inning-ending double play was overturned on review [VIDEO].
As you can hear on the clip, the Rays challenged both outs. The play at second was confirmed, but the one at first was overturned, and that appeared to be the correct call.
After the Rays had thus taken a 4-0 lead and Brandon Lowe singled, David Ross had seen enough and brought in Jesse Chavez, who ended the third inning with a ground ball force out.
Chavez had not been too good in his previous outings, but on this night he was, giving the Cubs a chance to get back in the game. He held the Rays to one hit in 2⅓ scoreless frames.
And, in fact, the Cubs did get right back in the game in the fourth. With one out, Ian Happ singled and Frank Schwindel doubled him in [VIDEO].
One out later, Ross made an unusual choice. The Rays, as I had noted in the game preview, began this game with an opener, Matt Wisler. Wisler was lifted with two out in the second inning after 18 pitches for lefthander Josh Fleming. Jason Heyward was slated to face Fleming, and Ross opted for Patrick Wisdom as a pinch-hitter. That’s pretty bold, using up a bench player in the fourth inning.
It turned out to be an inspired choice, as Wisdom smashed a two-run homer [VIDEO].
So now it’s 4-3 heading to the fifth. Wisdom remained in the game replacing Heyward in center field. That was the second time he’d played center field — ever. He played one game there at Triple-A Nashville in 2017. He handled a couple of chances without incident, and this was another smart move by Ross. Now he’s got another center field option, not that you’d want to see Wisdom there often, but at least he can handle the position on an occasional basis, in my view.
Randy Arozarena walked to lead off the fifth for Tampa Bay and Franco doubled to left, but the Cubs defense threw Arozarena out at the plate [VIDEO].
Nice work by Ian Happ, Nick Madrigal and Willson Contreras.
Ethen Roberts threw a scoreless sixth, but Chris Martin was touched up for a pair of runs in the seventh, and that turned out to be the difference in the game, because the Cubs came right back and tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Clint Frazier was hit by a pitch with one out and Nico Hoerner drove him in with this triple [VIDEO].
There’s only one out at this point, but Jonathan Villar struck out. Seiya Suzuki walked and while Willson Contreras was at bat, Rays righthander Ryan Thompson wild-pitched Hoerner home [VIDEO].
Willson wound up drawing a walk, but Happ grounded out to end the inning.
And, unfortunately, that was it for the Cubs. Michael Rucker, who has been quite good in the pen so far this year, threw two scoreless innings to keep the game close, but the Cubs could not do anything off Rays righty Andrew Kittredge and that, as they say, was that. The game ended on a Villar strikeout with Suzuki, who had walked three times, in the on-deck circle. Suzuki’s nine-game hitting streak thus ended, but his on-base streak remains intact at 10. And he’s having tremendous, long at-bats and seeing a lot of pitches:
Seiya Suzuki entered tonight averaging 4.46 pitches per plate appearance. He added 24 more pitches in four PAs vs. Rays (three walks, one groundout). pic.twitter.com/FCzMtPFdye— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 20, 2022
Give this Cubs team credit for coming back from a four-run deficit and three-run deficit to at least make the game close. Even down that many runs they did not change their approach, they kept working counts and putting balls in play. That sort of thing is going to win a lot of games. Watching the Rays for two days, what I have seen is one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the game. They are defensively air-tight and do not beat themselves. Splitting the first two of this series is a credit to this Cubs team.
This game had three replay reviews and three mid-inning pitching changes, pushing the game time past three hours (3:09). Otherwise I thought it was fairly well-paced.
The Cubs go for a series win tonight, weather permitting (and it might not, and heaven knows when they’d make up this game if they can’t play tonight). Marcus Stroman gets the start for the Cubs and Drew Rasmussen will go for the Rays. Game time is again 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.