The Cubs lost to the Pirates 3-2 Wednesday evening at Wrigley Field, ending their four-game winning streak.
That makes the team record in one-run games 3-9. In all other games they’re 12-12.
I’m not going to post a full article on why I think this is happening or why it’s significant. I just think it’s interesting that this year’s Cubs seemingly do well enough when the game isn’t close, but can’t win when it is. The run differential in one-run games is (obviously) -6, 42 scored, 48 allowed. That means in the 24 other games, the team’s run differential is +10 (106 scored, 96 allowed), for an overall differential of +4. The Pythagorean formula says that’s basically a .500 team, which is what I’ve been saying these Cubs are. Obviously that “24 other games” differential is skewed by wins of 21-0, 9-0 and 7-0.
Does it mean anything? I’m gonna say no, it doesn’t. It’s just frustrating to see this team play well at times, then lose winnable games like this one.
Let’s look at the highlights.
The Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the third on RBI hits by Michael Chavis and Wrigley’s newest villain, Daniel Vogelbach. That was after Drew Smyly had thrown two good innings, striking out four.
The Cubs tied the game up in the fourth. Seiya Suzuki led off with a double. One out later, Frank Schwindel drove him in [VIDEO].
I note that Kyle Hendricks was being interviewed during that RBI hit. The Cubs seem to do well when one of their starters is interviewed while they’re batting. So... more of this?
Anyway, the next hitter was Jonathan Villar, who poked a single against the shift, something we’ve seen Cubs opponents do many times this year and it was good to see a Cub do it and... oh, no, where are you going, Frank?
I wish I had video of this to show you, but this clip was not available, so let me describe what happened (I watched the YouTube coverage of this play and they missed a couple of things). The single by Villar was stopped by Ke’Bryan Hayes in short left. Schwindel saw third base uncovered and started to head there, but Pirates catcher Tyler Heineman raced there to cover the base. Schwindel then tried to get back to second and was thrown out easily.
Number one, Schwindel’s probably not fast enough to make this play happen even if third base isn’t covered. Number two, and more importantly, he’s already in scoring position at second base!
This play changed a situation that was runners on first and second with one out, to having a runner on first with two out. Villar did steal second and Christopher Morel walked to put runners back on first and second, but Andrelton Simmons flied to center to end the inning.
Would the Cubs have scored if Schwindel doesn’t TOOTBLAN? We’ll never know, but you simply can’t make baserunning mistakes like that.
The Pirates took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth on a home run by Chicago native Jack Suwinski. If you heard lots of cheering for Suwinski on the broadcast, it’s because there were nearly 100 kids from Taft High School on the city’s Northwest Side, where Suwinski went to school, in the left field bleachers to cheer him on. Suwinski graduated from Taft in 2016 and was drafted by the Padres, later traded to Pittsburgh last year in the Adam Frazier deal.
That was it, essentially; the Cubs bullpen (Scott Effross, Chris Martin, Mychal Givens, Rowan Wick and David Robertson) threw 4⅔ shutout innings, allowing three hits and a walk and striking out five, keeping the game close. But after that fourth inning, the Cubs had just two more baserunners: a walk to Happ in the fifth and a two-out single by Morel in the ninth. After Morel’s hit, David Ross sent Yan Gomes up to bat for Simmons. He flied to medium-deep center field to end the game [VIDEO].
Here’s a cool note on Morel at third base:
Christopher Morel hit 82.6 mph on his throw to first base on the final out in the top of the third inning. That's in the 95th percentile for arm strength in MLB, per Statcast.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 19, 2022
He has clearly earned more playing time.
This wasn’t a bad game; they just didn’t quite do enough to win and the TOOTBLAN felt like a turning point.
I can’t give you any comments on the YouTube broadcast since I was at the game and didn’t see any of it other than the handful of highlight clips I posted here and watched, so I’ll leave the commentary on the broadcast to you. Here’s one Twitter response that pretty much sums up this game:
An annoying base running gaffe from Schwindel, an error from Happ, and some irritating Pirates fans sitting next to me. Kinda wishing I couldn’t see this game either.— james gramlich (@gramlichjames) May 19, 2022
The season continues: The Cubs will open a four-game set against the Diamondbacks Thursday evening at Wrigley Field. The Cubs have Marcus Stroman listed as tonight’s starter, so a move will be required before the game to place him back on the active roster. Zac Gallen will start for Arizona. Game time is again 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.