The 2022 Cubs aren’t a good team. The 2022 Brewers are. And so, Monday’s Cubs doubleheader loss to Milwaukee could have been predicted.
It also could easily have gone the other way with just one or two key hits, and one or two fewer errors. Defense is underrated and the Cubs... don’t have much of it.
I’m going to recap this in the order of the two games, starting with Game 1.
Brewers 7, Cubs 6: The complaint department is open
You know, this game could easily — and yes I mean it — had a score something like Cubs 10, Brewers 4. The Cubs left 11 men on base and went 2-for-17 (yes, two for seventeen, that is not a misprint) with RISP. That’s bad. Like, really really bad. They left the bases loaded twice and left RISP in three other innings. Then there were the errors by Clint Frazier and Patrick Wisdom that made three of the four runs Matt Swarmer allowed unearned.
The 2016 World Series champion Cubs were noted in quite a few places as one of the best defensive teams ever. The 2022 Cubs are sort of the opposite of that.
Matt Swarmer pitched really, really well in his MLB debut. He mixed his pitches up well, threw strikes (six strikeouts) and as notes, threw well enough to allow only one run in six innings, though four were put on the board by Brewers hitters.
I’m going to hold up the error by Wisdom as the key to this game. First of all, that’s a tough error, because a good MLB first baseman scoops up Wisdom’s low throw. That’s on Frank Schwindel. I am sure Schwindel is a great guy — all accounts I’ve heard confirm this — but he is not a competent MLB first baseman. If that play is made, Swarmer gets out of the sixth inning scoreless. Instead, with two out, Tyrone Taylor homered, and that was the difference in the game.
There are a couple of highlights worth looking at here, and they turned out to be back-to-back homers. P.J. Higgins hit his first MLB homer leading off the fourth [VIDEO].
The ball bounced off the back fence of the bleachers and into the hands of someone who was just passing by. Negotiations followed, but the guy did eventually get the ball back to Higgins.
At that point it was 4-2 Cubs, but the aforementioned bad defense and a three-run homer by Luis Urias erased the Cubs lead. The Cubs scored a pair in the seventh on RBI singles by Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ and had the bases loaded in the eighth with one out, but failed to score in that inning.
I was also puzzled by David Ross’ choice to pinch-hit Alfonso Rivas for Nelson Velazquez in the seventh with two out and two runs already in. Velazquez had already singled and who knows? Maybe he could have taken Trevor Gott deep instead of what Rivas did, which was strike out. This reflexive “I gotta have the LHB face the RHP in a key situation” is, in my view, ridiculous. Velazquez would have faced Josh Hader in the ninth. Sure, Hader has been otherworldly this year but who knows? In any case, Rivas struck out against Hader. How much worse could it have been?
The best thing that came out of this game was the solid outing from Swarmer. We’ll likely see him again in one of the doubleheader games Saturday against the Cardinals.
On to Game 2.
Brewers 3, Cubs 1: Willson Contreras hits Waveland, but the Cubs lose anyway
The biggest story of this game was Drew Smyly leaving after three no-hit innings.
Cubs announce that lefty Drew Smyly exited tonight's game due to "right oblique soreness."— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 31, 2022
This is... not good. And here’s why:
Of 40-man pitchers not on #Cubs active roster, this is what the org has right now:— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) May 31, 2022
60-day IL -- Alzolay, Mills, Heuer, Roberts, Wieck
15-day IL -- Rucker, Miley, Newcomb
MiLB IL -- Rodríguez, Menez
Building up in AZ -- Márquez
Restricted list -- Vizcaíno
Bereavement list: Martin https://t.co/Ag8Di76XIu
“Tougher 40-man decisions” — no kidding. Obliques are very difficult to come back from and I don’t see how Smyly avoids an IL stint.
Anderson Espinoza was on the roster as the 27th man for the doubleheader and became the third Cub to make his MLB debut Monday (also Swarmer, Velazquez). He was a bit wild — three walks — but also struck out six. Two solo homers were his undoing, but that was a fine MLB debut and he likely deserves another look. Espinoza missed quite a bit of minor-league time after being one of the Padres’ top prospects before 2017 (and a Top 50 MLB prospect) and came to the Cubs in the Jake Marisnick trade last summer.
You can tell he’s very happy to be in the big leagues, even if only for a day:
Anderson Espinoza missed four years (2017-20) because of two Tommy John surgeries. In his MLB debut tonight, he allowed two runs, three walks and struck out six in 4 innings.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) May 31, 2022
Anderson afterwards said, "I never lost faith. ... I was just relishing the moment (tonight)." #Cubs
The Cubs’ only run scored on a very, very long home run by Willson Contreras, and I have a story to tell you about this blast after you watch it [VIDEO].
Here’s where that ball wound up:
Willson Contreras with a blast OVER Waveland Ave. off the fence surrounding the (former) Budweiser house (on the fly) Home run # 7 on the year and 2nd over all HR to reach Waveland in 2022. #cubs tie #brewers 1-1. #Gocubs pic.twitter.com/CjEscyjsnc— BALLHAWK.NET (@Super_Dave) May 31, 2022
Willson Contreras short changed on the distance. How far did it fly ?— BALLHAWK.NET (@Super_Dave) May 31, 2022
420?? … closer to 450 ;) #statcast is broke lol. Season home run # 7. Career # 102. Nice mark from the fence! #gocubsgo #cubs #brewers #wrigley pic.twitter.com/YkFq6EjOKd
Ballhawk Dave noted that this measurement was ... not right:
And here’s the proof, which Dave sent me overnight:
So there you go — Dave saw exactly where that ball landed, and that’s the distance from the plate, closer to 460 than 420.
One more highlight from Game 2: Ian Happ made this great catch in the first inning [VIDEO].
In the seventh, with the Cubs down 2-1, they loaded the bases with nobody out on three singles, including a bunt hit by Frazier. Now that one... I was puzzled as to why Frazier was laying down a bunt with runners on first and second. Frazier has zero career sac bunts. But he wound up on first base when the Brewers failed to cover the base.
At that point I asked Mike Bojanowski, “In what entertaining but ultimately disgusting way will the Cubs fail to score here?”
The answer to that question was: “A strikeout and 5-2-3 double play.”
Now, let’s talk about that strikeout, called on a 2-2 pitch to Nico Hoerner:
I mean... sure, squint and one tiny little piece of the baseball hit the zone. You can see the Brewers were working Nico outside for the entire at-bat. If that’s called ball three — and pitches like that are called balls all the time — maybe Hoerner walks or drives in a run.
But it wasn’t, and Andrelton Simmons — now why isn’t Ross batting for HIM in that situation? — hit into the double play.
Brandon Hughes served up a homer to Taylor in the eighth — just the Brewers’ third hit of the game — and that put the game out of reach. The Cubs did get a baserunner in the bottom of the eighth on a single by Contreras, but Happ hit into a double play and then Hader threw the ninth and well, you know what happens then.
The Cubs were competitive in this doubleheader but simply lost to a better team. What more can I say? Here’s more: An interesting note about Christopher Morel, who had a hit in each of the doubleheader games:
That 13-game on-base streak ties Willson Contreras (2016) for the longest such streak to start a career for a Cubs player. https://t.co/NYujYkQjYV— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 31, 2022
The third of this four-game series will happen Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field. Justin Steele will start for the Cubs and Eric Lauer will get the call for the Brewers. Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.