The Los Angeles Dodgers are a really good team, possibly the best in baseball. This was known before they even came to Wrigley Field for this three-game series, compressed into two days by Friday’s rainout.
Thus there is no margin for error when playing them. You’ve got to be 100 percent, nearly perfect in everything you execute, or the Dodgers are going to take advantage and win.
That’s what they did Saturday, sweeping the doubleheader by scores of 7-0 and 6-2. The team’s losing streak reached four, and since starting this season 6-4 the Cubs are 3-13, the second-worst record in MLB in that span (only the 2-14 Reds are worse).
Let’s start with the night game, since it’s freshest in everyone’s mind.
The Cubs actually had a lead in this game! Willson Contreras led off the bottom of the first inning with a triple. One out later, this happened [VIDEO].
On what was obviously a contact play, Contreras broke for the plate on Ian Happ’s ground ball and beat Max Muncy’s throw with a nice slide.
I could stop here, because apart from one more Contreras highlight (I’ll get to that), it was all Dodgers the rest of the evening.
After an easy 1-2-3 first, Daniel Norris could not throw strikes in the second inning. He walked the first three hitters he faced, then struck out Cody Bellinger. It was clear that he was coming out after Bellinger, since this “start” was going to be as an opener and Norris, with 32 pitches, had thrown by far his most of any outing this season.
Keegan Thompson, who’s been so good this year, struck out Chris Taylor for the second out, but then walked in a run and Mookie Betts cleared the bases with a double that just eluded Patrick Wisdom’s dive at third base.
Really, everyone could have gone home right then, because you knew the Cubs weren’t going to score four more runs in this game.
They did manage RISP in the second and third, but did not score.
Contreras made the game 4-2 in the fourth with this long home run [VIDEO].
That baseball went a long way:
Contreras, incidentally, also singled in this game:
Willson Contreras is the first Cubs batter with a single, triple and homer in a game since The Robel Garcia Game (July 4, 2019) in Pittsburgh.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 8, 2022
The score was 4-2 after Willson’s home run but it might as well have been 40-2, the way it felt, a two-run deficit has rarely felt so impossible to overcome. The bullpen did a credible job through the eighth, with Thompson, Chris Martin, Rowan Wick, Scott Effross and Mychal Givens recording 6⅔ innings, allowing one hit and four walks with eight strikeouts, and just one run (off Thompson).
Not-fun fact about the Cubs bullpen this year:
In the 5th inning, Cubs bullpen (110.2 IP) surpassed the Cubs rotation (110.1 IP) in innings pitched this season.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 8, 2022
Entering Saturday, only the Rays (133/106), Orioles (114/113), Pirates (111/99), Rangers (110/103) and Reds (110/100) had more innings from relievers than starters.
Through the end of this game, it’s now 114⅔ innings for Cubs relievers, 110⅓ for the starters. This cannot continue.
With two out in the ninth, David Robertson issued a walk and served up a two-run homer to Betts, the first runs allowed by Robertson this year. Had Robertson recorded a hitless inning, the Cubs would have lost while allowing just one hit for the first time since July 19, 1975, when the Padres did it.
The Cubs didn’t score in the ninth, despite getting a couple of baserunners off old friend Craig Kimbrel, who was roundly booed by the remnant of the crowd of 31,520 announced (maybe 15,000 in the house for this makeup game, maybe 3,000 left by game’s end).
Note about Patrick Wisdom:
Patrick Wisdom exited tonight's game after six innings. In his last at-bat, looked uncomfortable after this fouled ball. Will provide an update when we get more info from the Cubs. pic.twitter.com/5ZL0pILVuy— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 8, 2022
It's a "left ankle contusion" for Patrick Wisdom, per the Cubs. X-rays were negative for any structural damage.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 8, 2022
I don’t have much to say here about the 7-0 Game 1 loss. Clayton Kershaw was on the mound for the Dodgers and remember what I said about “no margin for error”? With someone as good as Kershaw throwing, that’s the operative phrase, and again, once the Dodgers scored in the first inning this game was more or less over. It didn’t help that Drew Smyly threw 38 pitches in the first inning, it didn’t help when Seiya Suzuki got himself picked off after a one-out walk in the first inning, and it really didn’t help when... Nico Hoerner, what on Earth were you thinking?
Heads up play by Freddie Freeman as Nico Hoerner forgets how to run the bases pic.twitter.com/YDayRZBsgt— Blake Harris (@BlakeHarrisTBLA) May 7, 2022
Hoerner apparently thought that Trea Turner’s throw went into the camera well or dugout and so started a leisurely trot toward second base. That’s... you just don’t do that. Where’s Mike Napoli on this play? The first base coach needs to be observant so the baserunner knows where to go — or not go. Also, a baserunner should never, ever do that on a play like this until the umpire points to second base. There’s plenty of time to head to second if the ball indeed is out of play. Which it wasn’t, and Hoerner was easily tagged out.
The play ended the second inning, not that it would have really made much difference if Hoerner had simply stayed on first base. The Cubs had six more baserunners the rest of the game, one erased on a double play, and two others who made it past first base. It didn’t matter.
I’ll just circle back to the beginning of this recap. The Dodgers are really, really good. You’ve got to play almost perfect baseball to beat them, and the Cubs did not do that on Saturday.
Nevertheless, they still have a chance to salvage the series finale Sunday. Marcus Stroman, who was outstanding his last time out, will start for the Cubs against Walker Buehler — again, little margin for error. Game time is 6:08 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be on ESPN, the Cubs’ first 2022 appearance on Sunday Night baseball.