The Cubs’ 5-3 loss to the Cardinals Saturday afternoon on a blistering hot afternoon at Busch Stadium (you could tell how hot by the number of folks from a sellout of 45,159 left before it was over) was a real example of how fundamentally sound the Cardinals are, and how far from that the Cubs are at this stage of — all together now — another rebuild.
It started showing in the first inning. Adrian Sampson retired the first two hitters, then Paul Goldschmidt doubled. After that Nolan Arenado lofted a ball into short left field.
You know, just know, that a Cardinals left fielder would have caught that ball. But Ian Happ pulled up and the ball dropped in front of him for another double.
Good teams take advantage of that and Brendan Donovan singled in a pair of runs.
After that, though, Sampson settled down and I thought overall had a very good outing: five innings, only one other hit after the first, a pair of walks and five strikeouts. He threw 80 pitches and I suppose the heat is what made David Ross pull him after that five-inning outing, as he hadn’t thrown that many pitches since an outing May 1 for Iowa. Here’s a nasty slider from Sampson that struck out Tommy Edman in the fifth:
Adrian Sampson, Dirty 85mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/IvH3gfb5MY— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 25, 2022
The Cubs had made it 2-1 in the top of that fifth inning. Patrick Wisdom and Nico Hoerner singled, with Wisdom moving to third on Nico’s hit. One out later, Alfonso Rivas hit this sac fly [VIDEO].
Rowan Wick entered to throw the sixth and had yet another shaky outing. A single, walk and double made it 3-1 Cardinals, and after a fly ball Ross called on Scott Effross, who got out of the inning on a pair of strikeouts. Nice work by Effross; not so nice for Wick, who now has a 6.52 ERA in nine outings (9⅔ innings) in June.
(Aside: Boog Sciambi calls Wick “Ro.” Does anyone but Boog call him that? I have not heard it elsewhere. I suppose he’s trying to be cute. It’s just annoying.)
Ross called on Mark Leiter Jr. to throw the seventh, and he surprised me by throwing a scoreless inning with a pair of strikeouts. Then the Cubs tied the game in the top of the eighth. Christopher Morel singled with one out and Rafael Ortega followed with an unexpected home run [VIDEO].
Now, here is where I would have brought someone else in to relieve Leiter. Don’t push your luck, David Ross! Yes, I know David Robertson was likely not available after throwing three days in a row, but... someone else, anyone.
Nope, and Leiter got lit up. A double, a wild pitch, a hit batter, a sac fly and a single gave the Cardinals a pair of runs in the last of the eighth for the 5-3 lead they would hold through the ninth. The Cubs did get a two-out single from Nelson Velázquez in the ninth, but he was stranded when Morel grounded into a force play to end the game.
Say, Velázquez seems to hit whenever he’s in the lineup. How about a few more starts for him, David Ross? He’s now 6-for-16 (.375) with a double, three walks and three strikeouts in seven MLB games. Given that and his Arizona Fall League performance, I’d rather see him in right field than Jason Heyward. Also, this:
Nelson Velázquez’s 107.8 mph single in 9th was the hardest-hit ball of the day for the Cubs.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 25, 2022
The guy has talent. The results of the games mean nothing this year. Let’s see more please.
So in the end, the Cubs looked bad early, then played well and made a comeback, then tossed the game away again. Often, I feel like the Cubs are not a fundamentally sound baseball team. When they play one that is — like the Cardinals — these sorts of things are bound to happen.
Originally, as I had posted in the series preview, Matt Swarmer was scheduled to start Sunday’s game. But the Cubs are switching up (likely because of the off day Monday) and Alec Mills will make his first MLB start of 2022 Sunday. He’ll face Cardinals righthander Jack Flaherty. Game time is again 1:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.