When a baseball team isn’t as talented as another baseball team, there is no margin for error in close games.
The Cubs actually played the Mets quite closely in both games of Saturday’s doubleheader, but then... there’s that margin for error thing, which specifically raised its ugly head in the 10th inning of Game 2.
First, Mychal Givens loaded the bases with the placed runner, an infield single, then an intentional walk after a stolen base. He followed that by hitting Pete Alonso — on an 0-2 pitch! forcing in a run. He did induce a 1-2-3 double play ball, but then Daniel Norris was summoned, because apparently it’s now illegal to have a righthanded pitcher face a lefthanded batter (Luis Guillorme had been announced as a pinch-hitter). I can’t imagine asking Norris to pitch in a high-leverage situation otherwise.
What on Earth was Norris thinking? There are two out! Just pitch to the batter! If you’re going to try a pickoff play in that situation, better make darn sure you at least make a catchable throw. I concur with this:
Daniel Norris had more confidence in potentially picking off that runner than he did in trying to get the batter out. That's always such a high-risk throw. Says a lot.— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) July 17, 2022
Enough of Norris, already. Please.
The run that scored turned out to be the difference in the Cubs’ 4-3 loss in 10 innings, their ninth in a row after losing the first game 2-1 in 11 innings, and trust me not a single person in Wrigley Field really wanted to see two extra-inning games on Saturday. I guess the Mets are happy with the results.
Let’s go back to the beginning of Game 1 to continue.
Marcus Stroman threw four pretty good innings, allowing a single hit and run in the fourth inning. He left with one out in the fifth having thrown 83 pitches.
The Cubs tied the game in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Seiya Suzuki singled. He was forced by Nico Hoerner, who then stole second. Frank Schwindel singled Nico in [VIDEO].
Brandon Hughes, Rowan WIck, Scott Effross and David Robertson then combined for for 5⅔ innings of scoreless relief, allowing just two hits and a pair of walks, striking out nine. That’s really good!
The Cubs' bullpen has held the Mets to a 2-for-19 showing over 5.2 shutout innings of work. Nine strikeouts and two walks in that stretch between 5th and 10th frames. Robertson has worked two shutout frames, putting Chicago in position for a 10th-inning walkoff.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 16, 2022
Kinda tired of moral victories here, though, as that 10th-inning walkoff didn’t happen, although it took this great play by J.D. Davis to prevent it [VIDEO].
If Davis doesn’t make that great pick at first base, the Cubs win the game. Sigh.
In the 11th, Givens was again the relief choice.. Guillorme was the Manfred man. He advanced to third on a single by Francisco Lindor and scored on a sac fly by Pete Alonso.
In the bottom of the 11th, Christopher Morel was the Manfred man. He stole second as Willson Contreras struck out and then Ian Happ grounded out to end the game.
In the nightcap, the Cubs actually took the lead off Max Scherzer in the second inning. Schwindel led off with a double and advanced to third on a single by Alfonso Rivas. Yan Gomes was the next hitter [VIDEO].
Too bad Gomes’ double bounced into the seats, because otherwise Rivas would have also scored. But he wound up stranded as David Bote struck out and Rafael Ortega flied to left.
That lead lasted about five minutes, as the Mets scored the tying run within the first three batters of the top of the third. Brandon Nimmo led off with a single and then Ortega dropped what should have been a routine fly to center. With runners on first and third, Lindor grounded out to tie the game.
In the bottom of the third, Ian Happ got himself tossed [VIDEO].
There’s one time where the manager being interviewed during play is actually interesting, because David Ross had to yank off his headset to protect Happ from a suspension from bumping an umpire, which thankfully didn’t happen. Here’s where that pitch was (pitch 9):
Close enough, I suppose, to give a bit of pushback, but if we had the automated strike zone? That’s going to be called a strike. It’s not egregious enough to get tossed, in my view. Ross had previously been ejected in Game 1 for arguing balls and strikes; it wasn’t a great night for the umpiring crew.
The Mets took the lead off Drew Smyly in the fourth on a home run by Eduardo Escobar.
The Cubs got that run right back in the bottom of the inning. Patrick Wisdom doubled with one out and after Rivas was called out on strikes, Gomes hit this RBI single [VIDEO].
And that’s where the game stayed through the ninth. This seems cogent about Smyly’s outing:
Great work by Drew Smyly. Scouts surely saw what they were hoping for with that one.— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) July 17, 2022
Capable enough back-end starter, and you could see how his velocity can easily go up a notch if you're just asking for 3-9 outs out of the bullpen. Sean Marshall, Mike Montgomery-esque.
So, maybe the Cubs can get some sort of useful prospect in exchange for Smyly over the next couple of weeks.
Anderson Espinoza, the 27th man for the doubleheader, came in and threw well — again. Despite some command issues, he’s gotten outs at the MLB level against good teams. Again, I turn to Matt Clapp, who has it right about Espinoza, in my view:
I know about the command issues, but I'm still struggling to understand how Anderson Espinoza has a 7.11 ERA (6.12 FIP) in Double-A this year.— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) July 17, 2022
His stuff feels like it would be good enough to get minor-league hitters out much more.
It's very possible this is the case too.— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) July 17, 2022
Some players take it to another level with the adrenaline/focus/etc. Maybe he just executes what he wants to do more in this setting. https://t.co/gR8cQIkDOW
Espinoza, who was once a Top 100 MLB prospect before two Tommy John surgeries, deserves more opportunities (hint, hint, he could easily replace Norris on this roster). He is only 24.
Scott Effross and Steven Brault (making his Cubs debut, and a good one) also threw scoreless innings in relief. About Brault’s first Cubs appearance:
With Steven Brault's appearance here tonight, the Cubs have now used 30 pitchers this season. It's the 6th time in club history they have used at least that many arms in a season (also: 2021, 2019, 2018, 2013 and 2012).— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 17, 2022
It's Game 91.
(It should be noted that count of 30 includes position players Schwindel and Andrelton Simmons.)
The Cubs couldn’t do anything off Mets relief through the ninth, so the game slogged on into extras for the second time on the day. One thing I should note in all those scoreless innings: Rafael Ortega was thrown out trying to steal — by a lot — in the fifth and then this happened:
Jeff McNeil and Rafael Ortega exchanged some words after Ortega was thrown out at second on a stolen base attempt.— SNY (@SNYtv) July 17, 2022
Francisco Lindor and Eduardo Escobar entered the discussion and walked with Ortega towards the Cubs dugout. pic.twitter.com/6kb52gYEO7
Ortega left the game an inning later.
After the aforementioned mess in the top of the 10th scored two Mets runs, David Bote was the placed runner in the bottom of the inning. After Nelson Velázquez (who had replaced Ortega) struck out, Morel singled Bote in [VIDEO].
Well, now it’s interesting (and if Norris doesn’t make that bad throw, maybe the game is tied). Another single by Suzuki put Morel on third with the tying run with one out. Suzuki stole second, so the Mets intentionally passed Nico Hoerner with a 2-0 count.
That brought up Schwindel. Frank the Tank had a chance to be a hero. He ran the count full, with maybe 10,000 fans remaining in the house up and cheering loudly... and then did this [VIDEO].
Sigh, again. The Cubs dropped to 10-18 in one-run games and 3-11 in extra innings with the loss. Thanks to the Reds losing to the Cardinals, the Cubs avoided dropping into last place by themselves and, for now, remain tied for fourth place with Cincinnati.
There were some positives in this twin bill loss: Suzuki and Morel had good games, Espinoza’s relief work, Stroman and Smyly’s outings.
On the other hand:
Mychal Givens took both losses in the Cubs vs Mets doubleheader, without giving up an earned run.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 17, 2022
He is the first pitcher since 1913 (first season both leagues tracked earned runs) to lose multiple games on a single day without allowing an earned run.
h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/KCj4Eptc3T
The Cubs have now played four doubleheaders this year and won one of the eight games (the first game against the Cardinals June 4). They have one more twin bill remaining, August 23, also against St. Louis at Wrigley Field.
Here are Ross’ comments after Game 2 [VIDEO]. He’s not wrong about the effort he mentions. I will give him credit for that, he always has his team playing hard.
The Cubs will try to avoid a second consecutive weekend four-game sweep at the hands of a division leader when they face the Mets Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field in the final game before the All-Star break. Adrian Sampson will start for the Cubs and David Peterson gets the call for the Mets. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.