What a headline that would have been, right? Seiya Suzuki comes off the injured list and hits a ninth-inning, game-winning, inside-the-park home run!
But... as you know, it didn’t happen that way. David Robertson couldn’t hold the 2-1 lead Suzuki’s blast gave him, and the Cubs eventually lost 5-2 when ex-Cub Victor Caratini smashed a three-run homer in the 10th inning off Scott Effross.
I was going to lead this with Suzuki’s home run, as noted, and what the heck, that’s what you want to see, so here goes.
There’s one out in the top of the ninth and Suzuki comes to bat off Josh Hader — a pitcher he’s never faced before, after playing just two rehab games over the last six weeks, plus three previous at-bats in which he had one hit Monday afternoon.
As soon as that ball took the crazy bounce away from Brewers center fielder Jonathan Davis, I thought, “That’s going to be an inside the park home run!”
And that’s exactly what it was, with Suzuki sliding in head-first, just avoiding a tag on what was a good relay throw.
What a great story that would have been! Oh, sure, it’s still a great story, Suzuki coming back and doing that in his very first game in weeks, but...
Also, that was Suzuki’s first home run of any kind since April 17. And, it was the first Cubs inside-the-park home run since Javy Báez did it August 7, 2017 against the Giants in San Francisco:
As you can see, that’s a similar hit to the opposite field, bouncing away from the center fielder, and Javy just beats a throw with a head-first slide. The Cubs won that game 5-3.
Some further notes on Suzuki’s blast, courtesy of BCB’s own JohnW53:
Last Cub to hit an IPHR in the top of the ninth: Hack Wilson, on Sept. 6, 1930!
Cubs led that game, at Pittsburgh, 16-12.
The only two previous top of ninth Cubs IPHR both were at Brooklyn: by Dode Paskert, in 1920 (Cubs led, 8-2), and by Bernie Friberg, in 1923 (Cubs led, 7-1).
All of Cubs’ three IPHR in the ninth at home came with the Cubs behind. They were hit by Alex McCarthy, in 1915; Billy Williams, in 1964; and Ron Cey, in 1983. None of them tied the game.
So: until today, Cubs NEVER had a ninth-inning IPHR that put them in front!
Let’s rewind to the beginning of this game, in which there were many good things for the Cubs.
That was his first MLB homer — I hope he was able to get the ball back.
Meanwhile, Justin Steele was putting up zeroes. He allowed just one hit through the first six innings, then after getting the first two outs easily in the bottom of the seventh, issued a walk to Keston Hiura, who was driven in on a double by Pedro Severino.
After another walk, Steele was removed, but this was an excellent outing: 6⅔ innings, two hits, one run, nine strikeouts (but four walks). Last six outings: 36⅓ innings, 11 earned runs (2.72 ERA), 30 strikeouts. In Steele and Keegan Thompson, it looks like the Cubs have finally produced a couple of quality starters from the system.
The Cubs couldn’t score in the eighth, and after Mychal Givens threw a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth, Suzuki hit his home run — and the Cubs had a chance to score again. Nico Hoerner followed with a double, but Patrick Wisdom struck out. Hoerner stole third, but Yan Gomes flied out to end the inning.
David Robertson, who’s been pretty reliable this year, had a bad ninth inning. Luis Urias singled, then Caratini struck out — his fourth K of the game. Hiura hit a ball that might have tied the game, but it bounced over the yellow line for an automatic double, so Urias had to hold at third. Robertson struck out Jace Peterson for the second out, but then lost the strike zone. He hit Kolten Wong with a pitch way out of the zone, loading the bases:
And then Robertson threw four pitches nowhere near the zone to Christian Yelich to force in the tying run:
So, it was on to extras, for the second straight day.
The Cubs had a chance — Rafael Ortega singled, and the placed runner, Andrelton Simmons, was held at third. That was probably the right call, as Ortega’s hit didn’t go very far into right field. Ortega then stole second and one out later, Christopher Morel walked to load the bases. But Willson Contreras struck out swinging:
Willson has been dead last in the FanGraphs "clutch" metric for a long while. Just presses and tries way too hard in those moments, gets out of his game.— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) July 4, 2022
Then Ian Happ was called out on strikes to end the inning, on a 3-2 pitch that you HAVE to swing at:
Pitch 6 — that’s one that could have been smacked for extra bases.
Scott Effross entered to throw the last of the 10th. After a fly out, Rowdy Tellez was intentionally passed to set up a possible double play. Effross got a pop fly for the second out, but Caratini then hit a 2-1 pitch out of the park to end the game.
That’s the 2022 Cubs — play really well against a tough opponent, then let a guy who had struck out four times in this game hit a home run to win it. The Cubs’ record in extra-inning games this year dropped to 3-8.
The performances of Steele, Suzuki and Givens were outstanding. Velázquez won’t forget his first MLB home run. Moral victories? I guess, but I’d rather have some actual victories. And this is not good news:
Willson Contreras has hamstring tightness, Ross says, which is why he came out of the game before the bottom of the 10th. #Cubs— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 4, 2022
One last thing: The ball-and-strike calls in this game were horrific, for both teams. I would guess that tomorrow’s ump scorecard for Stu Scheurwater will show that he had one of the worst games of the entire season. Can’t wait for the automated strike zone (probably 2024 before we get it in MLB, though).
The Cubs will try for one of those elusive wins Tuesday evening in Milwaukee. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Jason Alexander will get the call for the Brewers. Game time is 7:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.